Friday, July 6, 2007

Why I Hate Blogs, Blogging and Bloggers.

I have always thought of myself as a slower gazelle. You know the one? He always gets devoured on the Discovery Channel because he can’t run as fast as the older ones or he forgets to watch for predators as he slumps to drink. Yeah, that’s me.

But please don’t pity me. I am not like a water buffalo or pygmy or something; even a slower gazelle is quicker than the average animal grazing the African savannah. I am still a wily thing; I am just shaky on my feet and often forgetful.

Now I am not alone out there. There are a lot of us. We don’t have clubs or cliques, but if we did it would be a near-median between MENSA and the short bus, with only a slight lean towards the MENSA side. We are slower gazelles, and we are the ones with the blogs.

That is one reason why a blog is such a turnoff to me. Because the big, majestic, pack-leading, skyscraper-leaping gazelles don’t have these things, they have websites. They don’t take time to write blogs, they write books… that people buy. So having a blog is a written admission that one is above average- but not by much.

Maybe you haven’t read that many blogs. You don’t understand what the big deal is. Well, let me challenge you to read a dozen or so blogs today, and then you can see first-hand why I hate them so much. See, a blog is really a nebulous thing. Its definition will vary depending on who is writing the blog, what type of blog it is and what the blogger is trying to accomplish by blogging on the blog. Confused yet?

There are blogs on religion, gardening, sports, scrapbooking, parenting, politics. You can have a blog if you are an insurance salesman, laboratory monkey or college student - especially if you’re a college student. (Something about the educational process emboldens us to believe that what we say is worth listening to.) Some are legitimate, intimate and insightful while most are amateur, unfounded, and borderline illiterate. Thanks to the blog phenomenon, you can now peek into the dusty recesses of any boring fool’s mind and peruse their thoughts with the ease of Microsoft Windows (XP not ME).

The most harmless blog is the public journal. It just shares what is going on in that person’s life with insights and maybe a picture or two. This isn’t going to bother anyone. But blogs drop a country mile after this one.

The average blog is a viral infection of autobiographical filler, written by someone who thinks people actually want to read their autobiography. Funny thing is, their posts are almost always meaningless. Their ideas are not usually original, but sad regurgitations of once-read ideas. (Reading a book doesn’t make you smart anymore than skimming a flight manual makes you an airplane pilot.) No wonder their ideas are often as empty, overused, and stupid-sounding as the word “blog” itself.

I just can’t figure out why they do it. The simple answer seems to be that they crave the attention. So by blogging, they massage their ego to the cathartic clicking of their laptop’s keyboard. It is like a child who writes their callow, awkward secrets in a dollar-store diary, but instead of placing it under lock and key beneath a mattress, they post it on the internet for the whole world to see. Almost voyeuristically, they want someone to spy on them and see them for who they really are. These are sick people.

The blogger’s illness is only matched by his or her brazenness. They may be wrong, but are never in doubt; they always have an opinion, even if they do not. Armed with the equivalent of a mail-order Bachelor’s degree from a local college, they meaninglessly muse about controversial subjects, picking the side that will get the most attention and make the most people notice them.

For example, Southern Baptist bloggers abound, each with their own brand of denominational ideology. Most boil down to little more than gutless gossip. I had a telling experience with one of these bloggers. A man we’ll call “Joe” attempted to tear my dad a new corn shoot on a blog recently. When Joe was challenged to confront dad in the Biblical way ( pretty close to “growing up and being a man” except more inclusive), we received a 3-page letter instructing a pastor of roughly 30-years how he should do ministry. After some address checking, I found out that Joe was only a first-year seminary student with no ministry experience. I have concluded that many of these blogging Baptist pastors, if they are actually in ministry, are throwing up a smoke-screen to hide the fact that their church is not growing, their baptisms are down, and they couldn’t preach themselves out of a well with a Charles Spurgeon manuscript and the vocal chords of Adrian Rogers. Instead of spending 13 hours a day hitting “Refresh” and wolfishly devouring gossip, they should be out desperately building relationships with one of the 3 billion people in this world who would go to hell if they died right now.

