I did not realize until today that it had been three weeks since I last wrote a blog post. Granted, this doesn't mean I haven't been online. I have been keeping track of the controversy regarding Exodus' involvement in a conference in Uganda and Alan Chambers' rather misguided comments about spinsters living together. I just haven't felt too much need to write a post about either, especially when so many other fantastic bloggers have been.
In general, I am finding that the Internet -- and blogging in particular -- is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I have encountered great and encouraging people whose stories and words of wisdom have greatly affected my life. Even better, I have been able to interact with these folks. It's not like I'm just reading an editorial column or a novel. I can do more than just write a letter and hope that I get a response. I can comment and argue with the author right then and there. In some cases, I can chat with them and e-mail personally, and it makes for a rather unique connection with an individual whom, unlike most people I know in the offline world, I did not go to school with, live with, or work with.
The downside is that I say I "know" the folks that I've built online connections with, but I'm not quite sure I do. People who have made these kinds of connections with me are probably aware that I am rather mistrustful of online friendships, despite being in several. Part of this has to do with the obvious difficulties of getting across tone and authenticity through writing, which is a skill that most people don't even have really in part (and I include myself in that). Another part of it has to do with my perceived necessity to see, touch, and hear someone in order to say I've built a relationship with them. Even though the readers of my blog know more about me objectively (in terms of my views and experiences), I just have a feeling that if they just had a twenty-minute conversation with me over coffee, they would know so much more even if I couldn't get into all the hard details.
That being said, I think an online connection with another person can be a valuable relationship, but it has to be approached in a different manner than a regular friendship. What this manner entails, I'm not quite sure. I do think that it's awesome that I've met so many diverse individuals. Where else would an extremely conservative Christian single mom from San Diego and a gay atheist from Ireland talk to me at once? But I also think that it would be better if I could sit down with individuals like this and have our arguments in person. After all, anonymity makes people bolder, and respect and grace are often lost in the competition to prove oneself correct. I am far too guilty of this myself.
So what do you guys think of this relatively recent phenomenon of online connectivity? I'm looking at it from a particularly Christian perspective, because I'm not sure how one can experience fellowship with folks online. But I'd be interested just to hear what anyone who has made friends over the Internet has to say.