Monday, October 8, 2007

Blogging: An aided reflection

Last night I read an editorial in Christianity Today by Ted Olsen entitled The Death of Blogs: Well some of them, anyway. It is an insightful piece about how blogging can be an unhealthy obsession, especially when you write a blog that isn't part of your everyday work. Indeed, there are perils to blogging, like everything else. As Rodney Dangerfield, who in his old age married a much younger woman from my hometown, once said: "Thanks to jogging more people are dropping dead in perfectly good health than ever before."

People always ask me how I find the time to blog. I make time because I like blogging, most of the time these days I blog in the morning and in the afternoon immediately after work. This means that I blog before everybody else is up, or before everybody else gets home. Today, being Columbus Day, I am off work. Besides, I have always written a lot, plus it helps me think through issues and get my juices flowing of a morning. That being said, I rarely spend more than an hour pumping words onto blogspot.com this is because I usually write about something I have thought about, at least a bit. I do not watch television. So, I figure an hour a day blogging + zero hours watching t.v.= a far less encumbered life than watching t.v. two or three hours a night. Of course, I am an incurable reader!

I think back to this time last year when blogging was so new. I sometimes posted four times a day. Fortunately, that was just a phase. While I still post about everyday, I am far less obsessive about it. If I post nothing for a day or two, it is not a big deal. Part of this comes with being better grounded. As much as I enjoy maintaining this blog and contributing to The People of St. Mary Magdalene, I have no illusions that thousands, or even hundreds, or even dozens daily visit these sites. On the other hand, I know that people read what I have to write, just as I read several blogs myself. In addition to writing for others, blogging has become a bit of a conversation with others who blog and with people from my parish. My posts are often prompted by insights I gain on a subject after having taught on it, or a conversation I have had with a person, either in person or via e-mail.

Writing, discussing, challenging and being challenged also helps me connect the dots of my life. As an example, recently, while looking for free digital music of my favorite punk bands of the late '70s/early '80s, I discovered the blog of Alice Bag, one of the "courageous, intelligent and daring women back in the 1970's [who] decided to break the rules of society". She did so by founding the group The Bags. Her blog is called Diary of a Bad Housewife. Though she is, like me, now in her forties, she remains, as when she was younger, a very long way from being a bag in a certain colloquial sense. Nonetheless, I can appreciate very much Olsen's observation, which is a modified version of Warhol's comment about everybody being famous for 15 minutes, that due to blogging "everyone will be famous to 15 people for 15 minutes".


Citing research conducted by technocrati.com Olsen writes that it is estimated "that 3 million new blogs are launched every month". He also points out that technocrati's motto is: "Zillions of photos, videos, blogs, and more. Some of them have to be good" - images of the million monkeys typing (of which I am definitely one) in order to write Hamlet come to mind.

Olsen also cites research done by Gartner, Inc. to the effect "that 200 million people have given up blogging, more than twice as many as are active". So, while blogging has its perils, like most activities, even ones we view as healthy, it also has a sorting mechanism. As Christians our metric is "by their fruits you shall know them". As Catholics it is also important for bloggers to have some accountability. I am not writing about submitting everything I write for review and editing, but a commitment to telling the truth, to writing what is both appropriate and what builds up the Body of Christ, as well as being able to publicly acknowledge my public failures. There are many things about which I have opinions, even very strong opinions, even about some things I don't know enough about to be considered well-informed. Of course, I share my opinions daily, but not all of them. I am slowly learning to be prudent. I am thankful for the times I have been corrected and challenged. I try to cultivate an awareness that what I write and post to my blog is public. Therefore, I have to own it with no excuses, especially when I am mistaken, or when I have crossed a boundary. As Christians we are bound, because we freely choose to be, to cultivate a Christian witness on-line. As my 15 readers know, this does not mean posting pietistic pabulum. Personally, I would rather read something offensive!

Last fall, after I had been blogging for awhile, I would get really discouraged when it was not clear to me that people were reading these pearls of wisdom I daily dropped on them. This resulted in a number of pathetic posts seeking affirmation (the posts still exist- here is an example, both of my issue and the kindness of people). I had to step back and evaluate whether blogging had any intrinsic value for me. It does and while I would be lying to write that I don't care if anybody reads what I write, I can say that it does have value for me over and above who reads it. This was and remains an opportunity for growth and maturity for me. If nothing else, I hope to contribute in some small way to the growth and maturity of others. Growing in maturity also means grappling honestly with my immaturity. I have bucket loads of that! To quote Billie Joe Armstrong: "Nobody's perfect and I stand accused, for lack of a better word, and that's my best excuse."

Well, my hour is up . . .

2 comments:

  1. Dear Scott,

    Thank you for the link to my Diary. I agree with the sentiments expressed in your final paragraph, that blogging is its own reward. It's a lot like exercise; hard to find the discipline to do it as often as your should but it leaves you feeling good after you've done it.

    I especially like your comments about challenging others and being challenged. Although feedback from readers is not necessary, the blog entries I've written that have provoked controversy and heated discussion are more exciting to me because they force me to defend my position and evaluate my beliefs. Blogging is the closest thing I've found to my old college philosophy course discussions.

    I've got laundry to do, gotta go! Keep on writing and best wishes,
    Alice

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  2. Dear Alice,

    First off one of the joys of being now in my forties is that I don't have to act aloof about you commenting- it is a thrill. Secondly, I, too, majored in Philosophy in college and in grad school. So, I know exactly what you mean about dialogue and challenge. Thanks for your encouragement and I look forward to continuing to contribute to what I hope remains challenging dialogue!

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