Archives For blogging

In the years I’ve been using the web, I’ve learned a thing or two about online communication. Of course, much of what I’ve discovered has been purely by trial and error, and some of those lessons have come at a price.

As a pastor, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How do you blog and tweet and Facebook without offending people or turning them off?” My answer: I don’t. There are always people who disagree with my message or stance on some particular issue. The online environment is harsh. People often say things through email and online forums that they’d never say face-to-face. Over time, I’ve put together 10 primary rules that guide my online interactions:

1. Be yourself. Judy Garland put it well when she said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” I am who I am. I’m still a work in progress, full of flaws and shortcomings. However, it is to no one’s advantage for me to try and pretend to be something I’m not. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, and that’s an important need in online relationships as well as in the real world.

2. Be smart. I assume that everything I say or do online can be tracked and recorded (and probably is). With that in mind, I must be careful how much I share — particularly personal information regarding my family. Use common sense, and err on the side of caution.

3. Be transparent. Transparency is vital for any sort of meaningful relationship. Of course, there are different levels of transparency. You have to be wise in determining your own parameters about what you share about yourself.

4. Be bold. Fence-straddlers are boring. No one wants to read about people who can’t make up their minds on issues that matter. I take bold stands, knowing that some (and perhaps many) will disagree with me. Of those people, some will be deeply offended. I don’t apologize for my positions or my passion. My goal in life is not to be liked by everyone. So far I’m doing pretty good at that one.

5. Be engaging. Interaction is fun! I almost always reply to comments, and I make a point to comment on the writings of others as well. The communication super-highway is designed to be a two-way street.

6. Be informed. I don’t write about things about which I’m clueless. I read a lot and research specifics of particular issues. You should too.

7. Be helpful. I try to be helpful to people in whatever ways I can be. I just see that as an extension of the Golden Rule.

8. Be encouraging. I look for the good in others — even when I disagree with them. And I try to be a ‘builder-upper.’

9. Be respectful. I don’t engage in hateful tirades and character assassinations — even with those who don’t treat me with the same grace. (But I don’t tolerate bullying in any shape or form. And on my blog and social media outlets, I get to decide how far is too far.)

10. Be responsible. I can only be responsible for me. As a follower of Christ, I want to represent Him well. This is the cornerstone of EVERYTHING.

What are some of your own rules for online communication?

100Well, today is my 100th post on my blog. And I want to use this space to share some insights I’ve learned from my blogging experiences.

Blogging is, for me, a form of personal therapy. I have always been someone who thinks deeply, and sometimes it just helps to put it in writing.

Anyway, here are ten main things I’ve learned during my time in the blogosphere, in no particular order:

  • Not everyone cares what I think. (Mind you, I already knew that, but sometimes when I check the stats on my blog, I really realize how little my opinion matters.) And apparently, my wife doesn’t care a whole lot what I think about most things. (Love you, babe!)
  • Every post either adds to or detracts from the overall quality of the blog. And I’m not always able to accurately judge which it will do. In fact, I’m frequently amazed at the posts that drive the most traffic — as well as the ones which apparently interest very few.
  • People do judge you based on your blog, just as they judge based on your clothing, hairstyle, etc.
  • People don’t tend to leave comments on my blog. There are many people who read it, because I hear them talking about it — to me or to my wife or my friends. And they’ll occasionally hit the “like it” button on Facebook or make a comment there. But taking the time to log in just to leave their two cents’ worth is not something that appeals to most people.
  • Less is more. While I have lots of things to think about and write about, the fewer words I can say it in, the better the chances that someone else will actually read it. And I’m the same way with other things I read.
  • Building a blog readership requires discipline. I tend to write in waves. Sometimes I write a lot, and then I’ll have a ‘dry spell’ or an ultra-busy time in which I write nothing at all.
  • I really am a pretty opinionated person, not that there’s anything innately wrong with that. It’s just a fact!
  • Word choice is important. Sometimes I spend a long time searching for just the right word or phrase to properly communicate a feeling or point I’m trying to convey. Blogging, at least the way I do it, is not just a haphazard kind of hobby; it requires time and effort.

The most important thing I’ve learned from blogging is that I absolutely must be myself. I have good days. I have bad days. I might be a minister, but I struggle through life in much the same way as everyone else. And I make it through some of those days merely by the grace of God!

I know that many of you have been reading regularly for quite a while. If so, thanks for spending some time with me. Thank you for allowing me to be transparent and to use the gift of writing that I believe God has given me. If you’re new to this site, welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy my posts and take time to interact.

I’m ready to see what subjects we explore together in the next 100 posts!