The Odd Fellowship of the Bloggernacle

From MikeInWeHo

In my youth I had a pen-pal in Japan named Tashihiro. We corresponded for years, and even though we never met I considered him a friend. Sometime late in high school I inscribed a Book of Mormon for him and sent it to the missionaries in his area. To this day I recall his oh-so-polite response after they finally located him and delivered the book: “I am sorry, but I am not interested in Mormon.” We lost touch in college and now he remains but a fond memory.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and here I am, blogging and occasionally exchanging email with other participants in the Bloggernacle. It strikes me as a bit odd. Most likely nobody reading this has ever met me in person, West Hollywood not yet a center of Mormon intellectualism. When an interesting thread appears, I find myself checking in at work all day long. It’s often about more than just the topic at hand; I’m curious as to what specific people have to say. Will bbell skewer someone’s bleeding-heart liberalism? Will gst provide an award-winningly witty retort? Will Steve Evans pounce?

Let us consider the nature of the relationships which develop in the ether of the Internet. The closest analogy in my experience is that of a pen-pal. Yet sometimes I wonder if there isn’t more going on in here. My communication online with the various active Church members has touched my heart in surprising ways. Can we truly know someone we have never met in person? Can fellowship exist in the Bloggernacle?

Comments

  1. I’m sometimes a bit embarrassed to extol my bloggernacle “fellowships” to non-bloggers, because it sounds so phishy. As we know, people with “internet friends” are a) freaks, and b) chatting unknowingly with 50-year-old perverts.

    But the truth is that not only do I have some good friends ’round here, but I’ve also benefited from some extraordinary kindnesses in the real world because of these friendships. I think the beautiful core of Mormonism is the power of friendship and that seems to spill-over online.

  2. When I quote stuff I heard from commenters on the bloggernacle to people in the “real world” I typically frame it as “one of my friends told me the other day….”

    And I don’t feel a bit dishonest saying it. That’s how I regard the people here.

  3. Seth,
    That’s hilarious, I do the same thing. And while I consider those around here my friends (many of whom I have met in person), my bigger reason for doing so is because mentioning blogs inevitably shifts the conversation from the original topic to blogging.

    Oh, and Ronan is [a handsome, charming, intelligent man with a sexy accent]. I know, I’ve met him.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Will I pounce?? What am I, a puma? I am, admittedly, a cougar (alum).

    But yeah, blogging has always been (for me) more about interactions and friendships than content. There are lots of smart people in the world — none of us should delude ourselves into thinking that we’re generating irreplacable material. But the interactions are what count.

  5. Mark IV says:

    Good question, MikeInWeHo, and an excellent post.

    Sure, on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog, but I think the bloggernacle is different. It is small enough that individual voices are recognizable, and, as you note, sometimes predictable, given the topic at hand. By the way, I always know when I see you participating that I’m going to hear a valuable perspective I likely wouldn’t have thought of on my own, and that it will be presented in a thoughtful, kind manner.

    What are the characteristics of fellowship? I would say that friends in real life do things like 1)listen to one another charitably, 2)look forward to seeing one another, 3)do things for one another, 4)and share a level of emotional intimacy. The virtual nature of the relationship limits us in terms of personal contact and doing things for one another, but I think it actually enhances the level of emotional intimacy. People I have met in the bloggernacle and subsequently in real life know things about me that members of my ward do not.

    In a way, bloggernacle fellowship is cheap and easy. We can express solidarity with one another without actually having to do anything. But I think it is still sincere, and therefore valuable. If you and I ever meet in person, I have no doubt whatsoever that I would like you, and that we could go to lunch together and have a wonderful time. I wouldn’t say that about a random stranger.

  6. Definitely internet friends are real friends. I’ve never let people looking at me askance worry me. I just tell the truth about it. That’s one of the perqs of being grown up and independent, being free enough to simply tell the plain truth without diplomacy. =) I’ve made true lasting friends of the heart online, some of the closest and dearest friends of my life. We meet up in person as often as we can, and the friendships are not any different in quality when we’re hanging out in person. They’re still my dearest and closest friends. I keep proposing we should all move to the same city some day, just pick a really awesome city and move there by ones and twos as we’re able. That would be so much fun. Then we start arguing about which city and we never get past that point. =) I’m liking either Miami, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. What do you guys think?

