To summarize the essay, the writer feels that Catholics should not blog. Why?
1) It's addictive and wastes time, much like television.
2) Anonymous people take great delight in stirring the pot.
3) Snarky comments are encouraged.
4) The English language is greatly maligned.
5) de facto anti-clericalism
I will be the first to admit the Internet is a vast ocean and certain parts of it are nothing less than raw sewage. I think most people who know those spots will try to avoid them. Addiction to pornography is a very serious problem but so are apathetic officials who allow a strip club to open near a school. Problems like these are not relegated to the internet. It only means we as Christians need to be more vigilant than ever.
His point about television is well taken, but I disagree with a straight comparison. Spending hours watching television can be mind-numbing. There is no interaction. Information is coming at the viewer with little time to process or respond. It's straight, in-your-face programming that can negatively affect a person if they don't balance their life with other mental fare.
The internet, however, is a far different animal. Not only does it disperse information, it dissects it, analyzes it, and applies it - sometimes in one fell swoop. The internet connects individuals who otherwise would never have met. (And sometimes that's not a good thing.) Finally, the internet is able to reach a larger audience within a shorter amount of time than any other medium in history. It is an amazing invention, filled with inherent weaknesses but also strengths.
Now, anonymity? Ah, that is truly the bane of many a blogger. Blog software now offers the ability to disallow anonymous comments. Some message boards are enforcing signature rules to prevent them. But I still think a certain degree of anonymity can be helpful, especially if one is discussing controversial developments within a competitive industry. Take for example scrapbooking. (I know, a silly example but bear with me.) The scrapbooking industry went from a small hobby in 1995 to a 2 billion dollar industry today. Along with all that dough comes the pretenders, the wannabes, and the sharks.
There is great competitiveness within the industry to be a member of a design team. Design teams create layouts using their manufacturers products. (Such as paper and embellishments.) But the industry had turned into such a back-biting, hostile environment that some decided to comment anonymously on faceless blogs. Why? If their real name was discovered, it was almost certain they'd be blackballed from future publishing opportunities. Is it fair? Of course not. But I can't blame the ladies for trying to keep hidden so they can earn a few extra bucks for their families.
So perhaps there is someone within a parish who is stuck there but wants to vent anonymously. Of course in a perfect world, it would be great to go to a trusted spiritual adviser, but what if they have none? We are built for relationship and if the only way someone can find it is through the internet, then so be it. It's not perfect but at least it's something.
Snarky comments? Do we really have that much of a thin skin? I've been saddened to see our society descend to lower levels of rudeness but what is the answer? Put someone's head in a half-Nelson until they cry "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned!"? Sure. Like that's going to happen.
As far as the English language being maligned...well, you see what I do to it. Sure, there are many bloggers who Talk. Like. This. But I read them anyway because you never know when you'll stumble upon a life lesson God wants you to learn. He made even the simple wise, so as far as I'm concerned, I try to give everyone equal time.
Finally, the anti-clericalism. Yes, it exists. Is the answer to simply turn off the computer? Why not respond with a thoughtful argument? I have witnessed many such intelligent discussions on various websites and message boards. And yes, people did respect one another. I know. Amazing. But it can happen.
At the end of this fellow's essay, he lamented the fact that good writers couldn't make a living with all the "free content" online. I think this is the real reason for the essay. He's upset because people are spending so much time eating junk food that they can't possibly consume his Filet Mignon. Good writing, he bemoans, is ignored while the masses lap up "dumbed-down" ideas.
I say his complaint is the very same of classical pianists, ballerinas, and barbershop quartets. The masses have always clamored for the simple and easy. Anything that requires thought is usually passed over for the latest Paris Hilton development.
So what's the answer?
Keep ringing the bell. Don't give up and don't abandon the greatest tool of communication the world has ever seen. I came back to the Catholic church precisely because I was online. If it weren't for blogs, I never would have discovered the Traditional Latin Mass, the Roman Missal of 1962, Gregorian Chant, the Divine Hours, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and his Wartime Prayer Book, the saints, the great selection of Catholic newspapers, Theresa Tomeo, Dr. Scott Hahn, EWTN, Ave Maria Radio, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, a "Coming Home" program for Catholics, the right parish for me, a multitude of new online friends...the list could go on.
I'm especially grateful for the friends. God knew I was going to be making a decision that would not be popular with my non-Catholic Christian believers. He also knew I'd need support as I re-entered the atmosphere. Sure enough, He was faithful by providing me the right friends at the right time.
So should Catholics blog? Only if you want to continue Jesus Christ's mandate to find the lost and make sure they hear the good news.
If not, there's probably a "Matlock" episode you can watch.