Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Large and Spacious Bloggernacle

There is an interesting little catfight going on as a result of an article about how LDS blogs were started. It really got me thinking about the whys and wherefores of blogging. Hearing the "authorities" of LDS blogs—those who have been around for some time, (and ironically often show dissatisfaction with the way LDS priesthood is run) bicker with the rather younger, more vital (and arguably more mainstream) "Mormon Mommy Blogs" over who played in the playground first has been illustrative.

Why blog? It seems that there are a few reasons. First, some blog because they think they have something important to share. They believe their perspective is important, and others should hear it. This tends towards "scholarly" sort of blogging. Or, maybe they just want to share their testimony with any who care to read it. Second, networking. Many blog because they want to stay in touch with friends and family. Blogging is a great way to go about it. Mommy blogs are largely of this sort. As another type of networking, some may have business networking blogs. I have one of this sort, which I've not yet used. Third, chronicling. Some may merely want to record events in their lives, whether good or bad. I have one public, but little-publicized journal-blog of that nature, and one private one. Fourth, a blogger may want to get his or her ideas out there so they can be discussed and mulled over. Maybe a person thinks better by typing, or maybe they want feedback on what they are thinking. Fifth, some blog for support. They are seeking for a community they can't find offline. This is a sort of offshoot of networking, but backwards. Rather than keeping track of those they already know offline, they are seeking others of like mind, often to get to know later.

I think I fall somewhere in the discussion and testimony-sharing categories for this blog. I don't get a ton of readers, but that doesn't particularly bother me. The ones I have are quite high-quality (in my opinion!) and willing to discuss gospel topics which are on my mind. I know some people read this who disagree with me, and I welcome those other perspectives (so long as they respect mine.)

The biggest pothole in the road of blogging is pride. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you have your own little realm of control on the web, you are somehow better or worthy of notice. Take the catfight which spawned my thoughts lately. It has gotten to a contest of who has been here longest, or who has the most readers. Realistically, it doesn't matter in the least how long you have blogged or who reads your words. If you have something of value to blog about, that is independent of recognition.

So, why the emotions and controversy? I guess deep down, we are all still just little children wanting to be loved and accepted. Me included. But, in the end, does it really matter in which wing of the Large and Spacious Bloggernacle we have decided to set up camp?

"And the large and spacious building . . . is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God. . . ."
1 Nephi 12:18


  1. SilverRain,
    If you are saying that we're all prideful, including you and me, then I'm with you. Most blogging is narcissism plain and simple. However, I also think that there is a lot of good to be had (as you also note). If we sometimes fall to navel gazing, we are, at least, aware of it.

    Setting that aside, as a participant in the discussion you cite, I would like you to point me to a single time when I have shown dissatisfaction with the way LDS priesthood is run. Without such evidence, I would, most respectfully, ask you to keep your easy overgeneralizations to yourself and shut your piehole.

  2. Since the comment was hardly directed at you, specifically, John, your strong reaction serves only to indicate that I might have hit a sore spot. Easy overgeneralizations have their place, so long as they are limited to unofficial spheres . . . such as casual blogging. It would be easy to come up with examples of Bloggernacle griping against Priesthood authority and the General Authorities specifically, but I have no driving need to establish grounds for my overgeneralization. This is especially true as it was only a sidenote in the point of the post.

    "Navel gazing" is a particularly repugnant term that indicates rather more self-absorption and inaction than is healthy. I much prefer self-evaluation or examination.

    Now, my point was not that everyone is prideful, it was that one must be very careful of pride in general, but particularly in blogging, and that this discussion is in general a ripe example of it.

  3. I like your summary of the motivations for blogging, SilverRain. My motivations are different on different blogs and in different arenas.

    I write my own blog expressly to record my beliefs for posterity. I appreciate DEEPLY the participation of those who read and comment, and I admit to checking SiteMeter a bit too much, but at the most fundamental level I want my kids and their kids and their kids to understand how I think and what I believe - even as I am fairly certain that they will chuckle at some (if not much) of my ideas.

    I blog in the normative Bloggernacle to gain and share insights on topics about which I care. I really like those "Aha!" moments that come very often (since I read so many blogs), and I hope somehow that my participation provides an occasional "Aha!" moment for others. It's interesting to me that some view me as conservative, some as moderate and some as liberal. That truly fascinates me.

    I read individual blogs (male and female) for much the same reason. I love to see how others frame and phrase all kinds of topics. I also read specific blogs of those who have moved away from us (or from whom we've moved away), as you say to keep in touch and know what's going on with them.

    Fwiw, the cat fight on BCC was caused mostly by Sue and others who over-reacted to the attempts by the 'Nacle to correct a very obvious mistake in the article. I understand the derision they sense, but that derision wasn't in the comments of that thread.

  4. SilverRain,

    You have made some statements here which are untrue. What would you think if I wrote a post and compared you, personally, to Korihor, then when you objected said "Oh, I guess I hit a sore spot"?

    Believe me, if somebody came on to your blog and dumped 100+ comments of spam, you would object to it. And you are a smart enough person to understand that comparisons to large and spacious buildings are inflammatory among Mormons.

    If I thought the bloggernacle was full of prideful people, I would leave immediately and not look back. If you want out, just say so. The MA can delist you in about 1 minute. Your anonymous insults are tiresome -- if you want to slander somebody, at least be big enough to do it using you own name.

    Mark Brown

  5. I think my own blogging, even though it has a narrow focus, falls under all five of your motivations, Silver Rain, at different times. That's a pretty good list of motivations.