  7. Tatiana, that’s already underway. Easterners are to move to NYC, Western folk to Seattle. I’d say half of us have already moved. It’s like Adam-Greenwood-Ahman.

  8. I have never met anyone off the Bloggernacle in real life, and dont want to. I much prefer the horribly distorted and universally innacurate view of the world that comes through the two dimensional surface of my monitor.

    Actually, to be honest, I am afraid if I meet you people IRL I would actually like you and therefore have to be nice to you from now on. My greatest fear is bumping into DKL and Kaimi and discovering they really are charming, handsome and self-effacing.

  9. Is that the place where Adam Greenwood gathered all his progeny to prophesy? What was his message again?

    Friends on the blogs feel like normal friends except I know more random things about them. Like I don’t know what they look like, but I know how they feel about the Word of Wisdom and polygamy. But do they fart in public? I dunno.

    I like you Mike. I’m glad you fellowship with me.

  10. Mark IV says:

    Tatiana,

    What do you guys think?

    Spring Hill, Missouri

  11. Amri, that’s precisely right. There, the Ancient Vested One of Days laid out his anti-abortion space exploration plan and set us, his vassals, on the final course which will lead to Kralizec.

    And do we all fart in public? Come on, everyone does — the question is who gets away with it.

  12. Mark IV says:

    I love you all.

    MikeInWeHo, thanks so much for kicking off such an edifying thread.

  13. Nick Literski says:

    I was thinking along these lines a few days ago. As one who formally left the LDS church about a year and a half ago, I asked myself, why do I participate in these blogs? Personally, I want nothing to do with the institutional LDS church. Does my blogging make me one of those famed “apostates,” who “can leave the church, but can’t leave it alone?”

    I’d like to think not (though I’ll admit I have an annoying habit of insisting on pointing out the elephant in the room). I think many of you, if not most, are the kind of people I enjoyed being around when I was an active member of the church–people who gave serious thoughts to all sorts of issues and ideas. People who took their faith seriously, but weren’t generally unafraid to be direct about what disturbed them.

    Of course, now I have the added benefit of knowing nobody can print off my posts and mail them to my bishop or stake president. ;-)

  14. I participate in order to share in deep conversations that are hard to have in the controlled environment of a class with members and investigators for whom these converstaions would be detrimental. I also poimnt others here who are struggling to understand that you can be both intellectual and faithful. That I truly and sincerely appreciate.

  15. I participate for further light and knowledge. I also appreciate the give and take of the debates. Keeps me on my toes and helps me understand others perspectives.

    (it also gets me thru boring conference calls….)

  16. Fame and Glory people. I’m married, so I send all the groupies to…wait, who isn’t married around here.

  17. If MIke has a sense of humor, as I believe he does, I will humbly submit him as an unmarried participant. :-) If not, sorry, man!

  18. Funny thing…everything you’ve said about the LDS blogging community I could also say about the online community I first got involved with, which were a bunch of stoners. I’ve met more people IRL from that community (a music web forum) than I have this one, and I’m still friends with a lot of them. There are nice people all over the Internet.

    BTW, I also had penpals in high school, and even flew to other cities to meet some of them (or they came and visited me).

  19. I was going to offer to Mike, but I don’t know if he is “married” or not and I don’t want to make him come out.

  20. Idahospud says:

    Internet friends are absolutely real friends. Why else would ‘naclesnackers exist where the host(ess) sends a blanket invite to all ‘nacle denizens who can manage to get there? That could be quite a risk, but I haven’t heard of a bad experience yet.

  21. Mark IV says:

    HP/JDC,

    Yep, He’s married, and he and his partner have a daughter. He’s already disclosed this in this forum.

  22. I thought I heard such but I couldn’t remember. Anyhoo, I didn’t want to assume.

    In the meantime, what am I supposed to do with all these groupies? I’ve laid out newspaper, but still…

  23. HP,

    For those who have eyes to see, your answer is set out in Section 132 . . .

  24. Mark IV says:

    Idahospud,

    …but I haven’t heard of a bad experience yet.

