You write a short email to a friend dealing with a specific topic when it occurs to you that you know someone else who might be interested in the same topic.
You copy them in and then you add a name of someone who lives outside your state, and realize you need to clarify some local references.
You then think of someone with whom you have had this conversation before, but they are an older person and you need to explain a tech reference.
You have a friend overseas who might want in on the discussion, but you’ve used a word here and there that means something different where they live.
You copy your father-in-law in on the email, but realize you’ve used a word that he finds too edgy and so you rewrite that sentence.
…You now have an email that started out going to one person, but now you’re sending it to twelve, and while what you have is probably more polished and objectively better, it’s nothing like the email you started to write.
In a sense, that’s blogging. Unless you use a password-protected site, or password-required posts — all possible with WordPress — there’s no such thing as narrow-casting. You’re broadcasting to the whole world, everyone who wants to read, everyone who wants to leave a comment, and all the people misdirected to your site because the same word can have many different meanings.
Tuesday night I forwarded a link to a page about guitarists to five people I know who are guitarists. Using the ‘reply all’ function, there was a brief interaction even though the people don’t know each other.
It occurred to me later that it might have been beneficial for them to leave their comments on the site itself. Engagement and community in the blogosphere ain’t what it was. Perhaps the drive to ‘write on someone’s wall’ isn’t the same as it was in the early days of the Internet.
As I write this, I can think of one Christian blogsite where there a great deal of engagement, almost a continuous party going on in the comments by people who have the common denominator of having survived one particular type of oppressive church environment. But I can also think of another one that is, if anything, a victim of its own success because there are so many comments that need to be moderated from a much wider swath of readers, so much administration, and so great expectations for more quality content each day.
Tempted as I am to say, ‘But readers here have no such expectations,’ I am grateful for the number of people who stop by here and allow Thinking Out Loud to enjoy enough traffic to land on a few Top 200 or Top 300 Christian blog lists, but not enough where it becomes an idol.
In Kenneth Taylor’s original edition of The Living Bible, Proverbs 27:17 reads, “A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron.” The second part of the verse is also translated, “one person sharpens the wits of another;” in the NRSV and “a person sharpens the character of his friend” in The Voice. Several translations talk about a person “sharpening the countenance” of another which the CEB modernizes to “so friends sharpen each other’s faces.”
I can’t exactly apply the verse about people “dwelling together in unity,” because there is a lot of disagreement online, even among Christian writers. (Or is that especially among Christian writers?) But even there, I feel there is much to be gained in the discourse.
To my fellow online writers: I am richer for having gotten to know all of you. To readers here, thanks for your interest, and a special thanks to those of you who visit the devotional/study blog I curate, Christianity 201.
So on then, to post 3,001.