Backbiting, gossip and slander are considered extremely destructive and divisive. Dictionary.com defines backbiting:
“ 1. To attack the character or reputation of (a person who is not present).
2. To speak unfavorably or slanderously of a person who is not present.”
American Heritage Dictionary defines slander: “A false or malicious statement or report about someone.”
Backbiting or to commit slander involve killing someone’s character, and in many cases this leads to anger, anxiety and depression of the person being slandered. “Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguish the life of the soul.” Backbiting is also detrimental to the spiritual life of the slanderer. When we slander someone, we not only hurt the person we have slandered, but we are hurting ourselves as well.
If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdrawal from the community. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him and to say in effect: Would this detraction serve any useful purpose?” This implies that criticism, if given in the spirit of love and wanting to help someone better themselves would be acceptable; however, , “Breathe not the sins of others, so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed would thou be, and to this I bear witness.” This statement is similar to one found in Christian scripture. Christ states to one of His followers: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Today backbiting has fallen to a completely despicable level. The internet has become the place where people engage in sterile impersonal attacks on an individual’s character. They do so in the confines of their own homes and do not have to face the immediate reaction of their victims. In some cases, they do so anonymously, which is the ultimate in cowardly behavior. The victims cannot even identify their attacker and therefore cannot attempt to protect themselves or seek justice from that person. In some cases, this has resulted in a young person being so traumatized they had to change schools or in the case of Megan Meir, the 13 year old girl who committed suicide after being slandered by a fictional character created by a classmate's mother on MySpace, the pain she suffered resulted in taking her own life.
The internet is a very powerful medium. It is a tool, which we would be foolish to ignore; however, it is a dual edge sword, it can be used for good or for evil. It is up to us to choose how we want to use this tool. Do we want to try and create love and unity with what we write, or do we want to create enmity, distrust, and divisiveness?