(continued from previous post)
3. How do you feel blogging and the presence of social networks and media has influenced students at Westminster?
While I know there are some students who keep blogs, I don't know many – it's too much work for too little instant gratification. Some students are on Twitter, but not nearly as many who are on Facebook. And, of course, cell phone texting is the medium of choice when it comes to communication for high schoolers.
As for the influence of all this on students, I have two thoughts. First, I think social media affects students very much the same way it affects adults, that is, training us (if we let it) in the art of distraction rather than the art of focus. I've written about this before here, here, and here (and it's not an idea original with me), but the Internet is by design created to distill our focus rather than sharpen it. I feel this when I'm on my computer (which is frequently because of what I do): it's easier to check Facebook or Twitter or a blog or two than actually write something myself to contribute something of worth to the blogosphere. The effect is the same, regardless of age: a lot of time gets wasted with very little to show for it (for an excellent article on this from a biblical perspective, click here).
Second (and this seems more true of students than adults, though there are plenty of exceptions), the ease and proliferation of digital media tools has created a constant public existence that robs kids of much of the privacy and mystery of their youth. I worry that students share so much online (vulnerable thoughts, sacred memories, less-than-appropriate pictures, and personal experiences) that they have nothing enigmatic really left for others (parents, boyfriends/girlfriends, even themselves) to gradually discover about who they are. In many ways, the Internet has made us more boring than interesting because everybody knows so much about us already. Where's the mystery and intrigue in that?
4. What is your opinion about blogging's future?
I've been asking this question a lot of late, even posing it to some friends of mine who are far more wise in the way of all things wired (read my friend Will's fascinating comments in answer to my inquiry here). I remember a few years ago I first started hearing folks warn of blogging's demise, largely because Twitter was really starting to explode in mass popularity and micro-blogging was coming into its own on a wide scale. Even in my own reading habits, I wasn't checking blogs like I used to (I follow anywhere from 100-150 different blogs using Google Reader, but only check them now when someone notifies me via Twitter that they posted something…and only then if the 140-character summary sounds interesting).
All that to say, blogging's not going away anytime soon, but I do think people's reasons for reading blogs continue to evolve. I think we're going to see the middle of blogging drop out; that is, the bloggers with bigger audiences will get bigger because of content and deals, while the bloggers who write for smaller audiences (usually made up of people who know them) will continue to do so simply for their personal love of writing or for niche reasons tied to their interests or work. Those in the middle who anticipate writing for a huge following but are unwilling to "sell out" to attract an audience are going to end up choosing one or the other.
5. Where do you see the future of your blog headed?
In light of my answer to #4, I easily fall into the second category mentioned and have no real desire to be part of the first. Sure, ideally, if I could cultivate a huge following of folks who love my writing, well, that would be great, but I don't anticipate that happening (and without the "deals," there's really no money in blogging).
Personally, I still write with books in mind, but I've struggled over the past three years as to how much to adjust my thinking to wholeheartedly pursue the more digital versions of publishing (if "publishing" is even really a word/concept anymore). Even going the full digital route, I'm haunted by the words of one of my seminary professors who, when I asked him if he ever feared running out of topics to write about, responded by saying he was more afraid of running out of people who would want to read what he wrote. His concern wasn't that people would stop reading him (he's an excellent writer); his concern was more that people would stop reading, period.
Granted, in many ways because of social media, we're reading more than ever, but much of what we're reading is not worth the page or pixels it's printed on/with when considered within the broader historical context of scholarship and publication. There's a lot of garbage to sift through to find well-written truth.
6. Why do you enjoy blogging?
I'll probably continue to blog because I'll always continue to write; in fact, I can't NOT write – it's how I process life and discover what I think. Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved keeping journals and writing letters – a desire that has never gone away even with the creation of websites and email. As Wendell Berry wrote in his essay, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,"
"My final and perhaps my best reason for not owning a computer is that I do not wish to fool myself. I disbelieve, and therefore strongly resent, the assertion that I or anybody else could write better or more easily with a computer than with a pencil. I do not see why I should not be as scientific about this as the next fellow: when somebody has used a computer to write work that is demonstrably better than Dante’s, and when this better is demonstrably attributable to the use of a computer, then I will speak of computers with a more respectful tone of voice, though I still will not buy one." —Wendell Berry, “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” in What Are People For? (1990), p. 171.
Gathering my thoughts on my blog (and not everything I think gets posted for reasons listed in my answer to question #3) is a perk of living in the 21st century – one for which I'm grateful. But in terms of meaning and significance, I still don't think today's technology compares to the original social media – oral tradition – through which God spoke and preserved His Word. After all, look at what this social media produced: words that are still just as current and relevant as the latest update, tweet, post, or book I could ever write, and the best part is you can talk to the Author whenever you feel like it.