[Welcome New Advent readers! Thanks for coming by!]
And should it? I gots thoughts.
ACM favorite Catholic blogger Sherry Antonetti, who writes at Chocolate for the Brain, wrote the other week:
I miss when the Blogosphere felt like a neighborhood with all sorts of takes on the same reality, with slices of home life here, theology there, humor another place, sarcasm another. I miss feeling like walking through the internet like browsing the North End of Boston, or all the hidden lovely places in New York. Now, everything feels like Best Buy and Walmart with a Starbucks on every corner.
There are sharp moments and glimmers of beauty and whimsy, but most of what we find, is what we’ve always found, and very little of it stretches us, challenges us, or delights. I wonder, have I stopped looking, or have the shiniest of places been discovered and moved?
I share her sentiment. I’ve been writing enough years to remember the Golden Age of Catholic Blogging, when there was camaraderie and fun; when bloggers exchanged comments like neighbors chatting across a chain-link fence; when we shared and linked each other’s pieces; when there were Cannonball Awards and blogging badges; when the kindest thing one could say is “I’m adding you to my blogroll!”
But I get it. Times change, and change bursts upon people’s lives in ways unexpected and unplanned. Bloggers, like fashions and fads, come and go. Tastes and preferences shift and evolve like seasons and tides, and what was popular yesterday soon becomes out-of-date. Writing’s been crowded by podcasts and Facebook Live, and posts of 280 words or more have been pushed aside by tweets of 280 characters or fewer. And comments. Does anybody comment on posts anymore?
Has there been a write flight? I suppose that depends on who you ask. And although no one’s asked me for my two cents, I’m gonna slap my coin on the bar and tell you what I think anyway.
Firstly, some writers have stopped. Shut down their blogs and moved south (the Catholic blogger neighborhood is up north, y’know). I went on a sabbatical for almost a year, and found the strength and desire to resume. Not everyone does. And that’s okay – life happens.
Secondly, the neighborhood’s undergone a balkanization, and I attribute it to two major events. One, the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and subsequent elevation of Pope Francis caused a huge hermeneutic of rupture in the Catholic blogosphere. Sure, there was already a rift between the “conservative” and “liberal” communities, and between the “Novus Ordites” and “Rad Trads”, but Pope Francis’ appearance split it all to hell, and the effects are still being felt. Camps formed quickly, and woe to thee if you didn’t choose a side. Further woe to thee if you chose poorly. It needn’t be said, but I’ll say it anyway: perhaps the strongest Catholic blog community today is the anti-Pope Francis residential district. They’re immovable and immutable. There is nothing quite like a common foe to foment unity. The bloggers who have Pope Francis in their crosshairs write with energy, passion, and consistency, continually sounding the alarm we stand upon the cusp of the coming apocalypse. Rightly or wrongly, that is where we are. I don’t like it, because us Catholics have so much more to share than shouts of “Heresy!” and cries of “Apostasy!” to the world. Call me crazy, but that seems counter-productive to the mission of evangelizing the world.
The second event was the 2016 presidential election, causing further fractaling among the Catholic blogosphere. Politics has become more difficult to discuss and write about – who wants to face the wrath, from either side? I suppose if a writer chooses to be controversial, confrontational, and contentious, it’ll draw all sorts of attention – for better or worse. After all, many people like to watch fights and witness trainwrecks. That will never change.
But at what cost? Sherry put it very well:
Everywhere I look, there is condemnation, condemnation of the condemnation, condemnation of those apologizing, condemnation of those criticizing the apologizing, and all of it, leaves a bitter aftertaste like I burnt my mouth.
Thirdly, the rise of social media and alternative platforms. Used to just be Blogger vs. WordPress, for the most part. Over the years, a good number of personalities have packed up their stuff and left the neighborhood for other parts of Internet Town. I mentioned some earlier – Facebook Live, Twitter, and podcasts – but there’s also Instagram, radio, Patreon. There are more platforms to choose from. With more variety comes more competition for the written word. On top of that, some forgo blogging altogether, and move into the trendy, sleek, spiffy part of town, never settling into the neighborhood.
Fourthly, the endless cycle of Scandal du Jour in the Church has sapped the spirit and soul from many of us. It’s difficult to write about the joys of the faith when evils and horrors assail us on a daily basis. Maybe fewer Catholics read blogs because a) there are fewer Catholics; or b) they’re afraid of what they’ll read when they go on-line. You know what? I don’t blame them.
And finally, it’s harder to find the humor in a world increasingly becoming more averse to allowing humor in anything. It’s harder to promote the peace of Christ when some in the neighborhood choose to distribute division and disdain, and for what? Being the loudest doesn’t make you the rightest. Getting the most traffic doesn’t mean you’re the wisest. God came to Elijah in a whisper – and I think people desire the peace and quiet.
Despite the problems, now isn’t the time to move. Sherry wrote further:
So I’ll try to restart this party, to do my part to reopen the Mom-Pop store of the blogosphere. I’ll still link to pieces, but I’ll try to keep this spot lighter and brighter…to that end…
I’d better get to writing.
Like Sherry, I’m not ready to surrender the neighborhood to the creeping darkness and prophets of doom. I’ll work hard to beautify my side of the street – linking to other like-minded writers, promoting the other Conspiracy members (are you reading them? You should be!), staying old school. I still have a blogroll, by gum, active and up-to-date. Who does that anymore?
So yes, the Catholic blogger neighborhood is worth restoring, even if it means being a bit smaller. Not only is it a great place to visit, it’s still a fantastic place to write.
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