Happy Birthday to Me
Apparently, this little blog is celebrating a birthday today. It was fifteen years ago today that I first pressed “publish” and sent a few thoughts out into the ether. WordPress was kind enough to give me a heartfelt birthday notification along with some stats today (I was touched, obviously). Over the last decade and a half, I have evidently written 1412 posts which have generated 13 995 comments. Which seems like rather a lot of words. Needless to say, a lot more than I expected way back on January 20, 2007.
If memory serves, this blog began on a dreary, rainy Vancouver day, a few days into a new semester, about half way through into finishing a graduate degree in theology. We were about a year-and-a-half into our six-year West Coast sojourn. I had a clunky desktop computer set up beside our freezer in a cozy little house that had been generously offered to at a discount us by a local church. My kids were in grade one. The idea of pastoral ministry wasn’t really even on my radar (I still had the laughable idea that I would be a theology professor some day!). The world of blogging was still kind of in its infancy. Same goes for Facebook and Twitter, both of which had not yet morphed into the world-destroying entities that they would become. The idea of writing and interacting with others online seemed new and fresh and exciting.
Fast-forward fifteen years and it’s interesting to ponder how much has changed. Blogging is very much yesterday’s news. Most online interaction has migrated on to other less wordy platforms. I started off writing mostly just as a curious student of theology. Then I became a pastor and the blog probably changed a bit, even if I didn’t intend or want it to. Maybe I started to tell more stories and spend less time on abstract theology and philosophy. I’m sure I became “too religious” for some readers. At some point I joined Facebook and used it to promote the blog, which led to a bump in traffic and engagement across platforms. That was exciting, for a while. And then I realized that Facebook was destroying my soul and deleted my account. And the traffic dropped off. And the world kept right on turning, crazily. I suppose this all represents a fairly normal trajectory. Blogs, like kids, change as they grow up.
I think it’s also fair to say that we have changed over the last fifteen years. I think social media in all its forms has shortened our attention spans, made us angrier and more reactive, and sent people veering off into rather inflexible positions on the far left and far right. This has had a chilling effect upon our discourse, in my view. It’s not a great time to want to ask uncomfortable questions. I read an article in The New York Times this morning that said that 62% of Americans and 68% of college students “are reluctant to share their true political views for fear of negative social consequences.” This seems insane to me (especially the fact that the numbers are higher for college students, which says a lot about college culture these days and should have university administrators thoroughly worried). And yet no sooner do I say that it’s insane than I must acknowledge that I certainly feel the same, at times. I try to be careful about what I say here and about how I say it. Perhaps too careful. But I can think of very few public people these days who don’t self-censor for fear of being screamed at by a Twitter mob (from the left or the right). It is not a good time to refuse to sing from the songbook, whoever’s version of it we’re talking about.
Having noted that online discourse has gotten quite a bit uglier in the fifteen years of this blog’s existence, I must also say that I have experienced much grace, generosity, intelligent push-back, and just plain old kindness in this space. I have met interesting people. I have had fascinating conversations (on the blog and in private correspondence that this or that post generated). I have had writing opportunities extended because of something someone read here. Indeed, this blog probably played a role, however small, in getting me a job in both of the churches where I have served as pastor. So yeah, it’s been okay. These are the kinds of things that keep me writing here. That and, you know, just continuing to love writing and theology and good stories and interesting people.
At any rate, happy birthday little blog. You talk too much sometimes, and you’ve made me want to tear out my (non-existent) hair, but I’m also not too humble to admit that I’m kinda proud to call you mine. Don’t go doing anything stupid in your later teenage years. Remember, you’re growing up on the Internet and nothing ever disappears online. Behave yourself.