(The following is the last post I made on my HSB blog – I’m transferring it here for reference.)

I want to present a challenging question to all bloggers.  The following is a post that I began writing several months ago, but I didn’t decide to post it until now – the day I am moving to my new blog (which can be accessed by typing www.amandaread.com).  This isn’t exactly a “farewell” since I am still blogging and will probably Iframe this HSB blog with my new blog…but in a way it is, because I am leaving aspects of this familiar blogging atmosphere behind.

If for some strange reason I had to withdraw from the blogosphere, how would that affect my life?”

Mom and I asked ourselves that question not too long ago, and the plain, unfussy answer is: it wouldn’t affect our lives at all. Sure, it would be somewhat disappointing to those of us that enjoy blogging, but it wouldn’t disturb our lives in any way at all. As I started thinking about what sort of outlet the blogosphere is and how I should properly use it, I gradually arrived at writing something I have never written before: a blog post on blogging itself.

I have been blogging for over two years now, and have been involved in writing on the internet for nearly five years. Through all of that I have been able to observe and gain experience in the workings of the internet and the way in which it is used and abused by humanity. Yet amazingly, despite its potentially addicting appeal to me, blogging has never become a major part of my life or my family’s life. We don’t live for the daily interaction of comments upon comments and immensely cluttered sidebars and sitemeters and hand-me-down-blog-awards (note: I do not intend to condescend the good will of those that invented the numerous creative awards, but goodness – after the splendid Blogging With A Purpose Award and Blogging Reflection Award why did everybody and their brother think they needed to make a new award? It has devalued the significance of blog awards!).

I like to visit the blogs of people such as Susan Wise Bauer, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, Diana Waring, Tiffany McDonald…People that don’t blog to get a life, they blog because they have a life. Their blogging is a simple, informative, conversational hobby that shares knowledge and in turn offers entertainment, comfort and literary fellowship to those that are inspired by what they do. It doesn’t matter how often they update their blogs or how much traffic their sites get – that isn’t the point. The point is that they only blog when they have something worth saying.

In recent years there has been an enormous campaign of sorts to encourage people of all ages to get out there and start blogging, particularly homeschoolers. We definitely want to encourage more good people to blog, and I think it is probably advisable that blogging skills be developed in many aspiring and accomplished writers – or even people that aren’t necessarily into writing, but have interesting messages to share nonetheless. A great amount of good influence can be made. Unfortunately, a great amount of garbage can be produced as well, especially when the art of blogging becomes blown way out of proportion. I won’t discourage anyone from starting a blog or from continuing a blog, but I would like to see that everyone has their priorities straight (including myself).

To put it simply, proper blogging is an outlet for sharing information, not gaining a social life. It’s all fine and good to have friends and of course, the whole idea of blogging is to gain an audience. However, getting too personally involved with your audience can be terribly distracting. As the Bible warns:

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin…” ~ Proverbs 18:24

As soon as you become extremely chummy and cliquish about blogging (or any social interaction, for that matter), you will likely end up with your mind consumed with concern about your reputation, popularity, and an inflated sense of your own importance on the internet. The sad thing about losing your mind is that once you’ve lost it, you don’t realize it’s gone. For your safety and sanity, it’s best to not get too personal in the blog world. You certainly shouldn’t be boring and impersonal – blogging should be unique, enjoyable and entertaining. But in terms of relating to other people, remember that your blog isn’t exactly a social networking site like MySpace or Facebook in which close friends might chatter and play and give inside jokes or taunts (and even on those sites you must guard your tongue from running out of control).

There is nothing wrong with being a little chipper, but think of blogging this way:

Imagine you are at a conference at which friends, acquaintances and complete strangers are giving speeches and displaying their works of art and research. In such a place, how do you converse, laugh or argue with others? You discuss politely when you have something to talk about, you share thoughts, stories and ideas, but you don’t rudely draw attention to yourself or expect everyone to grovel before your opinion.

