Blogging critique part 4: Reading matter(s)

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Part 4 in my series – hot on the heels of part 3, since, despite the last one being slightly more optimistic, I've kind of got an urge to rid myself of this blogging habit. And I want "as for blogging, it shall cease", rather than "it shall fade away" to be the conclusion!

I do not doubt that blogging can and does satisfy several (good) desires and needs that humans have, including the need to communicate and interact with others and the desire to learn new things. My problem is this: does blogging do these things as well as other means? It is not enough for blogging to be a good at what it's for. Christians must aspire to the best use of their time.

I've already argued that blogging is not the best way to interact with other Christians in terms of being a genuine influence, since we only get to see a fraction of each other's lives. I'd add one more thing to that: I don't think that being involved in blogging communities has helped my relationships with other Christians in my church at all – the opposite if anything. It's virtually impossible to discuss things you've encountered through bloggers with people who look at you like you're having trouble speaking when you say the word 'blog'. By blogging I've filled my mind with things that are more likely to distance me from my real Christian family than actually edify them.

With regard to learning, especially in regards to Christianity, I have to rate the vast majority of Christian blogs as, relatively speaking, a very poor source of decent Christian teaching. This isn't primarily because the authors are not up to scratch (the solution to those is easy – don't read them). I'm talking even about the those that I admire and enjoy reading, and whose authors I respect. The problem I have is with the medium:

I very rarely read long blog posts, and I'm not alone, because I find that very few people create them, knowing that to be popular in this arena, you have to be, above all, brief. Blogs also have to an attention-grabbing title, and an interesting first paragraph. Otherwise, the blogger will be classified as unfit to survive by the selective forces of the blogosphere, and will soon be eliminated.

This is all part of the sound bite culture we live in. Things must tickle our minds for a few minutes (but preferably no more) to be worthy of our attention. While this is depressing trend for the way we treat global and local news in the mainstream media, it is catastrophic if we start having the same attitude to theology.

I find I treat books (and sermons for that matter) very differently from blogs. When I pick up a book, I already know what to expect in terms of size, and to some extent commit myself to spending quality time thinking about and getting into it – far more than I'd ever consider with a blog post. I'll be reading it not because it grabbed my attention, but because I decided to apply my attention to it, hopefully on the basis that it was well recommended as a good book to read, or some other significant qualification. My diet is then decided not by what other people happen to be blogging about, but what Christians over the years have thought important enough to put into print. After an hour's reading of a good Christian book I will, hopefully, have made some real progress in understanding of a certain topic. Compare this to an hour's blog reading, in which you attention has been divided over multiple topics, many of which you really didn't need to know anything about at all. (For example, I spent at least half an hour this evening being appalled by views on interracial marriage that are apparently still alive and well in America. For a Brit, this is completely irrelevant—this side of the Atlantic, no pastor or theologian would ever have to write an article like the one that John Piper wrote on this subject).

This comes down to a matter of self-discipline, and choosing wisely, but I think that books and sermons encourage me to do this far better than blogs ever have.

I guess this post parallels the opening sequence of a kids TV program I used to watch, called "Why Don't You?":

Why Don't You...turn your TV off and do something interesting instead?

That's enough for a blog post, especially one that discourages blogging!

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