What is most annoying is that many of them foolishly think that by doing it, they gain street cred. Yet they are not anti-establishment fringe-writers, not the voice of “the people.” The July 9, 2007 Newsweek says that by the end of this year, there will be over 100-million bloggers! That means when you blog, you are no more anti-establishment than Coca-Cola or Walmart. You are the neo-establishment, which is a lot like the old establishment except with worse marketing.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: "This all sounds a bit ridiculous, ironic, perhaps even hypocritical. You are down on bloggers because you want people to read all YOUR thoughts." Maybe. Or maybe I have surrendered to the cold, hard fact that people are going to read blogs anyway, so I can at least bring you a meaningful alternative.

This blog will never be used for silly gossip or filled with all the tedious minutia from my uneventful day. This blog will not be peppered with dozens of mid-sentence links. This blog is not a blogger's attempt to break into the blogosphere and create a blogstorm or blogumentary in hopes of becoming a blogebrity (all considered real words). Instead, I want to do exactly what the tagline suggests: create meaningful conversation with potential to positively change minds. After all, isn’t that what we are supposed to all be about?

A blog can be a place of thought and discussion with the intent to create meaningful conversation. We should be approaching Christlikeness through transforming our minds, so that we are better prepared to share an amazing message with a needy world. Why not do it together in a place like this?

Wow. That all sounds pretty insightful. Perhaps I am faster on my feet than I think. I guess you’ll have to keep reading and let me know.

20 comments:

ktatliberty said...

your writing is lovely to read.

GregM said...

Jonathan,
A typical blog is a fog that bogs down and creates frustration. Your bog is a cog that jogs the mind and hogs the road bigtime!! I will log on to your blog regularly!!

lgarrett said...

Looks great! Hoping to read it regularly.

mindym said...

Love it! Love it! Love it!-min

Pam Boone said...

WoW! I'm blogfused. (is that a word too?) I will be excited to see the comments/conversations that begin and hopefully will not be a blogwar.

PamB

Nate Myers said...

Cathartic, huh?

Don't knock the industry of blogging...it's not one of slower gazelle's, but a levelling agent in society. Through a multitude of blogs (if well chosen), you can get news that isn't mainstream and styled for ratings rather than real news, and you get a chance to share life with others in a way not normal because they're considered well near worthless by the "important" people in society.

Sounds like this post was centered on an irrepressible urge to launch into an attack on a seminarian who shouldn't have said what he said. Irregardless, your comments on him not only were flat-out gossip, they were unloving and downright hateful. You didn't rise above him at all.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Nate,

I appreciate your comments. Though I don't know you personally, I hope you continue to visit my blog and disagree with me whenever you feel compelled.

I take umbrage with you calling my statements gossip. In order to gossip, I would have to talk about the private affairs of someONE. For this reason, I didn't call this individual by name, nor did I equip readers with a way to figure it out on their own (eg- a link). I simply pointed out an example of the gross abuse of blogs, specifically SBC blogs for gossip, slander, and dissemination of heresay. If you are familiar with this genre of bloggers, than you know I could catalogue examples of this ad nauseam. If you felt I was attempting to be hateful, perhaps I did not articulate myself well or perhaps you missed the point.

I do, however, whole-heartedly agree with your comment that blogs offer a "chance to share life." Why do you think I have a blog? I blog for no other reason.

God bless you in your own efforts to tackle the monster of seminary, and I hope we can continue to converse about life as Christ-followers.

-Jm

Nate Myers said...

"I have concluded that many of these blogging Baptist pastors, if they are actually in ministry, are throwing up a smoke-screen to hide the fact that their church is not growing, their baptisms are down, and they couldn’t preach themselves out of a well with a Charles Spurgeon manuscript and the vocal chords of Adrian Rogers"

That was the section rather bothersome to me. It doesn't strike you, at the very least, as ungenerous?

Jonathan Merritt said...

As a matter of fact, it was not generous at all. It was a negative comment about a negative issue and trend. I am convinced that the individual I described is exactly the type of person you will find blogging about the SBC. Take some time, check the people out for yourself, and let me know if you don't find the exact thing.

On my blog, you will always find candor, but you will never find me initiating gossip, calling people by names and trying to tear down Christian brothers.

