Are Blogs Toxic?

I rarely have people say this to my face, but I seem to hear it around the place a little more often than I’d like.

It seems that in some folk’s estimation it isn‘t ok to ask questions of current church practices or to express an opinion that is non-conformist. The phrase that I seem to hear most often is ‘blogs are toxic’, as if to suggest the expression of an alternative point of view is somehow dangerous… or poisonous…

I’m happy to hear the arguments on both sides of this coin, so if you’d like to contribute then I am all ears. By having a blog its obvious where I sit – but if you are a covert critic then maybe you should swallow a few courage pills and express an opinion… (publicly where you will be held accountable)

Are blogs toxic and divisive? Or are they a way for people (who may often not be heard) to express their view?

What makes a blog toxic?

What is the problem with having a minority view?…

What are you worried might happen?…

FWIW I believe blogs are one of the most open, vulnerable and transparent forms of communication available today. If you don’t like what is said then you are welcome to comment and influence the conversation. The blogger allows for comments and disagreement and sometimes needs to adjust their own position in light of comment.

Seems pretty fair to me…

34 thoughts on “Are Blogs Toxic?

  1. I think if the blogger makes their identity known (rather than hiding behind anonymity) and sticks to a few healthy guidelines, such as not blogging things they wouldn’t say face-to-face, then it’s a good medium for communication.

    To me, blogging encourages accountability and integrity because what’s “said” remains in the public record for all to see. It would be much easier to gossip/slander/attack in face-to-face conversations where there is no record of what is said.

    Of course not everyone chooses to use healthy guidelines, and we all stuff up occasionally! (But then everyone gets to see us stuff up.)

  2. Like many tools, it’s not so much the blog as the blogger. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, as well as Out of Ur (often two opposing views), and it makes me think. If one wanted to, one could find toxic, devisive, and bitter discussions at churches, coffee shops, and government buildings around the world… as well as extremely healthy and helpful discussions that are just as passionate, between people who hold opposing views. It’s not the venue, or the issues, or even whether it’s religion, politics, or whether coffee should be heated beyond a certain temperature. It’s how things are presented. Is it bitter or just angry. Is it well thought out, or just… well, bitter and emotional. Is it gracious, giving room for discussion and learning, or opinionated and sure they’re right… and all who disagree are wrong, opinionated, and need to repent? To tell the truth, I don’t find very many blogs with this problem, but commenters seem to be notorious for spouting off instead of discussing. That’s a generalization, and some blogs have more gracious commenters than others, but those are some general observations.

    Now that I’ve said all that, it’s a reminder to me to watch what and how I blog and comment. Good post, Hamo.

  3. Our generation has grown to be a sensitive lot, haven’t we? I enjoy blogging as it is the latest forum for free expression. As with any other media, there are inspirational blogs, crap blogs, and everything in between. As a Christian, I believe that things are better handled in the light. So, IMHO, most any topic and any personality should be permitted to be expressed. This is a bit of a problem, since anyone can pretend to be anthing on the internet (not much different than any other public forum, really). Anything should be discussed as long as people show respect to one another and are truly open-minded (provided the ones calling others to be open-minded are open-minded themselves).

    As for hosting blogs, people can do it in any number of ways. I prefer to allow any comment on any subject. If someone disagrees, that’s cool. If they don’t express themselves well, okay. If someone enjoys being known as a cranky moron in the blogosphere, that’s their choice.

    We do need to be aware of libel/slander guidelines when we discuss the things we do. If it’s an opinion, make sure it’s clear that it is. If you are basing your arguement on a fact, try to cite where that quote or fact is from. Also, if you are looking to have a go at someone, keep your head and try to stay on topic. And for those who enjoy fast bowling at someone’s ear, don’t be surprised and offended if that ball is hit right back at your ear.

    I don’t like anything or anyone being banned. What I do ban are anonymous comments. Say what you want, but don’t be a coward. At least put an identity on what you say.

