Internet honesty

I had started this post a while back. Then decided not to post it because I didn’t want to risk offending a particular person. I’ve decided to go ahead and post it. The intent is not offensive, and it’s not directed at any one person. Many of my posts are prompted by things happening in my own life or the lives of those I know, but this one was actually prompted by some reminiscing I was doing while working one day. Then in a case of life imitating art, it actually happened. Enough explaining.

A long time ago (when I was working and had more free time, lol) I was one of a team of moderators at a Christian message board. We had a rather academic argument from time to time about whether it was ever acceptable to delete comments you had made on a public message board.

On the pro side: if you say something you later regret, deleting it erases it and allows everyone to move on.    Leaving hurtful comments could encourage keeping grudges.

On the con side: it can make conversations very difficult to follow, particularly if one person deletes everything they’ve said, leaving just the responses of another person.  it’s deceptively easy – erasing the comments after the fact doesn’t erase the fact they were said in the first place.   it lets the “deleter” hide from their past mistakes instead of forcing them to own up to them.    It allows people to be careless, knowing that they can always delete something later.   It encourages public rudeness – if I know I can remove the evidence of my rudeness from a public forum, I won’t necessarily make the more mature choice of keeping it private in the first place.    It makes it too easy to forget, misremember, or even purposely alter the facts of what happened.

I was a “con.” I think it’s incredibly dishonest to delete (or substantially alter) things posted online after others have had a chance to see them. (Posting something and then immediately deleting it is different.) I can’t do it in real life – I can’t take words out of the air and stuff them back into my mouth (much as I might want to), and I shouldn’t do it just because it’s online. What I should do is think through my actions/words carefully before posting them. Barring that, I deserve to live with the words as they are, with an apology afterwards.

Particularly considering that this was a Christian message board,  folks were pretty forgiving of things said in the heat of argument or careless words, so holding a grudge wasn’t really a concern. Generally speaking, on that message board, deleting was highly discouraged.

I know the one and only time I’ve completely deleted something I’ve posted online after others saw it, I’ve  regretted it. I posted a honest review of an event that was here in Des Moines – it was mixed. Some of it was glowing, some of it was decidedly no. Then I thought better of it a few days later, and erased it. In the meantime, someone printed it out (or saved it to their hard drive) and shared only bits and pieces chosen to make it seem particularly hurtful with people involved in the event. Since I had deleted it and not saved a copy, I had no way to defend myself by showing the comments in context, nor to show the good things I had said. Definitely not my finest moment. I should have just left it!!


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