Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why Blog?

When asked if blogs are valuable at all, Dr. Carl Trueman says:
Few strengths. It’s all too anarchic. I think fun and information sharing are the best it can do. Weaknesses: feeds narcissism; allows any old nutcase to present themselves as a serious player in theological and ecclesiastical discussion.
Certainly Dr. Carl has a point here. Blogging often can and does feed pride. Do I frequent my hit counter too often? Sadly, the answer probably is, "yes". The blog can be a meter of fluctuating self-worth as you observe who is linking to you and who and how many people come to your blog. This is can be a serious form of addictive self-idolatry and needs to be fought at all costs. I have found that taking a blog fast is a good means to fight this sin of pride through blogging. It can be a serious time waster as well. Often I feel the nag in my soul that I am missing out on something important if I don't frequent my Google Reader enough. This sense of urgency can be addictive and I can feel the need to "check in" too much.

Let me say this as well by way of caution. If you find that you read more blogs than good books, that is most likely a problem. For the most part, good books have been tested by time, publishers, editors and years of research and thinking. Most blogs have not. As Carl says above, "any other nut-job can get a blog". Though there certainly are nut-jobs that write books, there are way more of them that have blogs simply because it is so much easier to acquire a blog. Keep this in mind as you read blogs.

Hopefully with these dangers in full view, here is why I blog:

1. Practice writing. Writing is a skill just like anything else. The more you do the better you get. The ability to formulate ideas and thoughts in a concise and understandable way is a foundational facet of our civilization that I seek to improve in. The truth is though I don't have that many great things to say (if ever), so I usually point to great things that others have said. But when I do choose write my own thoughts I find that this a valuable process to hone the skill of writing.

2. A place to document my thoughts. Oftentimes I don't know how I feel about an issue until I actually articulate it in a way that someone else could read and understand (as I am doing right now). It forces me to think specifically and concretely about something as opposed to just have this amorphous blob of thinking about an issue rolling around in my brain. In terms of documentation, I also have a blog all about my kids that tracks their development. It functions like a baby book but better because I can upload pictures, videos and write out quickly and easily things that they said or did that we'll want to remember in 20 years. For certain, grandparents who live hundreds of miles away greatly value this blogging.

3. A place to document other people's thoughts that I want to share with others. This can be a form of indirect community encouragement as I communicate things that I deem valuable or insightful.

4. A place to document other people's thoughts that I can easily access to in the future. For example, I often find in preparing for a teaching that I have to do at church my mind will quickly revert back to something I posted a long time ago. Maybe it was something on humility by C.J. Mahaney. All I have to do is type his name into my blog's search engine and I will have it. This has proved very useful for me as my blog size continues to increase. The longer I blog, the more information I amass, but it doesn't take up massive amounts of shelf space in my office.

5. A context for community. Certainly this kind of "community" is limited and superficial, but it is community none the less. Many of my friends from college who I would not keep in touch with otherwise, have blogs that I read and comment on and vice versa. I have also met many people through blogs that I would not have otherwise met and have benefited from the cyber-relationship that takes place via email and comments sections.

6. Entertainment. Entertainment should be low on the priority list, but it's still on the list.

So these are my reasons. Are there dangers? Certainly, but for now, I feel as though the benefits outweigh the costs. Fellow bloggers, what would you add to this list and what other dangers do you recognize?


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts here Zach. I definitely identify with the waste of time and finding my self worth in numbers of readers. But I would agree, the good outweighs the bad. One other thing I would add...my blog is mainly a ministry tool to the people of my church. More than a few times I've had people come up to me and say they were encouraged or strengthened or helped by what was written on my blog. So in this way, I see it as a way to equip people in an age where most people don't read books but they do check the web.

And I have to agree with you ... connecting in some way with old college friends is fun for me and encouraging to see how God is using people all over the world to build his kingdom.

Anonymous said...

I identified with more than one of your observations here Zach.

I try not to have any illusions about the quality of my theological observations and I hope it's at least clear from my About page that I'm not holding myself out to be a formidable theologian.

That said, I do like to grapple with some big ideas sometimes.

erinlitteral said...

What a great post.. wish more could come here and read.

I agree with what's written above as a danger,

"The blog can be a meter of fluctuating self-worth as you observe who is linking to you and who and how many people come to your blog. This is can be a serious form of addictive self-idolatry"

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Zach, I totally agree with you here. These reasons are exactly why I started my blog. I used to write down thoughts on pieces of paper - now I write them down in the blog. It's a great tool to help me organize them, and I hope they can be useful to somebody else along the way.

Anonymous said...

here is why blogging is for the birds:
1. you can practice writing without sharing it with everyone else. I find this practice much better in that, who am I kidding, why would I want to share bad writing with others?
2. Documenting my thoughts...again can be done in the privacy of my own home. if i find it necessary to share said thoughts with friends, enemies, neighbors, I can actually interact with them personally, which I understand is becoming more and more of a novel idea.

3. Why? for "indirect community"? Because I don't know what that is I will presume that is gibberish.

4. ...and this is done in a public forum...we have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime.

5. Ah yes, a place for community! Brilliant, this community of which you speak...virtual community I think we call it. Which is to say, not really community other than sharing our diahrea (sp?) of the brain for no other purpose than to flatter ourselves in thinking that other people care what we think.

6. Entertainment? Valid and commendable. And yours is indeed just that.

Unknown said...

thanks for posting this. I am always curious about why people blog.

On reading blogs more than books:
I agree. I'm trying to read good books more than ever, but time is such an issue. blogs are super convenient since most people work in front of a PC. I can quickly read snippets of posts while at work when i normally could not read a good book. I guess i should be working though, right? LOL.

Titles are important:
I have feeds in my iGoogle page so i can just browse about 30 blogs and their recent posts and pick what i want to check out (Blog post Titles are important). I have a feed to this blog (thank Justin Taylor for that).

I'm curious what your opinion is, or if you've read about this. I've always wanted to know if bloggers who are not pastors or leaders in ministry and profess to be Christians would be held accountable to the Lord in the same way as a teacher (Biblically speaking - to that higher standard)?


Shannon said...

This is good. It summarizes what I've been thinking lately about blogging as well. Hope you don't mind if I link to this in a post on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

Zach...realize I'm weighing in a little late in the game, but I just found your blog through Gavin Ortlund's blogroll. I could totally relate to the danger of pride consuming our focus...the down side of wanting to matter in this world. But...it's something I choose to recognize, admit and aspire to dive into the business of blogging for the right reasons. I, too, find that blogging is helping me to really think in ways and see through a thought more deeply than if I journaled alone...it's easy to let myself open the box on an idea and admire it for a while without really writing until it's out of the box and ready to place in another's hands. My husband encouraged me to start...so that the words I had filling journals would not be for merely my own benefit...but could encourage others, too. Isn't that the point of our being on this old earth...

David Cooke said...

I have been thinking a lot recently about why I blog and am toying with the idea of stopping. Your thoughts were helpful to me.

Homemaker, MD said...

Helpful thoughts, thanks for articulating these points.

california health insurance said...

There's no law that says that you have to continue a blog and I guess that it comes down to how much you enjoy having one and whether or not you are getting enough visitors to your site to make it worthwhile to you. Perhaps you only need a few visitors each month to be meaningful though.