It's funny that I have hardly blogged this week because I have spent all of my time getting ready for, travelling to and from, and participating in GodBlogCon. I don't know, something just seems ironic about that - it's like a chef who never has time to eat because he's always cooking.
There is lots I could say about GodBlogCon. I wanted to do a post or a series of posts about the people I met. Then I realized that everyone I met was interesting and I could be blogging for days about the people I met. I mean it sincerely when I say that everyone I met there was interesting. It is fascinating to hear the stories of people from different places and points of views.
One thing I want to speak about here is a phenomenon that some of us experienced, and that was the difference between a blogger's online personality and their face to face personality.
Many of the folks there had similar online and face to face personalities. John Schroeder of Blogotional told me that, of all the people he had met, my face to face personality was the most different from my online personality. I think he meant that, online I'm all serious and in person I'm your basic goofball or something like that. I told him "yeah, I get all the seriousness out of my system on the blog." That way I can cut up and have fun in real life. So now you know that, when I write on the blog I am expelling my serious inner demons on you so that I can go have fun in real life.
But apparetly I'm not the only blogger like this. Josh Claybourn seems to be a fellow member of the Society of Bloggers with Multiple Personality Disorder (SOBWMPD) when he quotes Joel Thomas as follows:
I found Josh to be more quiet and subdued than I expected, but very friendly. We had a good conversation, although I probably monopolized the conversation as we talked about the death of my nephew last month, which has put me into something of a deep funk. I experienced Josh as very polite and greatly empathetic. I enjoyed watching him participate live on the Hugh Hewitt show. In speech, he is articulate and concise beyond my public speaking abilities.
I found this to be true about several of the people I met, at least the part about being more quiet and subdued than expected. This was true particularly of Josh, Joe Carter and LaShawn Barber. I mention them in particular because they are what I consider to be the "biggest" Christian bloggers (Hugh Hewitt excepted). And by biggest I mean most influential and most influential over the longest period of time. Whether you like or agree with them they cast a large shadow.
Because they have "large" influence there is a temptation to expect them to have "large" or imposing personalities. Or, we might expect them to act like prima donna's. Again, there is a temptation to think that their "large" sphere of notoriety will translate into a larger than life personality.
But with the three I have mentioned this is not the case at all. I have been in a couple of different social situations with LaShawn Barber lately (to my chagrin I have not had the opportunity to talk with her as in depth as I would like to) and I can tell you that she is a very humble, soft-spoken, good humored lady. The same goes for Joe. Having spent a good deal of time with him at the conference I can tell you that he might disappear in a crowd if you let him. He's actually kind of quiet, doesn't dominate a conversation, and pays attention and is responsive to those who are speaking. Having spent a bit of time with Josh at the conference I agree with Joel's assessment of him. He's brilliant, but in casual conversation he's one of the gang.
Writing, and by extension blogging, can only reveal one, or at most a few aspects of your personality. It is a largely cerebral activity even for those who are not writing on cerebral subjects. Even if you are writing a story or poetry you have to organize your thoughts and transcribe them in a coherent manner.
When you write the way that Joe, Josh and LaShawn write, you are writing to advance an argument. The same goes for me when I am writing on theological topics. To advance an argument you have to state your case clearly and confidently and this is one of the things that makes Joe, Josh and LaShawn so popular. Along with the fact that I think their opinions are usually right, they gain a good deal of popularity by being able to express the things that others believe in a better way than others might express it.
One of the keys to good writing is to say what you have to say clearly and confidently. You won't get many readers if you are writing stuff along the lines of "I think this is my opinion but on the other hand maybe not and even though you disagree with me you could be right and I hope I didn't hurt your feelings by saying what I said." I fell asleep writing that last sentence and so will your readers if you write like that.
Good writers are going to say "this is what I believe, here is why I am right and yes you are wrong if you disagree with me." When people do this well, it may look on paper or computer screen like they are opinionated, arrogant and pompous. And if not that negative it may look like they've got larger than life personalities. This might be the case, but probably not. It's the nature of the beast with writing - when advancing arguments this is what you do.
So, all that is to say that it probably is the case that you are only getting a piece of a person's personality when they blog, the piece that is called forth in order to advance a coherent argument. What I find, and I think what you will find is that, when you get to know these folks they are just regular folks. I spent some time with and had lunch with Mark Roberts and Tod Bolsinger, a couple of guys with PhD's from Ivy League schools who are published authors and are fairly well known in some segments of the Christian church. We actually talked about each other's families and the trials and tribulations of being a husband and father more than we did theology or blogging. Of course, come to think of it, it was probably a mercy that the conversation didn't go in a more intellectual direction with those guys. They went to
Harvaaard and Prinston, and I can spell Harvard and Princeton on a good day.
And since we're only getting a piece of the personality when people blog it's a good thing to remember that this writer that you revere or despise is probably a lot like you, just a regular guy or gal.