I saw an advert on the telly the other day. As with most adverts, I can't tell you what it was for, but I remember the essence of the message.
Broadly, the advert in question created a scene of a typical busy walkway where people passed one another, presumably on their way to work etc. They weren't acting normally, however. They were aggressive and violent, abusive and rude: uneccessarily so, caricaturishly so. It was a scene of normal people acting obnoxiously.
It alluded to the way many people behave when they are driving in their cars, the old road-rage thing. We are all guilty. Well, I am! It is that sense that we have a free hand to say or do things that we perhaps wouln't concieve of doing in person with the person concerned - and all because we are sitting in our cars. I am altogether more impatient when I am driving, even when I am not in a hurry. I do shout more, and I mostly remember to close my window first. Sometimes, I even remember that I am wearing a collar, but have been a couple of times when I have forgotten! Not good ...
The same thing happens with emails and telephone conversations. In my 'last life' in retail, people would talk to me like I was snail ooze, abusive and nasty at times. My wife recieves emails that are like that from others in her profession which are along the same lines. Once, I had had enough, and a man who had threatened to hit me with a baseball bat once was invited into my store to do just that. He came in with said bat but seeing I was a frowning fairly broad grumpy six-foot man, and he was a tubby little oaf, he suddenly became the model of reconciliation. In the end he apologised, I told him it was fine, and the issues were resolved (like it was my fault the carpet fitters were all snowed in, I ask you!). Another person once offered me the benefit of their wisdom (their sign language was very compelling) behind their steering wheel - until I stopped and got out of my car to ask for clarification. There wasn't one - only an 'well, I was only saying....' type of comment.
I wonder why we do that. We all do. We are altogether stronger behind the glass. It happens in church life too. The relative 'safety' of a church community means that people feel able to do and say things that outside, they just wouldn't. Learning from this, and in my own level of guilt, I will try to deal with people behind glass in the way I would do so without it.