The Fear of God and Our Internet Behavior

I found several interesting thoughts in this brief essay on modern anonymity and how the fear of God should influence us. The articled discusses the impact of anonymity on how we behave in public, and in private—including online.

Here is an excerpt from “How Your Uber Rating Can Make You a Better Person.”

One of the many cool things about Uber is that it allows passengers to rate the driver. Not surprisingly, the drivers are very friendly. A recenthack of Uber’s site highlighted that the sauce-for-the-gander reverse is also true: the drivers rate us passengers. Even better, for a while it was possible to crack Uber’s database and see the driver’s ratings for you. With enough cleverness, you could even pry loose how others were rated.

At first this might seem a creepy invasion of privacy, especially if you’re less than a five-star passenger. But there’s a virtue to losing your anonymity. Once you know you’re being rated, just like the driver, you’re likely to be a bit nicer, sit in the front, and make conversation. The world becomes slightly more civil.

Plato in The Republic writes about the Ring of Gyges, a mythical piece of jewelry that allows its wearer to become invisible. His question is whether such a person would always be moral when assured that no one could see him. Plato’s brother Glaucon says it’s obvious that we’re more likely to behave like a jerk, or worse, when we know that we’ll never be caught or called out.


If I could conjure up a magic Plato ring, it would allow me to know and publicly reveal the names and addresses of all people who anonymously post vulgar rants and racist tweets. I would use it only sparingly, but I suspect that just a few such revelations would make the Twittersphere and Blogosphere suddenly a bit more civil, or at least subdued.

A corollary to this is what is now considered the “old fashioned” concept of fearing God. You could never scientifically prove it (science has many limits that devotees refuse to admit), but there is little doubt that the scientifically unsupportable premise of materialistic naturalism (there is no God, and everything can be explained through processes we see operating in Creation today) has led to a coarsening of public interaction.

As Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”

Those of us who have been graced to freely acknowledge the God Who is, know that He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We too often don’t do it exceedingly well, but I would bet that research could show the fullness of our interactions is far better than those who think no one is watching.

One of my great missions in life is to continually challenge myself and others to consciously experience the reality of the Father’s presence at every moment. Yes, He’s watching–but not like a cop waiting for someone to punish. He watches and warns like a loving parent admonishing and urging His little ones not to play in traffic.