Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot?

[bloggerpatron.jpg]I'm worried that Christian bloggers have lost the plot.

My grandfather used to say that the habits or faults of other people that annoy us the most may be ones we are also guilty of. I guess that was his atheistic Quaker version of Luke 6:41. I am very often reminded of that lesson and it has been an important part of my maturation process and growth in faith. It’s a lesson I have to relearn over and over again. It’s painful; the saying is true – no pain, no gain.

There are times (too many to count) God puts me in a situation in which I find myself correcting someone for a fault I too am guilty of. Sometimes I get sort of a “spider sense” feeling as I reprove a friend, knowing all the while that I’ll learn Pop-pop’s lesson before I’m through. Other times, I’m too blinded by my own self-righteousness to see what’s coming. It’s a very humbling a experience either way.

What I'm trying to say is that the irony of this post is not lost on me. How can I reprove others for a sin I'm just as guilty of? This isn't going to be a self-righteous lecture. If you insist on believing it is, then imagine me as the recipient rather than the deliverer.

If I had to summarize in one sentence the main reason I blog and how I choose what to blog about, I'd say that I'd like to help people stop begging questions, talking past one another, and calling each other silly and rude names, and start thinking critically, listening to one another, and treating each other with, at minimum, the same love they'd ask for themselves. That, of course, is easier said than done. Popular legend has it that G.K. Chesterton, among other eminent authors of his time, was asked by a newspaper to write an essay on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" His reply? "I am." When it comes to the kind of acerbic and caustic blogging that I believe is poisoning the Body of Christ, and the rest of the world for that matter, I too am guilty. 

Recently, a troll disrupted a conversation related to an earlier post on this blog. I've had a troll before, but last time he was an atheist. This one is a Christian. Worse yet, it's somebody from my church. That bothers me. A lot. I have been wondering for several days what I did or said that earned this person's scorn. Then the thought occurred to me that the whole affair might have simply been a huge misunderstanding. Perhaps the troll was trying to be funny and didn't noticed he'd crossed any lines.

"According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time."

"'That's how flame wars get started,' says psychologist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, who conducted the research with Justin Kruger of New York University. 'People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance,' says Epley."

[…]

"'People often think the tone or emotion in their messages is obvious because they 'hear' the tone they intend in their head as they write,' Epley explains."

"At the same time, those reading messages unconsciously interpret them based on their current mood, stereotypes and expectations. Despite this, the research subjects thought they accurately interpreted the messages nine out of 10 times."

I'm certain everything learned about email in this study could be applied to blog post and comments.  So maybe my would-be troll was misunderstood by and/or misunderstood his fellow commenters.  Then again, maybe he was exhibiting cyber-disinhibition.

"Communication via the Internet can mislead the brain's social systems. The key mechanisms are in the prefrontal cortex; these circuits instantaneously monitor ourselves and the other person during a live interaction, and automatically guide our responses so they are appropriate and smooth. A key mechanism for this involves circuits that ordinarily inhibit impulses for actions that would be rude or simply inappropriate — or outright dangerous."

"In order for this regulatory mechanism to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss — there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed. "

"Such disinhibition seems state-specific, and typically occurs rarely while people are in positive or neutral emotional states. That's why the Internet works admirably for the vast majority of communication. Rather, this disinhibition becomes far more likely when people feel strong, negative emotions. What fails to be inhibited are the impulses those emotions generate."

"This phenomenon has been recognized since the earliest days of the Internet (then the Arpanet, used by a small circle of scientists) as 'flaming,' the tendency to send abrasive, angry or otherwise emotionally 'off' cyber-messages. The hallmark of a flame is that the same person would never say the words in the email to the recipient were they face-to-face. His inhibitory circuits would not allow it — and so the interaction would go more smoothly. He might still communicate the same core information face-to-face, but in a more skillful manner. Offline and in life, people who flame repeatedly tend to become friendless, or get fired (unless they already run the company)."

Rey, of The Bible Archive, seems to have figured this out a long time ago.

"For some reason, when people go online and put on the veil of anonymity they tend to ignore any of the rules that govern common society. Civility gives way to sarcasm. a Patience gives way to brevity. The tongue is fully unleashed through the fingertips and the typist revels in his own wisdom."

Comments 11

  1. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Actually, I though Archbishop Lefebvre was pretty funny.

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 5:15 am
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    At first I did, too. I think he crossed a line, though. I’m not the only one that feels that way (and, no, they’re not limited to those insulted by him).

    Posted 20 Feb 2006 at 11:12 am
  3. Mark Grimsley wrote:

    This looks terrific! Lots of good ideas to help promote civility, something our society needs A LOT more of. I’ve only been able to skim the post so far, but look forward to giving it a close read. And I’m definitely linking to it from my own fledgling blog. This one’s a keeper!