    Different nations -- different churches -- different schools -- different families -- have their own rules of conduct and their own vocabulary and their own measures of greatness, every bit as much as different bloggers have their own reasons for blogging.
    The "catfight" came about because practitioners of one blogging style came en masse to the space frequented by another style of blogging, judged us wanting, condemned us, and tried to impose their own rules of conduct on at least that thread. That's more akin to a home invasion robbery than a catfight.

  6. SilverRain,

    I'd like to apologize for the intemperate nature of my previous comment.


    Mark Brown

  7. Once I realized that my blogging wasn't going to attract certain people and communities that I thought that it would and that my traffic was always going to remain small and that there was no way me and my team could comprehensively cover everything that needed to be covered in the world of Mormon arts and culture, I became a lot happier. And a much better blogger.

    I also think that it's very important that blogging be fun. The day it's no longer fun, I'll shut AMV down. Of course, I don't see that happening anytime soon. In fact, I recently hit my (what is it now?) fifth wind when it comes to blogging.

    It's not about traffic. It's not about number of comments (although conversation is nice). It's about the community than you can create (including lurkers).

    Also: I've never understood that blogging is narcissism line. It's a lot more humbling and a lot less narcissistic than many other efforts to communicate ideas.

  8. May I suggest a sixth reason. For entertainment. I think a lot of people, myself included, Blog because it is fun. It is intellectually stimulating and it passes the time.

  9. I blog to leave a trail like Papa D. When I research the lives of my ancestors I always wonder what they thought about the hand they were dealt. My blog will let those who come after me know what I thought. Blogging is a way of recording my thoughts in a more polished manner than writing in a journal. It forces me to be concise and careful. I also am empowered by going on the record. My views do not always match up with those of the Church but I feel like I have get them out -- blogging enables that release. Blogging helps me understand, refine, and own my ideas.

  10. Thank you, everyone, for your comments, complimentary and not.

    Ray—thank you very much for your perspective on blogging. It added a category I had not thought of (perhaps because of the tenuous nature of digital journals)—posterity. I think that is partially why I blog, too, to show what is going through my mind, how I struggle with or learn from it, in the hopes that spiritual and physical posterity, friends and family members can get insights into me and maybe help them see into themselves. As far as the catfight goes, I agree with you. I think that pride in this case came from attacking and counterattacking. When I examine my own behavior, I realize that defending myself against attacks by attacking back is no less prideful than attacking another. Both sides perceived themselves, I dare say, as defending themselves.

    I know it is a very subtle line, but I really don't watch other people's behavior to say "Oh, look, they are a bad person." I usually observe and comment on behavior with the desire to evaluate whether or not and to what extent I behave the same.

    Current events in my life have really focused me on my own prideful behavior when someone comes to me with a complaint or criticism. It is my natural and first impulse to defend myself by telling the other that I didn't mean what they thought I meant. Although not a personal attack, it is still a sort of attack. A simple "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings," is better than a "That's not what I meant, but I'm sorry I hurt your feelings," or a "I'm sorry, I know how that feels because I feel that same way when you . . . ." Even if the latter two are still better than a "Oh, yeah, well you are a dirty monkey!" they are still forms of pride.

    Mark—I would be hurt, of course, if I were personally compared to Korihor, but I personally compared no person to anything. I compared an institution (the Bloggernacle) to the Large and Spacious Building in Nephi and Lehi's dream. In my mind, any group of people can benefit by a member of that group pointing out potential dangers within the group. Since, as you have pointed out, I am in a small way part of the Bloggernacle, (as well as being a Mormon Mommy blogger, in a sense), I am not excluding myself from the warning.

    In fact, the first reaction I had was similar to many reactions posted in comments on that thread. My reaction was so emotional, it startled me, caused me to step back and note the things I posted here, rather than posting in the comments on that thread.

    As far as my anonymity goes, I am far from anonymous, despite my online moniker. People who get to know me offline know my real name, and I am not ashamed to own the opinions (and mistakes) I make here. I just prefer to keep my real name to myself and real acquaintances, partially because of certain online problems I have had in the past with unethical people (I have been online far longer than I have participated in the LDS portion of it), and partially because my choice to participate online should not expose my family and children. My name is unique enough to cause no possible confusion of identity, unlike a name such as yours.

    I do appreciate the apology, and understand fully how emotions of the moment can sometimes color words with a hue we'd rather not paint upon reflection.

    Ardis—That is a very good way of putting it. In trying to be impartial (something I really shouldn't do, since it only makes me an enemy of both sides) I would venture that both sides probably feel invaded, however just those feelings may be. It rather reminds me of the stay-at-home vs. working mother debate. Both sides have a point, both sides take things rather too personally.

    William and Matt—That is an excellent point! I suppose I'm rather too serious to have figured it out to begin with. I must admit I still read certain blogs largely to be entertained. I blog largely for myself as well, however glad I am to have others participate. I must admit, I have also learned to handle criticism much better since blogging.

    Sanford—I am also that way. When I speak or type something, I process it far more deeply than otherwise. It has helped me find opinions I have always had, and temper some of my extremes of opinion.

  11. SilverRain, if you haven't read it already, you might be interested in the last post I wrote (on Monday), entitled "The Danger of Safe Contention". I promise I scheduled it before the brewhaha you mention here, but the timing is a bit eerie.

  12. I know nothing of this contention, other than what I've read here. It does bring to mind two words I've pondered that I read recently in 1Nephi: "vain imaginations". The internet is a very real part of our lives but not tangible, not a product, nothing you can touch. Are our blogs just vain imaginations? I don't know, just asking. I do, at times, feel vain to write about my life so often.

    Yet, there is something about communicating and opening myself up to the world at large that is about more than that. The open conversation and trade of ideas is wonderful, when it happens with manners.

    My blog feels like an invitation to conversation, it has to start somewhere- me. Then I wait for you to respond by leaving a comment.


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