The decline of online conversation


 The decline of online conversation


A few years ago when I started blogging and joined the emerging church conversation interacting online was the only option.  Aside from Jordon Cooper, who could probably be credited with enlightening me to the conversation, there wasn’t anybody local talking about this stuff.  Eventually that changed and now I find myself having similar discussions with established church leaders.  As my local connections grew the need to interact  on the blogs and over IM/Skype has declined.

I was talking on the phone with a prominent emerging church Aussie blogger last night.  We were both reflecting on how little we post and interact online.  For him the local connections in many ways supplanted the online ones.  More and more I find people would rather call or Skype.  With my VOIP line it costs as much to call Australia as it does to call the town down the road so why not?

Very few people comment on my blog.  There are few comment wars and they don’t last as long.  Since I got married I’ve had less time and impulse to post.  When I’ve been involved in house church I was less interested in discussion and more interested in seeing if any of these theories could be tranlated in to reality.  After a few years of relatively positive church experiences a lot of the “detox” is done and there isn’t the impulse to vent online.

I’ve overestimated the power of the collaboration on the Internet in the past.  There are inherent weaknesses to blogging.  We often get trapped in futile verbal conflict in a medium where it is difficult to emotionally connect with people on the other side of an issue.  Add to this the abrasive trolls, the anonymous stalwart defenders of a particular brand of Christian orthodoxy, and the flame outs.  We haven’t found the best vehicle for fruitful discussion online.

Blogging is really good for keeping in touch with people you care about.  I’ve got some really cool friends because of blogging.  I still enjoy it but I’m much less concerned with it, and the traffic and the technorati ranking etc…  Watching my profile drop in the blogosphere has been a healthy thing.  Sometimes we can trick ourselves in to thinking we are making a difference by measuring frivolous things like how many people link to our blog.

  1. #1 by Darryl on January 21, 2007 - 1:12 pm

    Yeah, I sense the online stuff is changing.

    Still, you were chatting with an Aussie friend…cool how even now one type of online contact (blogs) has lead to deeper relationships. I’m very grateful for that.

  2. #2 by Rev. Mike on January 21, 2007 - 10:25 pm

    I find that I have less and less time to stay with the blog. I put up the silly quizzes you delinked me for ;) more often than not just to remind folks I’m still out there, but otherwise, I find that if I have enough time to sit down to blog, I probably ought to be working on my thesis.

    Still, I am grateful that I have gotten to know the two of you over the past three years, and apart from blogs, all that would never have happened.

  3. #3 by BD on January 22, 2007 - 9:40 am

    I’ve lost well over a 100 links because of server moves…but that isn’t how I measure blogging anymore than Alexis and intenet measuring companies are now measuring things like ‘page views’ any more.

    Like it or not we are tribal, and I think the onus is on each blogger to decide what they want from blogging. Relationship takes work, it’s a different kind of work online, and sometimes it isn’t joyful.

    I try to get out of my comfort zone and engage, I try (and fail:^) to keep a risen Christ front and centre in all conversations regardless of ideology.

    We take the frivolous with the package I think, I am in awe of the people I’ve met online, and how they have graced my life (most of the time:^) I am continuously learning to be very grateful for those that have touched me, stretched me and challenged me, without thinking I’m the assistant Holy Spirit.

    Does my ego get bruised? Sure, sometimes, and I think that’s mostly a good thing.

    It’s a challenge to learn when an environment (blog) is toxic, and for each of us that is different. It’s not like we can’t find hundreds that aren’t.

  4. #4 by Toni on January 26, 2007 - 4:19 pm

    You’re right though, LT, things have changed. I’m inclined to believe the blogging/online relationship thing was partially a kick-start and partially a blind alley. As a kick-start it got people in touch with each other and triggered thinking that would otherwise never have happened. At the same time real relationships IMO NEED more contact than just text to progress beyond superficiality.

    I keep my blog going because it maintains existing relationships that are temporarily displaced, and also because some get a little Christian input who would otherwise receive nothing. I don’t think the days of blogs are gone, but just as I think we’re moving into a post-emergent church culture, so I think we’re moving toward a post text-relationship culture.

  5. #5 by Frank on January 29, 2007 - 8:07 am

    I think its coming to an end because we have been re hashing the same old questions over and over again (as it relates to “church). How many ways can we say the same thing. It has been really hard to convince people that blogging is not the same as real life. It has been equally hard to find bloggers that are actually involved in the changes they want to discuss. Could future bloggers be networks of people (who are beginning the process of what they are discussing)who need the encouragement of others. I am thinking that all of this discussion should have led us somewhere. But when discuusing becomes an end in itself then it becomes fruitless.

    Is there some medium where those who have walked out into the water can connect with others who are doing the same? Basically where can I find and connect with those new groups that are actually putting into practice what they are discussing? That discussion will spring forth from our experience. For one who is geared to action all this discussion has been very discouraging…

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