Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Engaging (Nervously) in the World's Most Dangerous Hobby

Does anyone here know what the world's most dangerous hobby is?


[Hint: You're reading the end-result of it.]

That's right, folks... In my never-to-be-humble opinion, blogging is the world's most dangerous hobby. Forget sky diving, tornado chasing, any of that - blogging can run those around the block, danger-wise. 

And why is such a humble hobby dangerous?

It's dangerous because it is a combination of writing (which gives anyone a big chance to start fights, wound feelings, garner oodles of hate mail, and make big mistakes in front of a large audience), and the internet, which grants an instantly worldwide audience, no matter what one has to say or how unwise it is to say it.

And the combination of those two gives any blogger in question the ability to make an utter chump of herself in front of large numbers of people. 

I realized a few days ago that I have now had this blog for over five years. I've written over seven hundred posts (plus over 550 posts on my other blog). It's been a great experience, and I've grown a lot during that time and thoroughly enjoyed my time in the blogosphere. I hope to keep it up for many years to come.

But I've also had many, many embarrassing moments as a blogger. Especially in my earlier days as a blogger, I published waayyy too many personal details - identifying details (this was before I realized how many crazy people are on the internet), too-personal details, details that should have been kept privately within my family and not broadcast. 

As a matter of fact, when I started this post, I went back through my blog and deleted some material that has long been a matter of embarrassment to me. And I kept my eyes half-closed as I did so, because I really didn't want to see all of the too-many-details that I tended to post in my early blogging days. 

Blogging is akin to Facebook in that way - how many times have I woken up in the middle of the night thinking, "Oh my goodness, I can't believe I posted THAT on Facebook!

The same goes for blogging. 

Blogging is a dangerous also in its propensity to cause unintended hurt feelings. I know of one blogger who started a blog as a way to process the loss of her baby (a term stillbirth). Though she did not say anything unreasonable, the end result was that her entire family (who read her blog) was furious with her. Family takes things personally, even things that are not aimed at them - and this is one of the reasons that I do not share this blog with my family. It's not worth the unintended hurt feelings. 

(This is one of the reasons that I often suggest to potential bloggers that they wait to tell all of their acquaintances about their blogs. If they are going to be publishing highly emotional, political, or controversial material, it may be better - or at least less risky - to blog anonymously.)

Another danger of blogging is the ability to post really, really, really stupid things without any safeguards to prevent us from making idiots of ourselves. (Ask me how I know.) Unlike published authors, we don't have editors and proof-readers to keep us on the straight and narrow. 

Thankfully, I've learned one ironclad rule - If I write anything in an emotional state (indignation, anger, fear, etc.) and publish it right away, I will later look back and regret that I published it (or, more likely, be in a state of absolute humiliation and embarrassment that I did so). Period. I have learned (or at least am learning) to wait 24 hours before publishing anything written while emotional - and inevitably, after those 24 hours, I either delete the entry or greatly tone down the language (usually the former). 

In fact, I've started pre-writing all of my entries by at least 24 hours, and it has been a big help - and a big preventer of blog-post-regret (the "What was I THINKING?" hangover). Not only do I usually get to trim out a few grammar and/or spelling errors, but cutting out emotional language is always a big improvement - more rationality, less irrational ranting emotionalism. 

A half-year ago or so, I made a really big blogging OOPS. I read something online that had me seeing red, quickly typed up a biting response, and hit "publish." Thankfully it was only up for about two minutes before I realized my own idiocy and deleted it (hopefully none of you read it before I took it down). After that, I calmed down, had a conversation with the blogger whose post had so angered me, and realized that she wasn't saying the things I had thought anyway!

*Awkward moment.*

Thankfully, things like that are rare. That may have been a one-time event (I certainly hope so!). But whether it's friends, family, or other bloggers who make us mad, the potential for hurting feelings, damaging relationships, and causing other problems (online and in real life) is very real. Bad things happen. And as a blogger, I sometimes realize my mistakes only in hindsight. 

And I don't even run a particularly controversial blog! If I did... oh, goodness gracious. Let's not even go there.

Or rather, let's side-track just a minute. As a matter of fact, I'd love to run a controversial blog! Wouldn't that be fun? Like all of us, I have strong opinions - and mine run toward the extreme-conservative side. I could probably shock most of my readers - even the conservatives among us - with the extent of my conservative leanings!

But, to be frank, I don't have the thick skin needed. And I don't think I could handle the hate mail that comes with expressing strong opinions frequently and openly on the web. And I don't have the time or emotional energy to field the arguments that inevitably break out in the comments section. And while I definitely believe that strong opinions need to be expressed and defended, I would be hurting and neglecting my primary ministries (that is, my marriage and family) if I sacrificed my time and/or emotional well-being in order to do so. For now, I'll have to leave most of the issues-debates to those who have the time and/or thick skin to deal with them effectively.

In the meantime, I'll have to deal with the other inherent risks of blogging. Blogging is fun. But it's risky. It's definitely a hobby to handle with care. And when it goes bad... it goes really bad really quickly.

How do you bloggers out there handle the emotional and relational risks inherent in blogging? What are your experiences? Let me know! I'd love to hear!

No blog post is complete without a picture of a really cute baby, however off-topic! 

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