Thursday, August 02, 2012

The 10 commandments of blogging, Ironic Catholic style

Didn't know I had a beard, eh?
(I was asked to write on this topic a while ago, and am just now getting to it.  I've seen titles on this topic from other bloggers but purposefully have not read their pieces, so if we overlap, I promise--it's just great minds thinking alike.

Also, defining blogging is hard enough in itself.  Are there different "rules" for political blogs, family blogs, photography blogs, humor blogs, etc.?  Probably, but that would be a lot of work, so I've got commandments for the generic Catholic blog.  Enjoy, and take it with a grain of salt of the earth.)

1.  For goodness sakes, keep the original Ten Commandments.    Blogging, whatever it is, is not an ethics-free medium.  So don't steal others' material. Don't kill reputations through your half-baked opinions.  Don't covet others' readers.  And keep God first. After all, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of pen and paper and mimeographs. Most of the following will build on the original ten anyway, but just to put that obvious point out there, OK?

2. Don't take it too seriously.  It's just a blog.  Really, it's your scribbles on whatever came to mind that you self-published on a computer.  That's it.  Any thoughts of how you will change the face of the culture or Catholicism or liturgy or politics is probably prideful wish-fulfillment.  Humility is the queen of the virtues, right?  It's a BLOG, not Homer's Odyssey. 

3.  Take it seriously.  The internet is forever.  On the other hand, those scribbles are accessible to the entire cyberworld.  You're not just talking to your best buds on your favorite take on topic X.  Unless you have a private blog, you are posting publicly accessible information. And you can delete your post and even your blog, but you cannot truly take it out of circulation.  Weigh your words.

4.  Thou shalt not make ad hominem attacks.  There is a lot done in the name of truth-telling, satire, or humor that basically just attacks other people by name.  While the U.S. Constitution allows satire of public figures, and we glory in freedom of expression, I'm asking you to set some higher standards here.  Would you make that attack to the person's face?  I have seen quite a few people targeted in an ad hominem attack respond in the comments--or on their own website.  Even if your criticism is on target, does your post encourage the person to change?  Or does it smear the person in such a way that they will never listen to you and any other Catholic again?

5.  Stand on your head, sing "Lift Up Your Hearts," and count to 3,317 before posting about politics.  Or just read "Faithful Citizenship" twice.   I realize that there is a whole sub-genre called political commentary, and it has real value.  But if you are Catholic and you are espousing political opinions on a self-identified Catholic blog, be very careful not to conflate too easily a political party or candidate with being a true blue (or red) Catholic.  Probably there are candidates that do better than others in this regard.  But I haven't seen a "pure" candidate in this regard in decades.  Worse yet, do not read Catholicism through the lens of your favored political party.  If you do, you've got it ever so slightly backwards.  Keep up the conversation.  But be Catholic first; its the only way the parties will take us seriously.

6.  If things are getting a tad dull on the blog, write about liturgy.  Mission accomplished.  But note commandments #2-3.  You may want to read Amos before posting as well.

7.  Throw in a Latin word at least every other post.  It makes you sound smart and super Catholic.  (But do it every post without translation and it flirts with the possibility of sounding pompous.  Plus, most Catholics don't know Latin.  Yes, I just admitted that.)

8.  Thou shalt moderate comments lightly but well.  Comment moderation is a pain.  No question about it.  If you have a lot of commenting readers, it can take time.  But the comment sections can be a fun expression of community give and take, a good opportunity for receiving feedback and criticism, abyss of seething Venus flytraps if left unweeded.  Even good blogs can leave a bad taste in your mouth if everything underneath the post involves people attacking each other.  Dropping comments entirely is one option, but a warning that uncharitable comments will be deleted (and then doing it) is my preferred method.

(I did see a blog where the blogger left the mean-spirited comment stand, complimented her colorful choice of words, and kindly engaged the person--who eventually apologized.  It wasn't a "Christian blog" but it sure was a Christian moment.)

9.  Thou shalt remember the duty of delight.  That's Dorothy Day's phrase, by the way.  She reminded herself to delight in life and God even as she worked with people in desperate poverty on the New York streets--so I think we can try this from our comfy computer chair.  How to do this?  Just ask yourself: why are you blogging?  I have to say--if it isn't satisfying, stop it.  It's a hobby for most people, not a vocation.  If it makes you angry, worried, frustrated, or more, just step away from the computer.  See commandment #2.

10.  Thou shalt remember that your readers do not make up the entirety of the Church.  There are so many issues that are "hot topics" in the blogosphere and virtually meaningless to large swaths of Catholics.  Now maybe they should be hot topics everywhere.  But more likely you're being told by your readers (a rather self-selected group) that this topic is huge, you keep blogging about it, and you've created this lovely delusional fishbowl entirely unrooted in most people's experience.  To put it another way, just recall that your blog and your followers may have created a virtual sect.  Remember that humility piece--we are (God help us) One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and we're all in this together.  Amen.

Could these be better?  Sure.  But guess what?  I'm writing a BLOG.  And observing the second blogger commandment to boot.


Other commandments for bloggers out there:
The Curt Jester
The Deacon's Bench

...if you took a crack at this, please let me know in the comments and I'll add your post to this one.  With the travel and adoption, I simply haven't been hanging around the blogs as much this summer.  And thanks for T.J. for the opportunity.--IC


Amanda Borenstadt said...

Great tips. I'm not sure I can come up with a Latin word every other post, though. :)

Fran said...

This is pure blogging gold, Catholic blogging gold, Ironic Catholic blogging gold!

Thank you so much!

Meredith Gould said...

Love the redesign. And LOVE your Tenth Commandment. Might have to quote it on my blog.

Kiwi Nomad said...

This is easily the most sensible and wisest commentary on blogging I have read. I only read a very few Catholic blogs: there is too much vitriol in too many of them. I would like to sprinkle your blog wisdom liberally over the whole Catholic blogosphere.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

It is sometimes iritating when people have word verification AND comments moderation at the same time. Either one or the other.

When someone comments, and the Blog owner takes time, (some time days), before publishing that comment, the moment has gone; and the conversation is stifled.

Thank you for this post.

God bless.

s-p said...

Awesome! I'll steal this and substitute "Greek, Russian or Slavonic" for "Latin" and it will work for "Orthodox blogs". :)