  4. I think the important thing for me to remember when blogging is that when i am asking big questions that might offend, i am not doing it to be different or cheeky or offensive, but out of a genuine desire to grow and see Gods kingdom expand. Ie: love has to play a big part.

    One of the things i have done wrong is put in a few throw away lines i haven’t thought about, which end up hurting people or causing tension, when really it was just a silly comment, so i try and filter that sort of stuff out, but still the odd one slips through.

    I think blogs work well when everyone participates. When people lurk in the background and get offended but dont enter the conversation is when we have problems.

  5. Hey Hamo,

    You’ve given people with blogphobia a CATCH-22 if they respond on a blog.

    If they don’t respond to your challenge they are acting as we would expect them to act – cutless, lacking the jingyjangas to post, but if they do, they would be admitting that they read and comment on blogs and would be called hypocrites.

    Excuse any spelling mistakes, I blame my old PE teacher for that.

    My only concern with blogging is that some may grow dependant on technology to authentically communicate what they think/feel and lose the joy and challenge of face-to-face, transparent, relational communication. Some are great at both. Some, a blog is a stepping stone to be able to courageously communicate publically, to which I say, “great”.

    I think a lot of people in the christian world have associated blogging with those questioning the traditional church and spirituality and therefore have an issue with blogging (Blogs are toxic, etc…). We use blogs all the time at Uni, great way for communication, team assignments, interaction, but I would hate to think that the only way we got into each others lives was through an online medium.

    I must admit, I have seen some awesome blog bullying when people do try to express their opinions that are different to those redefining spirituality and the church. It’s like there is a dozen people all waiting for someone to take the bait and then… pounce they are shredded. They step into the lions den. Maybe the blogphobia community need to be loved and supported because oneday they may be margalised as the minority, then Im sure everyone who blogs would be happy to extend a loving welcome ; ) Maybe I should just shout my mouth.

    Thumbs up to the blog!

  6. I think blogs are great, but they are also incredibly public which means anyone and everyone can read or get in on the action. Generally, as Hamo said, this is great, but it also means that we can end up airing our dirty laundry in public and sometimes, some questions may be better asked in private among likeminded individuals, than in public where everyone, even the critics can get in on them and use them to their advantage (and sometimes the original posters disadvantage) if that is what they want to do.

    That said, I don’t think not-blogging is the answer. And I know for me, blogs are generally the only place I get to interact with people who are on a similar wavelength to me – it’s not a luxury I have in the ‘real world’.

  7. i’ve learnt so much off this blog, and the other’s i’ve read this year.

    I think they are a great way to share knowledge, to open though, and to stretch the traditionalistic view we seem to grow into.

    I’ve read some blogs and just gone ‘nup this is just critisism without wanting to grow’ and stopped reading them.

    i think blogs need to be constructive… even in critisising and questioning – and it’s those blogs that i keep reading.

  8. Any blogger posting here has a natural bias so I’ll declare right up front that I think blogs have enabled communication enormously and that this comes with great benefits. It can also come with a cost. If you are willing to accept the cost in order to be able to communicate and discuss ideas broadly then the description of blogs as ‘toxic’ seems to me a fatuous rejection of a communication form that has opened up discussion more than anything since the printing press.

  9. As a new blogger, I suppose my own position is clear. But I am all for intellectual democracy in the world of ideas. One of the rules of creativity is that we need a whole lot of ideas in the bag, the worst thing is to only have one idea. For way too long we have not been allowed to think outside a very historically determined square. I vote in favor!

  10. Yes – that is the beauty of blogs!

    If you don’t like them then don’t read them…

    It can be difficult for people when contrary opinions are expressed. Much better to know they are out there but pretend they aren’t…

    I reckon the blog really puts some power back in the hands of the little people and allows everyone a chance to speak.

    The issue is discerning valuable information from nonsense. eg Mark Edwards… ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I love how blogs feed egalitarianism. This is especially liberating for Christians who view the priesthood of all believers as a practical theology.

