I have been thinking of starting a blog for a long time. In a way it is a natural extension of the cyber-presence nearly all of us already exert: through email, of course, as well as through facebook, and through whatever messaging system we haven’t managed to discard since high school. Whoever doesn’t have a blog these days, it seems, has Twitter — and I am certainly not the Twittering type. (Or is it “Tweeting”?)
Social pressure aside, there are a lot of good reasons to start a blog and a lot of good reasons not to. The last time I had one of these things, I wound up writing long-windedly about a number of political and religious subjects. Knowing myself, that trend will probably continue; after all, I’m already analyzing the whole endeavor before I’ve managed to complete a single post. This isn’t something I’m proud of. On the other hand, I take to heart Pope Benedict’s exhortation to use new media to “evangelize” — which for me means simply to take advantage of every opportunity to spread the good news of human existence. Technology is morally neutral; it can be used for good and bad. Although it seems like it’s been with us forever, this is actually a time when the role of the internet in the life of human societies remains to be defined, and we all have an opportunity to contribute to the effort to shape it into a tool to be used in our common search for truth. Can we effectively challenge its excesses and abuses if we restrict ourselves to a negative critique, if we don’t try to transform it into something positive? We wade into a fraught situation which lends itself naturally to relativism of various sorts, as the Pope implied in his message a few months ago announcing the Vatican’s 43rd annual World Communications Day:
The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other’s traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.
But I don’t want this blog to be pedantic. That is a real risk for me. I’m generally more uncomfortable inflicting on people the minute details of my daily life than I am whatever ponderous thoughts I’m mulling over, but I think my aunt is right when she says that blogging would be a great way to record (for posterity) and share (for my friends) the events of a period of time like my year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I like to consider myself a “writer,” but since I never actually write anything but long, rambling emails, really all this has meant the last few years is that I have a bad tendency to use three or four sentences when only one would do (as anyone who’s gotten an email from me can confirm). So maybe this will get me writing creatively again as well as giving me something to look back on someday.
Another fear of mine is that I’ll spend even more time on the internet than I do already, to the detriment of real human friendships, or that out of laziness I’ll adopt the habit of communicating en masse rather than through personal correspondence. The Pope has a warning about this, too:
The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. It is in and through our friendships that we grow and develop as humans. For this reason, true friendship has always been seen as one of the greatest goods any human person can experience. We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.
Ultimately, this may be my biggest worry: that blogging is not conducive to rest, to silence, or to reflection. I have a list of friends’ blogs that I check regularly for updates, and to my chagrin, I’ve occasionally caught myself going back to the top of the list for another read-through and then being frustrated that so-and-so hasn’t found the time to update again in the last ten minutes. If the internet is to be dominated by the likes of Andrew Sullivan, with his frenetic and multiple daily dishes, and if our attention span is to dwindle to that of a goldfish, always looking for another crumb to float down through the silty water and forgetting to digest what it’s already eaten, then I want nothing to do with it.
So ok, it’s settled, then: I won’t start Twittering. (Slash, Tweeting.) But I’ll give the blog thing a try and keep y’all abreast (yes, I’ve already started saying “y’all”) of my volunteer year in Texas.