I got into an interesting discussion at our church plant meeting this past Sunday. I bumped into this lady and her husband and the topic of blogs came up (not surprising: our church doesn’t have a web presence yet, so people Googling things like “emergent”, “postmodern”, and “Indianapolis” get directed to my web site. And neither my blog nor my web site is exactly the ideal introduction to the church). Anyway, she and her husband told me that they didn’t read blogs. The way they said it, however, struck my sense of curiosity. So I asked them why. Their comments have stuck with me.

They had read several blogs associated with people who went to their old church and the thing that struck them about their blogs was that it seemed that a lot of what was said in the blogs were things that the people wouldn’t say to people’s face. In other words, you had this community of people, each of whom read one another’s blogs (Xanga, LiveJournal, whatever), and when they had a problem/issue with someone in their community, they’d put it up on their site. They’d post an entry knowing that the person with whom they had the issue would read it.

This sort of passive-aggressive (non-)confrontation fueled by the shield of seeming anonymity provided by the Internet bothered them. There’s something, a cautionary tale perhaps, to that. My experience tells me that the person would do the same thing in person: not confront them, but then tell all their friends knowing that it would get back to the source of their irritation.

But this is an interesting modern twist on the dilemma of gossiping. I’ve heard people agonize over where the line was between gossip and taking an interest in a friend (usually conveniently not wondering why they didn’t just contact said friend if they were so concerned) now I brace myself for the “justification” that it can’t be gossip if it is on a blog site because it is there for the world to see and not behind someone’s back. Right. That’s balanced against the surprising amount of people that I still hear say “but I didn’t think [so and so] would read it. It was on my blog site.” Need I remind you, yet again, that if you want to keep a journal, pen and paper work just as well. Putting stuff on the Internet means that thousands of so and sos could possibly read what you said.

The take home lesson for me has been to further drill into my head the need to be careful what I say. In person is one thing. Words can be misquoted, taken out of context. On blogs, in chats, on message boards, my words are only a couple of clicks away from being passed around, context intact. Available to be screen captured and forwarded to all relevant parties. Saved in files on some computer to be used against me later.

Just like words said in the heat of the moment can never be unsaid, things sent into the ether called cyberspace float around forever.

And can come back to bite you at the most inconvenient times.

Man, I hope that couple doesn’t read this.

(On a completely unrelated note, I’d like to give a special shout out to Brian Keene’s mom. A woman of obvious taste and discernment.)

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.