    Posted 21 Feb 2006 at 12:10 am
  4. Mark Grimsley wrote:

    I wonder if “cyber-disinhibition” has its counterpart in “cyber-intimacy.” Many people in chat rooms, for instance, experience a sense of knowing their conversation partner far more closely than is actually the case. I once knew a woman who met a man on a Christian internet dating site (in itself not a bad way to meet someone in a world where traditional social institutions have eroded). They exchanged emails and instant messages for months and fell deeply in love — only to encounter blatant differences in temperament, etc., when they met in person.

    This doesn’t just happen in dating relationships, either. Married people have been known to engaged in emotional affairs — often just as wounding as sexual affairs — with someone online.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 12:02 am
  5. centuri0n wrote:

    I’d love to see some substantiation to the claim that all sarcasm is “evil” or ungodly.

    Found you through a link at Adrian’s blog.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 4:37 am
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    Welcome, to the conversation, centuri0n. :)

    “I’d love to see some substantiation to the claim that all sarcasm is “evil” or ungodly.”

    I don’t recall saying that. That’d be a pretty odd thing for a sarcastic guy like me to say. 😉 I also happen to believe Jesus, Paul, and likely several other biblical figures used it. I do think that sarcasm needs to be emploted judiciously. I think more often then not it’s used to break people down instead of building them up. I can’t recall the verse, but I’m pretty certain Paul warned against harsh speech that disparages.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 12:16 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    BTW, I dig your gravatar. You Pyromaniacs have some cool graphic design mojo working for you.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 12:59 pm
  8. Bene D wrote:

    Very nicely done.
    I don’t know that we ever had the plot, I know we wish we did, or that we’d like to believe we do. This is a come back to post, lots of good reminders in it, thank you!

    May I point something out?
    I don’t know that Christian journalist has any more meaning that Christian lawyer, hydro worker, Wal-Mart clerk or Christian IT specialist. Journalist, lawyer, hydro worker, Wal-Mart clerk and IT specialist who are Christians is more realistic.:^)

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 6:21 pm
  9. Bene D wrote:

    sarcasm – (noun)- witty language used to convey insults or scorn -the lowest form of wit.
    ’nuff said.

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 6:31 pm
  10. Funky Dung wrote:

    Thanks for dropping by, Bene. I’m glad you like the post. :) I hope it has a lasting impact on folks who read it (including myself). There are so many important lessons that I merely pay lip service to. :(

    Posted 22 Feb 2006 at 6:59 pm
  11. Bill wrote:

    Well said. Much needed. Thanks!

    I second Bene’s definition of sarcasm. While it is certainly not always wrong to use, and sometimes even needed, it is often just the first blunt instrument that comes to hand.

    Great post!

    Posted 17 Mar 2006 at 4:58 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 13

  1. From Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength on 31 Jan 2007 at 11:38 pm

    General Interest The General Interest folks get a free pass from needing to disclose denominational affiliation, since if it’s really general interest, everyone should be able to appreciate it. Ales Rarus asks Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot?

  2. From Best of the God Blogs on 17 Mar 2006 at 6:43 am

    ??? Great moments in parenting… they don’t usually look like Norman Rockwell paintings… they often look a lot like this. HT: Thoughts and Reflections ??? Here’s this week’s version of”what’s wrong with Godblogging and how can we fix it?”. It’s probably healthy to revisit this once in awhile and this is the most encyclopedic effort I’ve seen to date. Lots of constructive criticism and helpful ideas here, courtesy of Ales Rarus. ???

  3. From Jordan's View on 24 Feb 2006 at 5:24 am

    Funky Dung of Ales Rarus confesses “When it comes to the kind of acerbic and caustic blogging that I believe is poisoning the Body of Christ, and the rest of the world for that matter, I too am guilty.” He offersHave Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot? to help remedy the situation. In The Allure of Toys: You May Want to Play With Them, But They Don’t Want to Play With You, Shaun Nolan at Postscript Posthaste suggests that parents take a greater role is deciding which toys our children play with.

  4. From ??????? on 23 Feb 2006 at 3:17 pm

    “The Ten Commandments for Homeschooling Moms” at SpunkyHomeschool brought back a few memories. The wisdom contained therein is applicable to non-homeschool families as well. A long, rambling post on the way Christian bloggers blog,”Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot?” by Ales Rarus, has some interesting points. You may need to bookmark it and come back to it, though. There’s more there than you can digest in a single reading, IMO. My contribution to this week’s Carnival is

  5. From connexions on 22 Feb 2006 at 6:00 pm

    asks Christian bloggerAles Rarus If I had to summarize in one sentence the main reason I blog and how I choose what to blog about, Id say that Id like to help people stop begging questions, talking past one another, and calling each other silly and rude names, and start

  6. From Living Catholicism on 21 Feb 2006 at 1:12 pm

    about her personal journey toward God. Bloggers (typically) love books and Nature and Mission of Theology feeds us with great quotes from the book of the same title by Pope Benedict XVI. From Crusader of Justice.Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot? Ales Rarus is trying to help people stop begging questions, talking past one another, and calling each other silly and rude names, and start thinking critically, listening to one another, and treating each other with, at minimum, the same love theyd

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