Drash: Shemot - On the Internet, nobody knows you're a G-D
In 1993 the New Yorker ran this cartoon with the caption "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." For many idealists it became a catchphrase, because one of the ideas behind this was that the internet could act as a great equalizer. Finally a “place” where everyone would be judged based on the quality of his or her written words (and images) and not on skin color, gender, age, ethnicity... or in my case accent.
The meme is still around, but the internet has changed and the idea(lism) has been increasingly abandoned. When Google and Facebook, two of the biggest websites require you to identify yourself by name, then the chances for staying anonymous and having a great effect decreased, because you have to use these services to reach their user bases.
The concept of privacy, even dog’s, comes to the forefront of considerations when informed users think about how and what can they do on the interwebs. This -- the importance of privacy and who recognizes you, and connect your actions to your identity -- came to my mind as I was reading this week’s parasha, the very beginning of the book of Shemot (Exodus 2:12)
“He turned this way and that and, seeing no one about, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand”
Moses thought nobody saw him, so he felt free to commit a violent act. On one hand it shows he was aware and afraid of punishment. In other words his inner guidelines didn’t prevent him striking someone down. On the other hand external rules and laws acted as potential prohibitors. If even a future prophet doesn’t have enough self-control to avoid rage, what do we expect from internet trolls? To paraphrase if “on the Internet (or in the open but hidden from sight), nobody knows you're a prophet”, would you still act like one?
Would I? Would religious people in general behave more in alignment with their inner values if they think nobody can identify them than non-religious people? Are there differences from this perspective between followers of different religions, or different denominations of the same religion? These are some of the questions that popped in my mind, for which I don’t know the answers for, or know of studies focusing on them. Do you?