I’m hugely ambivalent about the blog phenomenon for a number of reasons.
First, there’s the sheer number. As a barely-got-started blogger, ironically I’m convinced there are too many blogs in the world. You could spend all day reading and it would be like trying to drink the ocean. And the next day all those bloggers would write another ocean of words just as deep.
The effect of all these words, for me at least, is to make the world an unquiet place. There is no place of silence to come to, at the end of the words, because the words never end. I find it makes me unthinking. I become an intellectual, emotional and spiritual consumer because there is always more to take in, so I fail to take time to digest it and to give out. I’m a creative parasite, filling my time thinking others’ thoughts after them, rather than thinking my own. And this consumerism, this parasitism, makes me a superficial person because I kid myself that skim-reading other people’s 500-word summary of an issue counts as engaging with that issue meaningfully.
Which is one of the other flaws of blogs: they’re superficial by their very nature. When books were the main medium of intellectual discussion, people were forced to take years to shape and hone and live with their ideas – and hours or days or weeks to read other people’s. Now we’re too busy to write 300 pages of considered prose, we write 300 words instead. And our audience is unlikely to take more than a couple of minutes to read what we’ve written. It’s hard to say anything of consequence in 300 words, and harder still to be truly changed or challenged by 2 minutes reading. Often, then, blogs become like muzak – diverting enough to distract us, maybe even to entertain, but they fail to transform us or speak truth to our hearts.
In fact, perhaps a better metaphor is fast-food: the blog-reader is in danger of becoming malnourished yet bloated. His diet lacks anything nourishing, but his appetite for anything better is soured by all the junk. I notice this danger in my own life. Read too much spiritual or intellectual ‘junk-food’ (magazines, blogs, metro) and I find my appetite for what I know to be true spiritual food, particularly the Bible, to be blunted. As a blogger, the idea that my junk-filled words might displace – to even a tiny extent – God’s perfectly-nourishing Word in someone’s ‘diet’ is terrible.
One other thing makes me wary of blogs. It is so easy to use them to speak authoritatively about things we know too little about. I’ve got myself in my sights, as much as anyone else, when I write this. Blogs are little virtual soapboxes that we love to pontificate from, and they don’t even have the traditional soapbox’s basic accountability of having to show your face to your audience. Yet they’re potentially read by anyone. The potential for harming people is huge. The potential for feeding our own arrogance is also huge. Writing a blog gives us the impression that ‘the world’ cares about what you and I think. Not a good way of cultivating a spirit of humility and a right sense of one’s place in the world.
There are a lot of good reasons not to blog. I hope that I manage to avoid some of the main dangers, but I also hope I’m honest enough with myself and others to admit when I get it wrong. I’m sure it’ll happen pretty often. When it does, don’t pull your punches, let me know.