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What I Learned From Being Anonymous Online

I liked being anonymous online because I could be real.

 

I used to frequent a site where almost everyone was anonymous. People didn’t use their real names. Instead of a name given by someone else we used words that had meaning specific to who we were on the inside.

People wrote about what was really going on in their real lives. There were pleas for advice posted at all times of the day and night – illness, breakups, depression, death – they wrote whatever they were feeling and openly shared their hurts and needs. Or they made up crazy stuff to get other people to engage with them – but honestly those people probably needed just as much help.

I learned that the world is a very small place. Geographical location has little meaning anymore in terms of connecting with other people. When it was day for me, it was the middle of the night for some of my friends. During that time I was closer to some people online than to most of the people in my real life.

I learned that you can love someone you’ve never met or even seen. They knew the real me and accepted me – peculiarities, struggles and all. When I was down, they were there to encourage me with kind words, biblical wisdom and practical advice. When they need advice or encouragement, I was there for them – because I genuinely cared about them. Knowing each other on the inside bonded us to together.

I learned that prayer works online. I never knew it would or could. But when a person prays for you online, it’s just like they’re praying sitting right beside you. In Matthew 18:20 it says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This applies to online too! When someone first prayed for me online I cried and cried, that God would so honor us with his presence, even in our fallen state and even through technology.

I learned that like attracts like. You may have the idea that this was some sort of Christian site. It most certainly was not. It was the worst den of iniquity I have ever been in. The people there let out who they really were inside. And truth be told, for many people, what’s inside them is intensely unpleasant. But in all that corruption and hopelessness we, the believers, found each other. Like attracts like. Either that or light is attractive, except to those who love darkness.

I’ve walked away from that site now – the evil there being more than I could bear anymore. But I miss those types of interactions. On Facebook we label ourselves with our ‘real’ names and pull on personas we feel will be accepted by our peers and family. We don’t conceal our identity like we did on that website I used to frequent. But we do. Most of do us hide who we are inside because we fear people won’t like our true inner selves. There are social norms to follow on Facebook. And we see these people out in our community. So, most people put up a front. And I do it too.

I feel sad sometime when I think about who I used to be online. Back then, I used to hide my name from people. Now I hide who I really am.

That’s why I have taken some time today to think back on what I learned from my time on that website. What can I carry with me into what I do now? I think I know what I want…what I need.

I want to be real. I want to make connections. I want to love.

 

Have you ever been anonymous online? What was your experience?

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2 Responses to “What I Learned From Being Anonymous Online”

  1. Interesting observation.
    I love being real too, and hate the fake, and also participate in the fake, feeling like a big crazy mask wearing faker.
    But.
    I try to give myself grace – I can’t be totally vulnerable or ‘real’ with everyone, both for the sake of their sanity and my safety.

    I try to give others grace – just because I want to be real, doesn’t mean they’re able to take that step. And that’s okay. They don’t have to be awesome like me. ;) (I have to remind myself of that often)

    Honest is scary, whether one is used to being that way or not. It’s still a risky adventure.

    I blogged crazy-honest, just flinging my heart out there into the great bloggy yonder . I loved writing it, was terrified to share it (but did it anyway), and remained anonymous. If anyone ever read it, I rarely knew about it. And that’s okay. :)

    I benefited hugely. I practiced sharing from my heart, taking the risk of honesty, and not taking anonymity as some personal rejection.
    Not to mention that, as I looked back on what I’d written over the years, I could see how God had changed me, and was reminded of how active and present He was (and is) in my everyday. That’s encouragement I’m glad I didn’t miss!

  2. Celesta says:

    Yeah. Good point. Is it even possible to be real with everyone? Maybe not completely, maybe not with everybody. But I sure wish I could get closer to it. It seems like this vast chasm between people – interactions seem mostly on a surface level. Not sure how to replicate what I felt online with people in real life. And I guess you’re right, some people don’t want that. But I bet some other people out there really do want a deeper connection with others.

    For God, it’s all about connection and all about love. So that’s what I want it to be about for me too.

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