Over the last few weeks I have noticed a feeling of unsettledness and mild disorientation as I begin my morning ritual of coffee and a trip through my news reader/aggregator. At last count, I have over 130 subscriptions to various blogs and news sites, some of which are (incredibly) updated 3-4 times daily. I have no idea if this is a “normal” amount of information for the technologically-savvy to wade through on a daily basis in our brave new cyber-world, but the sheer volume of words I make some attempt, however minimal, to regularly keep up with is proving increasingly unwieldy.
To be fair, each of these blogs/sites was added for a reason—I respect and admire most of the writers I keep track of and genuinely am (or at least was, at one point) interested in what they have to say. But increasingly, interest in or attention to the jumbled mass of information that I have selected as worthy of arriving via the ether are rare commodities. So many words, such a steady and undifferentiated stream of commentary from so diverse a collection of voices about so many subjects—heaven, hell, earthquakes, church leadership, politics, current events, theology, philosophy, popular culture… The advent of blogging and social media has given everyone a voice, and boy has “everyone” seized the opportunity!
Of course, if everyone has a voice then, increasingly, nobody’s is worth listening to. Or at least a lot fewer. I am keenly aware of this as a blogger. My voice is just one in an ocean of voices only too eager to share their views with the world.
It’s been just over four years since I ventured into the blogosphere, and probably not a bad time to take stock of the whole enterprise. It’s certainly been interesting and rewarding to see this blog grow and to interact with a lot of interesting people from diverse perspectives. I have enjoyed the challenges of writing regularly and having to reconsider my views in light of the insights and questions of others.
But there are negatives to blogging as well. Probably the most unsettling tendency encouraged by the world of blogging and social media is the perceived need to always have something to say. A quick glance at the calendar on my sidebar shows that I haven’t posted anything for a few days—a virtual eternity of silence in the online world! Surely I have to correct this deficiency! What will people think if I go too long without posting anything? Will they—gasp!—go somewhere else? Will my subscribers search for greener cyber-pastures? Will my inactivity result in my being cast (virtually) into the dustbin of the blogosphere? The ego is a fragile thing, to be sure, and nothing exposes this like regular time in the world of blogging.
Last week, I came across an article by John Dyer called “Not Many of You Should Presume to be Bloggers” via Christianity Today that touched on a few of these issues. After citing a number of biblical passages that talked about the wisdom of restraint and silence, Dyer has this to say about the “opposing value system of social media”:
Yet Facebook and Twitter do not encourage this kind of self-restraint. In fact, they encourage an opposing value system. Social media relentlessly asks us to publish our personal opinions on anything and everything that happens. There is no time for reflection in prayer, no place for discussion with other flesh and blood image bearers, and no incentive to remain silent.
No incentive to remain silent, indeed. I think that Dyer has his finger on something when he says that the denizens of the social media/blogging world increasingly feel that if they don’t publish, they don’t exist.
I suppose I have managed to justify my ongoing contribution to the increasingly noisy and cluttered blogosphere by seeing myself as less of an “expert” on the topics I write about than as a fellow pilgrim interested in creating a space for reflection and conversation. In that sense, my stated goals haven’t changed much since my first post four years ago. It would be great if this space fostered wonderfully and singularly deep and provocative conversations, but in my more rational moments I know that this blog isn’t remotely as unique as I would like to think. At the end of the day, it’s just one more blog.
And that’s OK. As tempting as it is (and is becoming) to evaluate one’s success by inane measures such as “tweets,” “shares,” “likes,” “stumbles” or whatever other designators are permeating our increasingly porous lexicons (I assume “Facebook” has become a verb by now?), I realize that these words are not how genuine value is determined. I realize that words like “friendship,” “encouragement,” “dialogue,” and “understanding” are bigger, stronger, and more life-giving words and that these words, too, find their place, however rarely, in the cacophony of noise that is the online world.