Online confessionals too impersonal

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    It was author Denise Caruso who once extolled the Internet by saying, “It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Internet has evolved into a force strong enough to reflect the greatest hopes and fears of those who use it. After all, it was designed to withstand nuclear war, not just the puny huffs and puffs of politicians and religious fanatics.”

    Perhaps that is what the people who recently launched the Web site ivescrewedup.com were thinking when they decided it was a good idea to create an online place where people could confess their sins without having to leave their own home.

    The idea is pretty simple. You can pay your tuition, buy a car, look up cooking recipes, chat with your friends or distant relatives on the other side of the world, find your one true love, discuss the latest opinion polls of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, and find almost any material to help satiate your darkest desires online.

    Why then, should you not be able to confess and gain absolution for your sins online? If the rest of your life is Web-centered, there’s no reason why your spiritual life should require anything less. At least that’s what so many Internet users seem to be thinking these days.

    I was recently reading an article on CNN.com about how thousands of people are confessing their sins on Web sites such as ivescrewedup.com, mysecret.tv and dailyconfessions.com. The idea, according to the article, is to create a place “where anonymity is a substitute for privacy and the intimacy traditionally experienced by talking to a priest, therapist or friend is replaced by a virtual community of strangers.”

    The article says most confessions are from adolescents who are having problems with guilt associated with sexual sin. But many of the statements found on the various sites that offer the service are more substantial. One message on ivescrewedup.com read, “I have killed four people. One of them was a 17-year-old boy,” although the site founders said they believe that this confession is from a soldier, not a deranged serial killer. Still, it is apparent there is something people think they can gain from confessing their sins all alone in the comfort of their own home to a host of faceless strangers.

    I suppose I should visit one of these online confessionals, but, of course, I would have to confess to having some serious reservations to the existence, or perhaps more appropriately, the eagerness for people to embrace such an impersonal spiritual tool. In a world where more and more people seem to be disillusioned by the seeming fairness of God, it is strange to think that people are so easily adopting a system of confession that is so impersonal.

    It seems to me that God would be the best source for people seeking forgiveness of their sins, not some blog. If people are truly seeking relief from the guilt and shame associated with the acts they are making and finding increasingly immoral, perhaps their time would be better spent in prayer and supplication rather than blogging about it.

    Instead of withdrawing, people need to be coming together spiritually. If you are finding a need to confess your sins and reverse the actions that are troubling you, find somebody who is more than just ones and zeros. Find a group of friends or community members who share a similar faith and need for fulfillment, and find a solution together, in living flesh.

    After all, confessing online can be a big disappointment to those who expect a genuine healing experience from the site. At least that’s what cyberanalyst Sherry Turkle seems to think.

    “The expectation of what you can get out these sites far exceeds what some ultimately get, and that, in its own way, can be harmful,” Turkle said in the article.

    I suppose that’s what happens when people try to replace God with a computer.

    Andrew Young is a junior radio-TV-film major from Overland Park, Kan.

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