That’s basically what is going on in the blog world: you are in a public atmosphere with a wide audience. On top of that, what you say can never be completely erased or hidden – and you are always labeled with some discreet form of identification (your IP address). I don’t completely understand the technical aspects of the cyber world, but as far as I know, you have to be careful.

If all of that completely freaks you out, then blogging probably isn’t for you. If you are going to be on the internet, you shouldn’t be trembling with paranoia and self-consciousness. There is always the privatizing of blogs and entries and profiles, but if you get immensely overwhelmed by that, you will likely end up with your mind consumed with concern about reputation, stalking, and an inflated sense of your own importance on the internet. So at either of these two extremes, you’ve lost your mind.

Do you see what ultimately goes wrong in both circumstances? Overtly investing your emotions and life into blogging. In other words, getting too personal. When you write on a blog, you are completely welcome to exert your passion into your topic, but do not either drag all your fellow bloggers into a clique revolving around yourself, nor drag yourself into a private box that is just taking up internet space.

FLATTER ME THIS, FLATTER ME THAT

Another skill bloggers need to develop is courteous commenting. The oft repeated line is “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”. That is a good tip, but there is another type of bad commenting besides criticism – and it may be worse.

“A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.” ~ Proverbs 29:5

“Let me now be partial to no one, nor flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.” ~ Job 32:21-22

“He who rebukes a man will afterwards find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.”

~ Proverbs 28:23

Oooh, the tickling of the ears. Now, there is nothing wrong with complimenting someone on their writing style, musical or dancing or artistic talent, or photographs, etc.. People need some sort of encouragement to keep them going, and we want to take every opportunity possible to draw attention to things of good report. But in reality – and even more so in virtual reality – there is a strong need for sincerity.

The simple fact is, people weren’t created to be fanatically adored and worshipped. Mankind – and even angels – can’t handle such pride. We have seen repeatedly what has happened to idolized and hounded celebrities. Can you imagine what would happen to an idolized and hounded blogger that in turn ends up thinking they’re a celebrity?

From what I’ve seen so far, flattery in the blog world is mostly chatter generated by enthusiastic blogging fans that apparently don’t proof read their comments. The flattery lies in telling a person over and over again that everything they say and do is right, correct, charming, amazing, etc. before thinking twice about whether or not that person actually needs to hear that…over and over and over again.

The problem is that before long those sorts of commenters begin commenting on the person – that is, the blogger – rather than the blog. The result is a fanatical attachment to a person that they may very well only be acquainted with via the internet. Once that sort of fanaticism has been developed, the comment section and/or C-Box/Flooble box/communication what-you-may-call-it can fast become more like a celebrity gossip column than a pleasant center of discussion (and that sounds especially ridiculous when the subject of discussion is not a celebrity). It doesn’t take long for innocent but empty blabbering to turn debates and casual topics into vicious gossiping outbreaks. I’ve never been infected by an outbreak, but I’ve watched it take place from the distance. It is sickening.

Way too often are conflicts kept heated due to people wasting their time involving themselves in it.

“A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” ~ Proverbs 16:27

“Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.” ~ Proverbs 26:17

If you ever happen to eavesdrop on a conflict, DON’T grab the dog by the ears, even to defend your favorite blogger.

~ ~ ~

Such activities, needless to say, do not encourage good blogging. They simply drag out the involved bloggers’ emotions, families, lives and relationships in ways that are not appropriate for the blogosphere.

Good bloggers are able to sharpen their minds in debate by focusing on an issue worth discussing – without making themselves the issue.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” ~ Proverbs 18:13

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case; otherwise, what will you do in the end when your neighbor humiliates you? Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away.” ~ Proverbs 25:8-10

So, that brings us to a dose of what our hyper-energized modern society needs anyway: common sense and simplicity.

· DON’T LIVE TO BLOG OR BLOG TO LIVE

Blogging isn’t meant to become a lifestyle, but rather an outlet for sharing information or journaling about your lifestyle.

