I was searching for someone on the internet (surprisingly, not myself). Since this individual didn’t have much of a platform, I looked at MyLife.com. Such sites draw in the curious and you soon end up paying (I suspect) for any salacious information such as arrest or court records. In any case, what stood out is that we all presumably have a meter on the site that shows whether we’re good or bad. It’s like a Leonard Cohen song. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s what religion used to do. Some forms of Christianity (Calvinism comes to mind) tell you that you can never be good enough. Others are more lax (Episcopalians come to mind), as long as you go to mass enough and feel some guilt for misdeeds, you’ll get in. All the various groups, however, have metrics by which you’re measured, largely based on what you believe.
The odd thing—or one of the odd things—about religion is that it is now categorized as what you believe. Historically religions began as a kind of bellwether of what you do rather than what you believe. The two are related, of course. The motivation behind an action might well be good while the end result is less so. Secular justice regularly seeks to answer the question of why someone did something. Was there malice involved? Aforethought? Was it an unfortunate accident? Religion drives over this ground too. Without getting into the many shades of gray that are morality, value judgments as to the goodness or badness of an action (or a person) were traditionally the purview of religion.
The internet itself has become a kind of god. We turn to it for all kinds of answers. It’s both a Bible and encyclopedia rolled into one. When we want to know something about someone we google them. Some of us have tried to control the narrative about ourselves by making websites. (This, of course, presumes others will be interested in us.) Social media also injects us into larger arteries of traffic. People judge us by what we post or tweet. Often without ever meeting us or getting to know who we really are behind our physical walls. So this person I searched had left little to find. Scraps here and there. I didn’t believe everything I saw on MyLife. After all, not everyone wants to subject her or himself to the constant scrutiny of the connected world. Maybe it’s a religious thing.