Joseph Bottum at First Things asks some cogent meta-questions about blogs and blogging, primarily how much of a blog’s content can be said to truly represent the owner of the blog. Now he’s primarily speaking about blogs attached to publications, like First Things, but it also has implications for other blogs as well.
Does the speed of composition, the bloggy voice and diction, make it a less or a more reliable guide to the author’s genuine thoughts? That’s akin to the question of whether what you say when you’re drunk reveals more of what you really believe or less—since there is a kind of intoxication about blog writing, the speed of posting, the speed of response.
... Many bloggers who allow comments from readers—Amy Welborn, for instance—formulate explicit policies about them. But even so, Amy’s blog represents only herself; no one imagines that the comments are from her or reflect her.
These are questions I’ve been dealing with as well. For example, while I’m looking for a new job I am acutely aware that my blog might be a barrier to some opportunities. Over the past four years I have been pretty forthright and open in my opinion about the failings of certain bishops, about certain diocesan and national policies, about certain controversies within the Church. There are undoubtedly some potential employers who wouldn’t want to touch that with a ten-foot pole.
The boss is always right?
Now, I’ve made it clear that everything I write on this blog represents no one but me, but still an employer may balk at being associated with a certain viewpoint. I have made it clear that the continued existence of this blog in its current form is dependent on the needs of employment. If I do get a job but the employer says I have to stop blogging about controversial matters, I may end up having to turn this into a “dad blog” or something totally unrelated to the Church. Unfortunately even then I can’t “un-blog” the last four years of what I’ve posted. Still, do all of those entries represent me as I am today? I don’t think so. I look back at some entries and realize that I don’t hold the same opinion anymore for one reason or another.
Commenters, speak for yourself
And what about comments? I often struggle with what to do about bizarre comments on my posts. Usually I prefer to just let them go and count on people being smart enough to realize that just because I don’t reply doesn’t mean I agree. Yet I worry that silence can be interpreted as assent or at least an inability to effectively respond. It does not. Sometimes it means I just don’t care to get into yet another flame war. So what do I do? I have been more willing than some bloggers to delete posts and ban commenters I thought crossed the line, and for that I have been accused of being a coward unwilling to have my opinions challenged… and worse. Honestly, I don’t much care what those people think.
And I don’t have any pat answers. If I had it to do all over again, knowing what I know today, I might not have started blogging. Then again, many of the opportunities I have today and have had in the past four years are precisely because of the blog. I’ll just keep thinking about it.