    Doesn’t it depend on how you define a bad experience? I admire your ability to see the silver lining. I mean, really, if had been hauled off in handcuffs by the cops like what happened to you that one time, I don’t think I’d have such a rosy outlook…

  25. MikeInWeho says:

    re: 17

    No woman knows my history.

  26. That, Mike, is an instant classic, IMHO.

  27. ED(#8): There’s no way. I have it on good authority that DKL has horns and a tail.

  28. Veritas says:

    I know I’m not really in the BCC ‘in’ crowd but I too consider this to be ‘real’ interaction. Of course, maybe its a generational thing. Me and my husband recently went to spain to meet a friend we made online. Had a great time. Once we had friends come and stay with us for a week that we met online. When I speak of the bloggernacle, I say “I was talking to someone online (or in a forum or on a blog…)”. No one thinks its weird cause they all do the same thing.

  29. On the other hand, Veritas, I have been the youngest High Priest in my ward for a few years. Some of my closest friends at church are of a generation that rarely uses the computer for much of anything – much less on-line discussion. Like others have stated, I almost always reference things I learn here simply as coming from “a friend” – or I credit my father, which always to carry more authoritative weight in HP Group discussions. :-)

  30. When I used to say ‘one of my friends’ referring to an online friend my wife would look at me like II was crazy. Now that we’ve met some online friends in person, and had some send us baby gifts, she doesn’t think it’s so strange.

  31. My communication online with the various active Church members has touched my heart in surprising ways. Can we truly know someone we have never met in person? Can fellowship exist in the Bloggernacle?

    Great questions. I do feel as if I have Bloggernacle friends–there are a number of people around here I’ve come to feel a lot of respect and affection for–but there’s something to be said for personal face-to-face real life interaction as well. I’m hoping to pluck up my courage, overcome my native reserve, and meet some of you in real life one of these days.

    On the other hand, I communicate with my sisters and brother and my closest friends almost entirely by email and phone, since none of them live anywhere near me. So perhaps my friendships fall on a continuum with my husband at one end, and people I’ve never actually met but feel as if I know through the Bloggernacle at the other.

  32. Jordan F. says:

    Most of the people I like in the bloggernacle are people who I know or have met before in real life.

    Most of the others, well, I like them too even though I have never met them. Oddly enough, sometimes I even pray for them when they are going through hard times, believing that they are real people. I am always happy to meet someone in real life whose bloggernacle persona I have gotten to know online, realizing that their bloggernacle face is really only one facet of their real personality- a shadow if you will.

    Yes, I do think such a fellowship is not only possible, but nice.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Veritas: “I’m not really in the BCC ‘in’ crowd …”

    pish-posh! I like it when you comment, Veritas. Plus the moniker — very nice.

  34. I once put the screenname of someone I met on the old FAIR boards on the temple prayer roll. I’ve only met one person from an online community in real life before, though, and I’m pretty reluctant about doing it (though I’m not against doing it again). When I do meet people from online, I prefer to do it in a public setting with friends who I know from real life. But I do enjoy discussing things with people online and feel a connection with people, over time.

    I’m also unmarried. And male (someone got confused about that once).

  35. For me, this is just a community like any other. My ward is a community that I feel a part of, but this community is one I feel very at home in, partly because it’s just so much fun to hang out with all of you. Thanks to all of you, and thanks to Mike for this post and for being part of this great thang.

  36. Although I don’t comment often, I read daily, and I feel like I’m part of the community. I like that we can rejoice with one another, share our sorrows and concerns with one another, and laugh together. That, in my view, is a community. I probably won’t meet most of you in this life, but I sure hope to meet you in the next.

  37. A couple of months ago I told my work colleagues I was going to lunch with someone I had met online. They questioned my good sense–However, lunch with Anita turned out to be completely safe–as I knew it would. Outside of Nate, whom I have known for years, Anita was the first blogger I met in person, but not the last. Just before MHA, I met a bunch of you–J. Stapley, Mark IV, Peter and Melissa, and Kristine (I hope I didn’t momentarily forget any bloggers–there were other spouses there as well.) They invited me to go to lunch with them, but “having my standards” I declined, since they were going to a German resturant.

    I hope to meet many more of you. It is so much nicer to have a face to go with a name. And yes, these Mormon blogs are a community. I am grateful for you!

