This post was prompted by some Twitter conversations last night. Phil Ricthie relayed a comment from a Spring Harvest talk about Christian bloggers “saying things to each other we’d never dream of saying if we were in the same room”.
I think that’s true, though Christians have been saying some pretty horrible things to (or about) each other long before the internet was invented. I don’t think it’s confined to Christians either. And comments on individual blogs are rarely as nasty as those on the big news sites, from whatever perspective.
There seems to be fairly strong evidence that people feel much freer to be nasty on the internet, especially when hiding their identity behind self-aggrandising soubriquets.
The question though is whether it’s worth still continuing to blog when that is so often the culture. Some of last night’s conversation suggested it wasn’t.
I have form on this in that I have twice (in the around 8 years or so I’ve been blogging) given up on the blogs and deleted everything in frustration, disgust and depression. The mention of depression is not merely metaphorical: I suffer from it, sometimes quite badly.
On the bright side, sometimes blogging has helped me step out of myself and my blues and engage with others in ways I’ve been able to cope with and generally kept me going.
On the dark side, the two occasions when I gave up were after being attacked while going through bad bouts of depression. The attacks on the latter occasion came on two sides from a very conservative Christian trying to police the church on the web and a particular atheist insisting that if I wouldn’t agree with him, it was because I was prejudiced against atheists rather than having a rational argument. Smug self-righteousness from the “godly” and “godless” alike (I report how it felt to me at the time) seemed like too much to bear.
So I have twice found blogging not worth it, and I’ve been very sporadic in my posting on this blog because I’m currently struggling again with depression (and have for the last six months) while resisting medication.
However, all that said, I learn a lot from other people’s blogs. I enjoy reading the very many posts out there by people who are thoughtful, have something to say, and say it generally without nastiness or rancour, even when they are clearly angry. Well-channelled anger often makes for a scintillating post, and when it comes without the ad hominems, it can be quite entertaining.
Perhaps I’ve become more selective about the blogs I read, and therefore more positive about it, but if (to name but three of my regular blogroll) the likes of the Archdruid, Phil Ritchie, or Nick Baines gave up blogging, I would feel my life was somewhat more impoverished than it is today. So I hope they won’t. Christians (indeed, anyone) with something to say who say it well in public are a good thing. If they say it with humour and courtesy as well, even better.
But perhaps those of us who benefit from the wisdom of other bloggers (including especially those who think differently from ourselves) need to do more to affirm the good posts, and not merely comment when we disagree. Or maybe I’m only preaching that message to myself.