Highlands Blog

Dealing with Insults in the Age of the Internet

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Character, Personal Growth, Relationships tagged in:

Young boy sticking out his tongue. (Dealing with Insults in the Age of the Internet)

Acting Like Children

Each and every day that the sun rises, one of my two girls will cry out to me or their mother: “_____ scratched/hit/bumped/bit me!” They are indignant and their tone betrays their assumption that the said act of hostility was malicious and intentional. And, of course, it rarely was. They are young people of five and three and immature.

A mark of immaturity is the deeply held belief that the world revolves around us. Along with this cosmic realization comes the stance that our point of view is the right one, and the only one. And we don’t get this theory from some sort of Copernican brilliance but from our Adamic curse. We were born to play this role. A few years of consistent and massive amounts of evidence to the contrary usually cures us of this illness. For the most part.

Victims of Insults

We can all fall victim to the “I’m a victim” mentality. With social media and emails and text messages, the problem is only exacerbated. How so? Well we are probably “communicating” with far more people than ever before in human history. And, for the most part, they are not a part of our face-to-face life. They exist someplace else. And, let’s face it; they are not all truly our friends. We might be friendly with them but how many will show up at our funeral?

So we type-chat with a friend on Facebook and, in what we thought was the middle of the conversation, they cease to type. And we get puzzled and possibly miffed.

We are becoming increasingly used to and insistent on instant communication. So when a text is delivered in seconds and we can see that it’s been “seen” and we receive no message back within seconds we’re puzzled and possibly upset.

When we live face-to-face we can overcome many of these obstacles because all the clues of true human interaction are present: tone, inflection, facial clues, tongues sticking out. And we tend to have such interactions mostly with actual friends, people we are invested in and who have made it clear, over time, that they value us.

Work on Your Expectations

If we are going to have a wide group of “friends” around the country and even the world we might well need to lower our expectations for these friendships and greatly lower the sensitivity level of our insult meter.

In days gone by we might have picked up a pen and communicated with another via a physical letter. The perils of this practice were offset by the deeply personal nature of the letter and the fact that the audience was usually an intimate of ours. We had the sort of relationship that would survive an ill-placed adjective. And the ponderous format usually gave ample time between scrawl and stamp-licking to make any necessary corrections. And then there was the cooling off period between dropping the envelope in the mail box and the arrival of the postman the next day. Less so once we push SEND and they have it within nanoseconds.

7 Ways to Figure Out if You’ve Been Insulted

Here are a few things I want to encourage each of us to think about first before we decide that a true friend or a “friend,” has insulted us in some way.

  1. Assume that they did not intend to upset you.
  2. Re-read number one.
  3. Realize that most people do not have the time, inclination, or innate meanness, to go for your throat; they are too busy dealing with their own demons.
  4. Consider that perhaps the problem is you. Are you reading far too much into this casual interaction?
  5. Let grace cover it. If you’ve concluded somehow that they have purposely insulted you, how difficult is it to disregard it or let a thousand points of grace and love handle the situation?
  6. Don’t give the digital world the power to ruin your day. How close a friend are they anyway that you should let a perceived slight bother you?
  7. Err on the side of charity. Consider the challenges of this sort of communication when considering another’s response or lack thereof.

Every age brings with it new challenges to overcome in our quest to love one another, but we are under ancient directions on how to deal with others, no matter our circumstances.

Unity Through Humility

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1–4).


Have you found ways to avoid taking offense when using digital communication? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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