    Diversity in opinion is normally a good thing – Viva la Difference!

  12. I think blogs are a great way for anyone to comment on their ideas. Maybe this causes leaders to be fearful because now people who’d been silent can broadcast their ideas to lots of people.

    History is a good guide and I wonder whatb people were saying about the printing press when it was invented. Because this meant that anyone could print something (if they had the money).

    Blogs in themselves aren’t toxic, but they can be if the people behind them are toxic.

    One of the big problems is that the written word can be mis-interpreted easier than if you are in a conversation with someone. So it’s harder to have a debate because you don’t always know the persons true intent or motive.

  13. Haha! Sorry Mark – something went amiss there in the switchover.

    I think we have settled here… I think…

    Bergs – as your old PE teacher I accept no resp for your spelling and even less for your sporting ability! I agree we need to be face to face with people, but this is one medium that allows for us to be in contact with many people at once. You and I have prob seen each other 3 times in the last 5 years, but on here we can communicate every day… if we wish… ๐Ÿ™‚

    I write this post because I am tired of people arguing that (based on a handful of blogs) all blogs are toxic and do no good. Its a silly assertion!

    There is a culture of ‘don’t question’ in some churches/Christian organisations and I believe blogs are great for testing whether contrary opinions really are allowed.

    I believe all ‘great leaders’ are secure leaders and will not be threatened by people who do not disagree with them.

    I do understand that there are some ethical/practical boundaries that exist and I think we need to respect them. I have some strong views on the issue of closed enrolment Christian schools, but I wouldn’t voice them while employed there two years ago. (I did express them to the bosses!)

    I am just tired of insecure people who don’t like others disagreeing with them and call it spitefulness, a critical spirit etc. i don’t actually meet many of these people – I just hear about them thru the grapevine. So when I hear about people criticing bloggers for not observing Marr 18 I can only smile at the rather odd irony.

  14. I think there is somewhat a culture of fear in the church. This may stem from our history where institutions have dictated to the masses.

    What made the Protestant Reformation a lighting change for western culture was the printing press. Technology was part of the cultural and theological reforms. So today with the internet and blogs, ideas are being quickly transmitted, prayed over and acted on. If you are part of the institution and feel threatened by change, this must scare the life out of you.

  15. Interesting Timothy!

    I just read it and he says some good stuff, but I disagree that the blog is the enemy of thought.

    I don’t see the ‘architecture of the blog’ quite as he does and I find blogs actually promote thought. They push my thinking – but I wonder if that is simply because I like the medium and the ability to respond reflectively and thoughtfully.

    I would tend to say ‘blogs aren’t for everyone’ as a means of engaging issues – and that’s fine.

    I am more concerned when people try to stamp them out beause they are a source of irritant or a place for non-conformists to discuss their aberrant ideas.

  16. Mmm, Blogs are great ways to hear rarely heard voices but I find it hard to find them. The Blog maybe toxic if for the blogger though – I spend too much time on mine. As somone obsessed with ideas I find it a great way to put half baked ideas into the public sphere knowing that at least someone might read them, it motivates me to but theory (whinging) in action (hard work).

  17. I cop a fair bit of flak on this topic regularly and my blog is nowhere as nasty as yours Hamo ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think we have been conditioned to be ‘nice’. Particularly as Christians. That when we disagree it means we are not being ‘Christian’. This is particularly so face to face as we rarely learn to communicate difference and disagreement well. So when we get a chance to dig a knife in when we are not face to face we do it so well, gossip, slander, blogging, telephones, sermons, we use all sorts of tools to dig the knife in. In fact even the Apostle Paul was criticised for being all nice when face to face and all tough and rough in his letters! This is not new!

    This of course is all the dark side. I happen to think that blogging is a wonderful communication tool when used (by reader and blogger alike) well.

  18. I’ve always found it odd that you can disagree about politics, about your particular preference for a computer, or even about what constitutes a good coffee, and those disagreements are considered a normal part of discoarse. Religion however seems to occupy a no-go zone for some.