  38. Cheers, Marjorie. It was a delight.

  39. Mark IV says:

    Jordan F., # 32,

    Gosh, in another few months it will be 2 years since we met. It doesn’t seem like that long to me, how about you? I still remember the way you swung that sledgehammer, and I really appreciated that you later emailed me pictures of your family’s new baby.

    People, if you are ever standing in between Jordan F. and an outside storage shed that needs to be demolished, I strongly advise you to get out of the way. Especially if he is carrying a sledgehammer.

  40. Mike, here’s some sappiness from a stranger. I am glad you’re here, thoughtful and cordial, because it gives me a lot of hope for improved relationships in the future with other people who are gay former Mormons. That hope means a lot.

  41. This is a great post, Mike, and one that hits home. I live far away from most of you and being kind of shy anyway, have never known a “community” at church in any way other than superficialities.

    I love how people are defining their onlinei “friends”. I sometimes say “friend,” when talking about something I’ve read from one of you to a family member or friend. To my husband, it’s become a bit of a funny joke. He nods reassuringly and condescendingly saying, “oh, one of your friends…” as if you were all in my imagination. Well, it’s funny at the time :-)

    Even though I don’t make earth-shakingly intellectual comments or have ton of stuff to say most of the time, I read what’s going on with fervor and delight. I like to listen and think and ponder what’s been said. I enjoy you all very much, and if we are not “friends,” is there or can there be a better word to describe one another?

  42. MikeInWeHo says:

    What great comments. Ana, I’m with you. I hope and pray the day comes when the word “former” isn’t associated with the words gay and Mormon at all. (Don’t want to threadjack my own post, though…!)

    re: 33
    Steve Evans is the Walter Winchell of the Bloggernacle. Or maybe Liz Smith. : )

  43. Nick Literski says:

    Personally, I like the term “gay recovering Mormon” better. ;-)

  44. Jordan F. says:

    Good times, Mark!

  45. Veritas says:

    Awe, shucks, Steve – thanks :)

    And Mike, thanks for the post, its great to spread some love ’round the bloggernacle once in a while!

  46. In no particular order . . .

    The bloggernacle to me is a virtual:

    *chapel foyer where I can catch up on LDS gossip

    *reader’s digest version of ward and family libraries

    *Caffeine-Free Internet Cafe w/fast-breaking LDS news and politics

    *LDS family kitchen table on Sunday- chewing the fat over church that day

    *Cliff Notes and LDS ‘Publishers Weekly’ for LDS books and research (esp. DMI)

    *Prepub and post-pub discussions of LDS journal article ideas-often a stirring pot for them (T&S, FMH, BCC)

    *LDS secret underground philosopher’s cafe with revolutionary ideas man!

    *Crystal ball into the minds and hearts of countless LDS people posting anonymously and spilling their guts. While bloggernacle isn’t a true LDS sampling, I’m always fascinated to see what people actually are saying (especially here on BCC) vs what I’ve EVER heard at church.

    *Mormon graffiti

    *Sometimes an endless Oprah/Donahue show where the audience has 100% of the mic time and is spouting off opinions

    * Mormon version of ‘The Breakfast Club’

    *Multi-stake pot-luck picnic chit-chat

    *The Weasely Family’s Clock which reports on LDS techies with too much time on their hands

    *Informal LDS surveys and polls on various topics
    - maybe just a game of Family Feud

    *Sometimes a trumpet pointed at the ivory tower, but more often an out-of-tune bagpipe, accordion, or hurdy-gurdy just bellerin’ obnoxiously on the corner.

  47. I’ve made some good friends, and certainly have some social and intellectual needs met via the ‘nacle. I’ve met people in person, and even stayed with some when traveling. My wife doesn’t quite get the whole bloggernacle thing, but she’s seen the effects thereof and appreciated them.

  48. Mark IV (24):

    Doesn’t it depend on how you define a bad experience? I admire your ability to see the silver lining. I mean, really, if had been hauled off in handcuffs by the cops like what happened to you that one time, I don’t think I’d have such a rosy outlook…

    What, you want to trade rap sheets now? Why do you think I use a handle ’round these parts? And did you notice I was “conveniently” in New Zealand when you showed up at the UtahSnacker?

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