ODE to…Digital Humility

By on June 29th, 2017 in Editorial & Opinion, Magazine Articles, Societal Impact

One precious element in the Judeo-Christian tradition is respect for the human person. Each person is of infinite value in God’s sight…” and, “‥technology which diminishes our personhood or degrades us as humans, this I see as wrong.”

—Kallistos Ware

The above wisdom imparted in this issue by Kallistos Ware is timeless, yet also very timely in the context of the currently contentious tenor of social media. For years, researchers have purported that individuals often act out more frequently, impulsively, or intensely in online mediums compared to face-to-face mediums. This is the online disinhibition effect (ODE) [1], [2]. Yet, the toxic aspects of ODE, such as rudeness, aggression, animosity, and disrespect appear to be increasing in social networking sites (SNS); users express resignation and frustration over angry and disrespectful tone and content [2][3][4][5].

As an antidote, we would be wise to consider a bedrock of the aforementioned Judeo-Christian tradition: humility. If we sift our behaviors in the digital realm through the filter of humility, our digital humility would open wide the sluices for respect to flow. Humility births civility.

With digital humility, we contemplate our effect on others when we post, send, or click. We courageously self-reflect to assess if our online presence could be less boastful and more unpretentious. We think more about others, and less about ourselves. We liberate ourselves from unhealthy desires for acclamation or exaltation, thereby releasing ourselves from the shackles of excessive self-focus or the chains of self-importance.

With digital humility, we fortify ourselves against the toxicity of ODE. We listen more; we say less. We resist our predisposition to impulsively retaliate. We disagree, yet with respect, because others are “of infinite value.” We quit sulking when we don’t get our way; we refrain from gloating when we win. We confront our entitlement and exchange it for gratitude and acceptance, knowing that the tough stuff of life – like disappointment and adversity – is inevitable.

Technology allows us to create techno-social structures with far-reaching sociocultural impact. Humility is a life force credited with strengthening social bonds [6]. Commingled, our digital humility will yield far more rewarding outcomes, so that our personhood, and society at large, can better thrive in this digital age.


Christine Perakslis is Associate Professor in the MBA Program, College of Management, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI. Email: christine.perakslis@jwu.edu.