Moreover, I don't have to follow many of the blogs you link from your own site to find remarks that are (to put it similarly) less than generous. As the saying goes, "People who blog in glass houses should not throw stones."

gordzilla7 said...

Jonathan, I enjoyed your article in Relevant Leader and was pleasantly surprised to see that you are in Raleigh. I'm in Garner just next door and would love to connect with you if you ever have a chance. You can find all my info at www.newgarnerchurch.com if you want to touch base.
Gordon

Jonathan Merritt said...

Gordon,

Thanks for the encouragement. It would be an honor to connect with you. I will contact you today.

Jm

Nate Myers said...

would you have happened to be bill renfro?

Forgive me if it strikes me as a bit strange that you didn't address my blog content, but instead the content of others I link to. I'm fairly certain I'm not ultimately responsible for their thoughts; though I do speak out when I believe they've gone too far in their comments.

I'm not lacing into you by any means here, because I highly value candor...there's something deeply authentic about a person speaking from their heart whether I agree with them or not. I'll just go ahead and say that there's a thin line between candor and thoughts that incite disunity and are hurtful to others. I'm sure you knew that, but sometimes our faithfulness in walking those lines isn't figured out by ourselves, but in relationship with others.

That's why I'm hoping deeply that you're not the "Bill Renfro" on that specific blog post, because "Bill Renfro" overstepped that line by ten thousand leagues or more...not to mention lying about his identity...

Jonathan Merritt said...

I am not sure what you mean by Bill Renfro's statements crossing lines. His comment was short and positive. I don't know him personally, but I don't know a lot of the people who have commented on this forum. Perhaps that was a typo?

As far as your blog, it seemed like a really decent forum, though I didn't examine it all. But I am sure I don't have to remind you that much can be known of a man by the company he keeps. If you disagree with that statement, I would direct you to the book of Proverbs. If you place your stamp of approval on and recommend Blogs that are less than generous, it is clearly imprudent to critique the generosity of other's statements. That being said, I am fairly certain you SHARE responsibility over information that you list and link to on your site. If you are truly passionate about what you say, implicitly endorsing sites that are themselves incendiary is, to put it kindly,
irresponsible.

The blog I wrote stands as a piece of reflection and candor. If you feel that my comments were divisive with respect to the average SBC blogger, please email me personally and I can fill your work week with examples to the contrary.

At this point, I am not sure that it is profitable to continue discussing my views on blogging. If you would like to converse about something else, I would invite the conversation. Check out this week's post or come back Monday for my next post.

Blessings,
Jm

Nate Myers said...

I'll make one more comment, then leave this conversation be. You said,

"If you place your stamp of approval on and recommend Blogs that are less than generous, it is clearly imprudent to critique the generosity of other's statements...If you are truly passionate about what you say, implicitly endorsing sites that are themselves incendiary is, to put it kindly, irresponsible."

I'd be interested to see which blogs I link to you consider incendiary, because the definitions of incendiary and ungenerous are terribly subjective.

I personally think it's important to listen to (and establish friendships with) those you don't see eye to eye on all the time, because every time I'm stretched, I have a chance to grow. That being said, I hear what you're saying about one's company. That, in fact, is why I have chosen to link to those I have. They challenge me as well as show grace.

Jonathan Merritt said...

Nate,

This blog is not a forum where I call people out by name. I am not going to roast people you link from your blog here. That is unimportant.

Not only is it unimportant, it is unnecessary. While the word incendiary may be subjective, it is objective in this case. By addressing my post in your first, second, and third comment, the measuring mark has been set. It doesn't take a Rhode Scholar to see which blogs you link would be a violation of the standard you set by criticizing my thoughts.

You miss the point in your last sentence. I agree that it is important to listen to people you don't agree with. My bookshelf can attest to that. But you won't find me linking to Planned Parenthood. Even a slower gazelle like me knows that everyone understands that a link is representative. So as you diversify your relationships, there should be a difference between who you listen to and who you link to; who you are stimulated by and who you are supportive of; who you converse with an who you corroborate with. If your standards are generous speach and unifying language, I encourage you to remain consistent.