  19. I have no major problems with blogging, in fact I am coming to find some great information via this medium. My one concern comes when people use the medium to have public pot shots with little substance at organisations that are doing their best to share God as happened early this year with the youth alive discussion. To this point not one of the people who had heaps of avice on line have had the ‘jinjangles’? (is that how you say it hammo)to ring Dave or any of the leaderhip team up to help us with how to do things better for the future. Is this because we are all glued to our PC’s wondering what to comment on next and too busy to see any of our ideas make a differance. Is our PC our new security blanket? By all means I think discussion is great but discussion with no intention of seeking to improve is just a waste of energy and breath. The point in this illustration is that 90% of Youth alive people aren’t reading this blog. Heck I’m only hear because Scott Vawser(am I aloud to use your full name?) tells me to read stuff! But I can be found on 9581 3849 if you want to seriously talk through the issue with the aim to making a real differance. My point is there is some good stuff shared on blogs like these. But if we just share them with our community cyber pals and not with the people who are in the positions to change things then the world will be robbed of your intelligence and insight. Please don’t waste all your good ideas on line you can make a differance with your life! Thanks for having me on the blog, I am, and proud to say, a blogging virgin!

  20. Oh my goodness, it’s a virgin comment by Pete!! Welcome to the bloggosphere mate, I am so proud of you, when do you start blogging on your own site?

    Seriously, on ya mate welcome to the conversation.

    Your comment – “Is this because we are all glued to our PC’s wondering what to comment on next and too busy to see any of our ideas make a differance.” Took me a bit by offence at first but on thinking about it… I think it’s a fair challenge, on ya!

  21. I think Peter’s concern is justified. It becomes so easy to throw out comments, thoughts, and criticisms (constructive or not) when you don’t have to face – or even know – the person you’re writing to. Even a phone call is more difficult than e-mail. So, while I support blogs and e-mail whole-heartedly, I still try, when it’s possible, to at least call, if not talk with face-to-face, a person when I want to get truly serious. Of course, if you only do that when you want to disagree, it becomes a little frustrating, too. I like to compliment in person, too.

  22. I like the blog thing…but 2 reservations…

    Some folk seem to have an over inflated idea of the value of their opinions….not aimed at this blog – but they are out there – hence they can be egocentric..

    And I would argue stronly that the same values apply to this level of conversation as in any other – about offensiveness etc.

    I value alternative opinions, contrary views and challenging stuff – but not personalised and vindictive rubbish. This blog – a good one!!

  23. Hi Pete – thanks for taking the time to comment mate. Losing your virgintiy is always a special moment and it was a pleasure sharing it with you… I think ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you before now. I have been a bit tied up helping some people out, but thankfully I can re-take my place at the computer screen now that all those annoying humans are out of the way…

    Anyway – I’m glad you have spoken up.

    I didn’t recall any comments from you on the original post asking for comments re Youth Alive, but I always reckon if you believe in something then you should speak up and fight for it. So good on ya for doing so!

    I regularly hear about other people’s opinions of me or of Forge. (Ironically its sometimes from people who suggest we should be better at doing Matt 18!) and if they concern me enough I will go to the person and speak with them. At times I will go in hard and fight if I believe ‘the litle guy’ is being hard done by, while at other times I just ignore it as everyone is entitled to have an opinion and they don’t need to agree with me.

    I am happy to debate the merits or otherwise of different expressions of church and youth ministry because in it we all get tougher and sharper in our thinking.

    Having been part of the mainstream (and not leaving because of any gripes) I am aware of how the dissenters often get dealt with. Sadly being marginalised, spoken about or ignored can often be their experience. So in my view blogs give dissenting opinions the voice they wouldn’t get anywhere else – and in that they can disturb the powers that be.

    Some folks deal with this well and I admire them for their gracious spirit. Others feel threatened and react quite bizarrely.

    If blogs are just vitriol vomited onto the canvas of the WWW then I would be an advocate for avoiding them.

