There are blog watchdogs. A Grace Brethren pastor cannot say whatever he wants and expect no recourse. I may not receive irate comments on a controversial post, but consequences would follow if I questioned something like the Scriptural validity of Triune immersion baptism. My ordination might be delayed. My church membership might drop.
This reflects two scary things about the Internet: It forgets nothing and publishes everything. There are ways to manipulate these rules, but in general, what is said in virtual world stays in virtual world...and with enough bandwidth can be shipped globally at 128 Kbps.
But what scares me the most is the content people publish.
A friend of mine just told me he keeps tabs on former youth group members via Facebook; he can track their current alcohol and narcotic escapades. My wife was invited to a friend's website flaunting homosexual testimonials. And I once wrote a diatribe on swearing that floats aimlessly on a forgotten blog.
The issue, of course, is not the Internet's lack of filter, but the person managing the website.
In Chapter Eleven of Flickering Pixels, "Our Nomadic Life," Shane Hipps laments the 'exhibitionism' rampant on our lines. "[W]e have the illusion of closeness with someone while remaining totally anonymous" (pg. 113). In effect, we have traded pseudo-intimacy for 'real intimacy' (pg. 114). We become virtual voyeurs, reading virtual walls of virtual friends while literal time falls like sand. Isn't this the reason men look at pornography and women People magazine? Both media give us a false sense of connection with people.
No different is a digital purge, where we spill our guts to faceless listeners, because then we can completely control their response. Click: Ignore. Click: Reply. Click: Block. Click: Accept.
"Digital social networking inoculates people against the desire to be physically present with others in real social networks... Being together is nice but nonessential," Hipps concludes (pg. 115).
(Note: At one point in this chapter, Hipps condemns blogging for its one-sided 'confession booth' nature. If I totally agreed, I would be wasting my time. My intention is not to confess, but to profess. If you contend with my thoughts, give me a call or stop by my house. And staying current on this 'book review' has been anything but convenient, Mr. Hipps.)
The last section was especially relevant. With the rise of digital media, workplaces and churches have moved away from face-to-face inquiry. I'm extremely guilty here: If I need a favor, I make a call. If suspect a 'No,' I send an email. If the person is under 30, I send a text. Ironically, ease works both ways, and the responder has a ready way out.
Thus, both in managing conflict and exhorting people, Hipps suggests using the oldest medium: your voice. So my number is 574-453-3401, or you can find me at 101. West School Street, Leesburg, IN.
I'll be waiting.
Integrity Check (these words included)