Blessings,
Jm

J. Gray said...

Jonathan,

Nice post...one comment, though (and I say this having no idea who "Joe" is or what he was critiquing)...do you think it is fair to wipe away a critique of someone just because they are young, inexperienced, and are critiquing someone more "established"? Could they not have valid points, despite their inexperience? Does their critique only gain weight when they are old? Are the established and experienced above critique? Or only above the critique of those less experienced?


I must note the irony...should I ignore your posts about blogging because you are young, new to blogging, and are critiquing people who are more experienced and established? If the inexperienced and young are not a viable source for critical thought, then should we just disengage from public discourse? Why do you have a blog?
(Fair questions?)

Jonathan Merritt said...

j. gray-

Not only are they fair questions, they are shrewd observations. I appreciate the thought you put into this.

First of all, I don't believe that inexperience or age is the benchmark for conversation or clout. I should have probably given a disclaimer. In fact, scripture tells us that age should not be a criteria for credibility (1 Timothy 4:12). However, principles have limits. I would not lecture a PhD-holding professor of Genetics on the complexity of the human genome. We should question and criticize the learned with respectful skepticism. That was the point I was trying to make, perhaps unsuccessfully. (Do you disagree?)

I like that you picked up on the irony. I mentioned the perceived irony at the end of that post. The point was that my heartbeat with this blog is to provide meaningful conversation in contrast to spite, gossip, or bloviation.

Also, your site, www.practicalreformation.com, is a nice forum. I enjoyed it. The only thing I don't like is that you are a Florida gator, because I am a born and bred Georgia Bulldog. Since you have keen insight, I can make an exception.

J. Gray said...

Thanks Jonathan!

We're just getting that site going. Right now, there is not much there but we hope to get that site rolling soon. Please come be a part, as I will definitely keep checking in here.

I'll overlook the Bulldog thing...but it's easy to do when you're on the side of 14 win in 16 games. :) Haha.

The guys on that blog and I were all friends when we were at college at UF. I am thankful that God surrounded me with so many guys that loved Christ and encouraged me at such a pivotal point in my life. That site is simply the overflow of guys (several in full-time ministry, several in professional fields) who love Christ, love the Word, love the Church, and want to see our lives and the lives of those around us reformed and changed by Christ. (Cheap plug.)

Back to the issue at hand...I agree with you about the critique. We have to be very careful in not only what and who we critique, but HOW we do so.
I guess my caution in this whole thing is that there are many people who feel that certain people are above question or critique merely for who they are or what they've done. In the SBC we have a problem with this, that some pastors are viewed as above critique.
Now, I am not saying that YOU feel that way, but I have heard some men say things like that...and I just wish that we would believe that NONE of us are above question and examination. (I am pretty sure you'd agree with that...but I felt it needed to be said.)

NOW...for those of us who are young and inexperienced in ministry we need to be very mindful of HOW we discuss and critique those men. We need to show respect in word and tone. We need to think before we type. We need to stop and pray about the ramifications of our comments, as well as the motivation for commenting.

All in all, I just want us to be able to think and talk through issues...without making ourselves irrelevant by our coarse tone...as well without being made irrelevant by those who view us as 'too young' or 'too inexperienced' to comment.

All that being said...I think we're in agreement on this.

J.Gray

Go Gators.
(See you in Jacksonville?)

Jonathan Merritt said...

Excellent thoughts. Very succinct and wise... dare I say, beyond your years. (Joke.)

I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying and I echo the sentiment that none are above criticism, ESPECIALLY those in the SBC.

The conclusion to the story was this: Even though dad did not agree with his statements, dad personally called him to discuss it with him and wrote him a letter addressing each of his concerns.

We are all susceptible to moral failure and allowing others, regardless of age, to have a (constructive and respectful) voice, is crucial to keeping us accountable.

I look forward to your insights and what will come from the practical reformation community. Once it is all up and running, I will consider linking it from my site.

Oh, and I would really like your feedback on the post coming this Monday. If you have a minute, check back in. (Cheap plug.)

Gators have good ideas too when they are sober enough to articulate them. Ha!

Blessings,

Jm

lgarrett said...

Jonathan-
Is all this dialog over the article your dad wrote? Funny how "truth" stirs up controversy and instigates conversation! Keep up the good work!