    However if blogs are a tool for causing people to think then I say lets have more of it.

    I believe there is a lack of real hard thinking in many of our churches (of all kinds) and the call to use our brains and engage is an important one.

    I have always taken the position that we agree on more than we disagree on – in fact our core objectives are hopefully identical – which is why cult leaders like Mark Edwards and I can support each other while doing things very diferently.

    Seriously – Mark and I have disagreed (at times strongly) on here but I have appreciated his words of support and encouragement even though our methods are different.

    Lets keep loving each other and sharpening each other.

    Lets keep conversation gracious, but lets never step away from our convictions. The world needs more passionate people and less weak spirited ones!

  24. Hammo you would not have seen my blog on the youth alive issue because I read the blog 2 months after the heat of it. But what you did read was a private email I sent vawser discussing my opinion that this blog borders on being toxic and my concerns about our organisation having links to it. He sent it to you for his own reasons to which he tells me you replied that you would rather discuss it ‘off-line'(ironically) Then I see on Dec 17th this issue, your tiredness of insecure people who think this site is to crtical, and who qoute scripture to back it up (rightfully or wrongfully.) If I was paranoid, it looked like a paraphrase of my letter to vawser. But I have never heard from you off-line. Let it be known publicly (because that is the nature of the blog) I have had no phone calls from people concerned about youth alive or from yourself. Which aids my belief that these sites have the potential to harbour people who have a venneer of concern but when everything boils down just like a good whinge. But what would I know I am just insecure! To keep your integrity intact,(in regards to never meeting these people) in the new year I am prepared to drive the 100km to your favourite brighton cafe to discuss this, but of course that would kill your beef about insecure people. I guess grendel was right when he said people don’t like talking about religion issues. I am finding the same result to my little experiment grendel. All the best for Christmas

  25. Peter – my ‘are blogs toxic’ post was partially in response to comments I had heard from you (via Scott), but also from several comments I had heard from other people.

    I have never had a beef with Youth Alive and have had no need to call you on that issue. I don’t believe we always need to sit down and discuss differences when they are alternative expressions of ministry.

    Also if you remember the original post was at the request of a local youth pastor who wanted to hear what people were feeling – and I believe he is a YA supporter! While YA isn’t my own cup of tea I think you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere where I have bagged it out.

    So my only reason for calling you would have been in regard to what I had read about myself in the email. As you would know that email wasn’t pretty. Obviously Scott has let you know he sent it on – but that’s an issue between you guys. I didn’t seek it out.

    But – If your youthalive email address was working you would have heard from me as I sent you an email immediately after I heard from Scott. What you wrote concerned me. I also called you at church, the following day but you weren’t there.

    The email bounced back that night and I wasn’t able to get you at church. The next day was busy for me and after that I just let it slide. I don’t always chase up everyone who criticises me.

    You will find the bounced email in your inbox (now that I know your email address)

    As for ‘insecurity’ – if the cap fits then wear it. If it doesn’t then don’t. I’m also not sure what your ‘little experiment’ is – can you explain – and if you want to meet up then I am happy to do so.

    I am happy to meet you half way in Leederville and save you the trip.

    Scott did indicate you wanted to meet with both of us – but I hadn’t heard anything so I didn’t chase it. I understood this was something you were seeking so I figured you would initiate it if you wanted it.

    Feel free to correspond by email on a meeting time. I am happy to keep talking on here if you wish, but I usually prefer to deal with issues of conflict face to face.

  26. Thanks Hammo, I do apologise it would appear that the email never made it to me and the one I just recieved does show it was sent on the Nov 13th 2006. I, in no way back down from comments in the email to vawser and find them to be a straight forward account of the situation. I look forward to coffee which I will organise with you when we are both back from break. I was under the understanding that you were wanting to catch up with me. But following my apparent ill foray into blogging it is me that wants to see you.

  27. Pingback: Swinging from the Vine » Blog Archive » through the looking glass: hamo and nate

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