· MAINTAIN AN UNCLUTTERED INTERNET LIFE

Taking on too many blogging activities is just like taking on too many offline activities. It will stress you out and wear you down. Consider occasionally taking a fast from blogging to renew your mind and creative resources. Cutting down your blog-devoted time will not cause the world to cave in. Make sure you have a reality check: does the blogosphere really need you all the time?

{As a side note here, I’ll mention that though this may not always be the case, the majority of these blog charades are caused by women. I think that we women have an inherent weakness in idle chatter. Running our mouths comes naturally (just look at how much I’ve written!). As the following women say…

“Christian women have many new, high-tech alternatives to the old, pedestrian gadding-about. Now we can “be idle, wandering about from [blog] to [blog]; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which [we] ought not,” (1 Timothy 5:13) without even leaving our own thresholds. It’s more easily justified, and therefore we must be even more vigilant to keep our consciences tender and our hearts willing to be convicted.”

~ Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin

http://visionarydaughters.com/responding-to-a-rumor/

“Sometimes you have to focus really hard and ignore some of the loud, intrusive voices that invade your home – whether it is electronic invasion through TV or the internet, or whether it is the phone ringing off the hook and people trying to pull you in the wrong direction, taking your focus off of your primary calling, or whether it is catalogs in the mail or a ladies’ group needing assistance only you can provide. Don’t submit to the tyranny of the urgent mentality that is so easily forced on you. And don’t let your girlfriends intrude on your family time. Friends are important, but they should be down the list after your God, your husband, your children. We certainly should not be shunning our husbands or neglecting the discipleship of our children because we need some ‘girl time.’ If you have time leftover after the first priorities, for friends and fellowship, then enjoy it to the hilt.”

~ Christine Read

http://fairhillsfarm.com/weblog/2007/12/12/simplifying-priorities/}

· POPULARITY ISN’T WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

Remember, anyone in the world can become popular if they try hard enough. All it takes is a little irrational devotion. If so, is it worth making popularity your sole goal?

Don’t be offended if you don’t receive tons of comments. Remember that there are plenty of readers that read blog posts without commenting. It’s better to have a few substantial, genuine comments instead of tons of empty “you rock” or “you suck” sorts comments.

  • NEITHER HARASS PEOPLE, NOR FEAR HARASSMENT

“Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, or he will become weary of it and hate you.”

~ Proverbs 25:17

The same can be said for putting your foot in your neighbor’s blog. For some odd reason, some people really do get fed up with people that are almost too friendly. They are sure to enjoy your comments, but as soon as you begin nagging them – even nicely – with private messages, e-mails, etc. they may very well build up an irrational resentment towards you. They develop a sort of allergic reaction, you might say. It causes both sides involved to become sensitive and frustrated. They get tired of feeling obligated to respond (perhaps regarding an issue they don’t care to discuss) and they begin feeling uncomfortable with communicating on such a personal basis.

However, if someone seems to be harassing (or “stalking”) you, don’t let it go to your head. If you think you should not be communicating with them, quietly drop out of the deal by not responding (after all, if you don’t have any personal information out in public, what is there to fear?). If the person is malicious, by all means report them – but if the person is just friendly to the brink of annoyance, don’t start a slanderous campaign against them and assume that every other person in the world is out to get you. For one thing, it is extremely silly and for another – it will drive you out of your mind! It will lead you to extrapolate absurd things at your first impression of every person you see on the internet (pride and prejudice all over again).

Once again:

“Do not go out hastily to argue your case; otherwise, what will you do in the end when your neighbor humiliates you? Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away.” ~ Proverbs 25:8-10

In conclusion, I must admit that in the past two years this blogosphere has gradually become subject to dramatic inflation.  It doesn’t seem the same anymore.  I hope to see more bloggers strive to create great blogs instead of great social clubs as time goes on.  The internet has become a virtual Tower of Babel that is being raised higher and higher…

MAY YAHWEH HAVE MERCY ON US,

~Amanda~