13 April 2007

Blogging as Spiritual Formation

A friend recently drew my attention (via his response to it in his blog) to a post on "Blogging as Spiritual Formation" over at NextReformation. The article by Paul Fromont referred to in that blog post is now over here.

Blogging has bordered on spiritual formation for me at times. It's a way to examine my inner thoughts and formulate them in a way that makes me aware of them, sometimes for the first time. I've had the experience of discovering, as I'm completing a sentence, what I thought about something, or even sensing that something new has been revealed to me in the process (listening to God in prayer). Kind of the way journaling has done for me for years. But blogging forces me to be clearer about articulating my thoughts, as others will read them. I think the reason blogging becomes spiritual formation for some people these days is that it's a substitute for that kind of spiritual dialogue in person with people that humans have thrived on for millennia, as we live more and more isolated and technology-driven lives. But if one is isolated anyway, or separated by miles from friends who know one's spiritual weaknesses and strengths and yearnings best, then I think blogging within an attentive virtual spiritual community is a welcome substitute for small group conversation in a living room. However, I wouldn't want to use blogging as a way to draw any further away from having personal contact with spiritual friends. Sometimes I think it can have that effect. Perhaps more so than journaling at home alone could, because of the feedback which keeps us coming back to the blog. I am glad that I have my flesh and blood small group coming over to my house a week from Sunday. I'm planning to share my story with them, and we're going to have a conversation about technology, and I'll bring up the subject of blogging, among other things.

What do you think, those of you who have spent a good deal of time on blogs, either reading or writing them?

I've been wanting to start a blog on technology and faith but haven't done so yet (and wouldn't be able to drum up enough of a readership very quickly to get much feedback on this soon enough), so I'm posting it here.


Darlin' said...

I was talking to a friend a while ago online. I was discouraged about something and my friend felt bad because what can you say online? There is no facial expression. My friend summed up what he thought perfectly: " Isn't it funny how man ruined communication when they were trying to make it better."

I think that sometimes these days, people rely much too much on technology and the Internet. They use it, as a substitute for other things that I do not believe should be substituted.

However, I also believe that Internet has been a blessing in ways as well. I was in no way saying I’m anti-internet or anything like that. Posting on your blog has been a good experience for me. As you said in your post, for me it also has the same sort of effect as journaling. Except, now I am pushed to be clearer about my thoughts and give myself a chance to finish my thoughts.

Also, sometimes it is hard to talk to someone about certain things in person… or to maybe confront someone. I guess writing a letter could have the same effect as e-mailing, but it has defiantly made something easier for me.

When you cannot have a group fellowship often, yes, blogging is a good substitute.

Jamie said...

I have a love/hate relationship with technology and the sense of "community" it provides.

In one sense, I love blogging, because I feel the same way you do--blogging forces me to grow spiritually. It forces to think clearly and articulate my thoughts in a way that will make sense to other people. Additionally, through blogging, I've gained access to a whole array of people who have become my friends and spiritual companions, even though I've never met them in person. Interaction with them also produces growth, even above the growth that occurs just from me writing posts. For these reasons, blogging is great.

On the other hand, I sometimes wish my laptop would accidentally be destroyed in a house fire, or something. I love the benefits of technology, but I feel like it has an insidious, unavoidable to fragment real live in-person communities. And I hate that part.

I keep blogging, but I try to do so carefully. I'm all for reaping the benefits of online communities, but I also try to be intentional about preserving flesh-and-blood bonds too.

Rosie Perera said...

Well said, Jamie!

Do you find that there is any spill-over between your virtual community and your real life community? If so, are there ways in which your online interactions enhance (or detract from) the way you relate to those same people in person? Or vice versa?

I've got both flesh and blood friends and virtual friends. But so far my online friends are superficial. I have not developed any close online friendships with people I didn't already also know in person. I can sometimes be quite revealing in an online forum, but even so, I do not feel close to people I know only in cyberspace. Openness online does not translate into a commitment to friendship. These aren't people I'd go to if I needed help in a crisis, nor would I be there for them. So perhaps I sometimes go too far in being transparent in virtual community. The only times I have tried entering into deeper friendships that started online (both as potential romantic relationships; both were men introduced to me by people who knew both of us in person and thought we'd be compatible) didn't work out. I found that I opened up too quickly without the friendships being grounded first as in-person relationships. The relationships weren't able to sustain that level of what was really a false intimacy. Cyber-spiritual-community has that same kind of rootlessness which I think can leave people hurt. So I approach it with caution, and recommend that others do the same.