The Common Good
July 2007

To the Blogsphere...and Beyond

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July 2007

Is this the end of productive society as we know it?

A number of people have approached me and asked if I am going to start my own blog. Setting aside for the moment how they were able to approach me—since I keep furniture piled against my office door and, as a back-up deterrent, enjoy a sardines snack of a morning—their question gave me pause. After all, many of my colleagues already have their own blogs and post daily thoughts and reflections for the public-at-large or, in most cases, at-small. One excited co-worker recently rushed up to me and exclaimed, "I got 20 hits on my blog yesterday!" Since he showed no signs of physical injury, I presumed this meant 20 people had accidentally stumbled upon his blog and, seeing no pop-up ads to hold their interest, moved on to the more typical tasks for which the Internet was designed, such as shopping for discount flip-flops. (Did you know they make them for prom now?) I quickly moved past him, however, not wanting to encourage a type of "hall-blogging" that I fear could become an unwanted extension of the online version.

I've been observing this phenomenon for a while, watching as blogs have become a part of the "marketplace of ideas" that Oliver Wendell Holmes first mentioned in his classic detective novel The Case of the Tedious Typist Who Wouldn't Stop, Not for Anything. (Or maybe that was Sherlock Conan Doyle.) What I have learned is that blogs—an acronym for Blowing Off Goals—are basically personal diaries that are open to the public. They are places to bare your soul and, depending on the size of your server, photos of you and your soul on vacation. Unfortunately, because of their preponderance on the Web, they clog up my Google searches for flip-flops. On the plus side, however, their relative obscurity makes them unattractive to advertisers, so blogs seldom display pictures of large infected toenails. This is a good thing. (I don't care HOW effective Dermasil is when used as directed; nobody needs to see that.)

I've often wondered why people would post their random musings on the Internet when they could just as easily pratter on to strangers at a bus stop. This always works for me. Why do I need people across the globe weighing in on my opinions when people waiting for the H4 do it every day? And with extra jostling for emphasis.

Blogs appear to be the natural outgrowth of our insatiable desire to be heard, to be recognized, to say, simply, "I exist [closed quote, parenthesis, colon, smiley face]. It's one of the things that separates us from the animals, although not the animals on You Tube, who are a species more advanced than our own. Otherwise, how could that cockatiel play golf?

Bloggers probably began as those children who meticulously transcribed their days' events into diaries, carefully locking them afterward with those little keys that, for reasons of genetic predisposition, they always hid in their sock drawer, which is absolutely the first place parents look. (Not that I would ever do such a thing, since you can open them with just a paper clip. So I've heard.)

As adults, these diarists found a new mechanism for their self-expression: the Annual Christmas Letter, the perfect form in which to recount their perfect lives and that of their perfect children, this year featuring their perfect [name of exotic locale] vacation. But these letters are sent only once a year, an unacceptable limitation to people who feel their relatives need frequent updates on The Good Life They're Missing. The limitless capacity of the Internet was what they've been waiting for. That they now include their political and cultural views only intensifies my wish for them to experience Old Testament retribution, such as plagues, locusts, and high interest rates.

SO WHERE DOES THAT leave us? That depends on what we were talking about. Blogs, I think.

In an effort to test the ubiquitousness [gesundheit] of blogs, I randomly created awkward combinations of words and nonetheless found entries on "horse construction," "tofu cars," and "absurd lettuce." Additional investigation revealed there are more blogs about "picking your nose in public" than there are for "peace in our time."

If the popularity of blogs continues, will they eventually work their way down the cultural ladder to the primal level of, say, playground taunts? ("Hey, my dad gets more hits than your dad!") Will blogging ultimately jeopardize the very fabric of our society, drawing in even first-responders who would otherwise be protecting us. ("Four-alarm fire downtown!" "I'm on it, just as soon as I type in a few more thoughts on absurd lettuce.")

As the work force succumbs to incessant blogging, will this be the end of productive society as we know it? Will other nations take economic advantage of us as we sit, typing mindlessly about our day's minutiae?

That's the $64,000 question. Actually, adjusted for inflation, it's the $356,389.35 question.

Or one Euro. (I wonder if the Treasury Department has a blog?)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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