“Bloggernacle, USA — pop. 300.” That’s what the town sign would read if there were such a place. I’ve been reflecting a bit lately whether the Bloggernacle, as a small and loosely organized network of weblogs and individuals, is, on the whole, a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral vessel that is neither good nor bad per se. The reasonable comparison, I think, is to an average LDS congregation, another network of individuals that most of us participate in. How do they match up?
How is the Bloggernacle better? The conversations are more interesting. You don’t have to wear a white shirt and tie to blog. If I decide I don’t want to blog this week, no family member lays a guilt trip on me. I actually learn things while blogging, both content (LDS doctrine and history) and skills (HTML and site design and management). If somebody says something stupid, I can just disagree openly (if politely, most of the time). B’naclers actually give sources for their crazy ideas. B’naclers are from all over — geographical diversity is good. B’naclers cover the political and religious spectrum — ideological diversity is good. No authority issues or politicking.
How is an LDS congregation better? A congregation is religion (rendering service) while the B’nacle is just people blabbing. Church teaches and expects sacrifice; the B’nacle asks nothing of its participants. Illiterate peasants can attend church — broad access is good. Church only takes three hours on Sunday, while blogging can absorb an almost unlimited amount of free time. Church offers salvation, perhaps exaltation, while the B’nacle offers only a glimmer of enlightenment from under the door. You can go to church with your family, but blogging tends to be an individual activity with an undetermined impact on domestic harmony.
Those are just some ideas to spur your own evaluation. Two things have made me reflect a bit lately. One is the demise or seeming dormancy of some previously active blogs (A Soft Answer, Sons of Mosiah, A Motley Vision are three I can think of), which reminds us that the life cycle of weblogs is fairly short. They come, they go. People start blogging, do their thing for awhile, then move on to something else in the real world.
Second, I’ve received a couple of emails lately and seen a few comments on other weblogs from people who have appreciated in a fairly positive way some of the discussion they have found on troubling LDS doctrinal or historical topics. People actually get answers and some encouragement from B’nacle discussions, which is really sort of surprising because the general tone is often that of a dissenting or even critical perspective. But it is generally informed discussion of topics not discussed elsewhere in the Church by (generally) informed and honest Mormons who also give links and sources that people with questions can follow up with if they want. In contrast, in two years of blogging, often on topics orthodox LDS view with some suspicion (not always unjustified), I have yet to receive a single comment like this: “Dave, I am appalled a good Mormon would write such trash.” Not one. Well, not many.
So, what do you think? Is the Bloggernacle a good thing? Have you handed out B’nacle pass-along cards to your non-blogging friends yet? Or have you encountered any bitter ex-bloggers who leave us, but just can’t leave us alone? Who will be the next active B’nacler to leave the stage after fulfilling the measure of their online creation?