The variety of comments to one of my recent posts has got me thinking and reflecting... Always an indicator that there is more to be said.
I share with Martin a sensibility about the Quaker blogs I am drawn to.
What unites my favorite blogs is the care and discernment that goes into them. These bloggers are open to those who use unfamiliar language, listening to where the words come from, and they’re curious and open to learning and tender with their comments.I can't resist wondering if Quaker blogging etiquette is qualitatively different from the "generic" blog etiquette that has already been written about.
- from Martin's "Munching on the Wheat"
That said, the Quaker blogosphere that I know and appreciate seems to use an etiquette that has more to do with building caring relationships rather than building a web of hypertext links; writing in order to be faithful rather than writing to be popular, politically correct, or controversial; and encouraging one another to mind the Light rather than pressuring one another to support a political platform.
It's an etiquette based on traditional Quaker practice and Quaker constructs: love, forgiveness, faithfulness, accountability, and Divine prompting.
For what it's worth, here are my own recommendations for Quaker blog etiquette, both for publishing a post on one's own blog and for submitting a comment elsewhere.
1. Show care rather than be impersonal and persuasive. Go ahead: be sentimental and encouraging. In the impersonal world of the internet, an extra effort to express a sense of connection and support goes a long way. Insert statements that mirror feelings or are supportive, and ask questions that draw the other person out: "You certainly seem frustrated." ... "Take it one thing at a time and keep listening for God." ... "Can you say more about this particular item?" Avoid questions that embed one's own point of view, which often start out, "Don't you think...?"
2. Be discerning. Resist the temptation to respond to everything; resist the temptation to make every point that could be made. As a Quaker blogger, one query I return to often is:
Is what I am about to post really what God is wanting me to?3. Self-disclose. The point of self-disclosure, though, is not to step into the lime-light and raise oneself up, but to help the person normalize her or his experience, demonstrating that others have trod a similar path. Sometimes the path of faithfulness can be so lonely, and we maybe can lessen that spiritual aloneness by sharing something equally tender with that person. For example, if a blogger wonders if she or he made the right choice and indicates a feeling of alienation or self-imposed shame, I may include in my comment how I relate to that person: "Your experience reminds me of a time when I went through something similar..."
4. Check out assumptions ...once you've realized you've made them! One way I have caught myself making assumptions has been when I find myself writing, "I think Jane was really wanting to tell me such-and-so." If Jane is a part of my life, I need to stop writing and call her, email her, hold the post until you I see her next week. When making a comment about what someone else has written, if we find ourselves riled up, we may be helped if we can discipline ourselves to back up a step and consider what has pushed our proverbial button. Allowing for the possibility that I am wrong or have misinterpreted something, and checking out my assumptions before using the "publish" or "submit comment" buttons probably has spared me from many angry responses as a result.
Which leads to the next, perhaps more obvious suggested practice:
5. Season the post or comment before putting it on the blog. For comments, preview them (if you have that option; otherwise, re-read them caringly) with the expectation that it is not yet clear what needs to be conveyed or how to convey it. When writing a new post, save a draft of it and return to it at least once or twice for another read-through and revision before publishing it.
6. Read through God's eyes. Change the emotional filter through which the blog is read. Instead of assuming that an author is "spewing," consider how the post or comment might read if the author in fact has good intentions, holds a deep concern, or is writing out of fear rather than anger. Leaving a short inquiry for the blogger can give you space to change your filter and help the exchange along: "I can't tell if you are angry or if you are worried. Can you clarify before I comment?"
7. Be accountable. Sometimes, no matter how much etiquette we employ, no matter how long we wait before posting something, we goof. Like a small pebble that finds its way into our shoe, at some point, we need to stop in our tracks and take a look to see what is making us so uncomfortable. Pull out the pebble and, as needed, make it known to the appropriate person whatever the hurtful or inappropriate behavior was. And don't expect others to appreciate the apology or change their behavior for us. Being accountable is as much--or more--about having a clear relationship between ourselves and God as it is about having a clear relationship between ourselves and another person.
8. GAS CAN: Put the relationship first. This item very much relates back to the first one I mention, about showing care. The acronym GAS CAN is from FGC and it seems it never went anywhere, from what I can tell. I belief it was used for awhile as shorthand to describe the qualities of long-term support committees for Friends who were engaged in ministry:
GuidanceIn my experience, the Quaker blogosphere thrives when we write to one another out of care, support, and nurture. ...And when we allow the Spirit and Love guide us, even in cyberspace.
I hope other fFriendly bloggers out there will chime in with your own particular brand of blog etiquette...
UPDATE, Eleventh Month 2009:
9. Use your real name, or at least a portion of it. Part of what reduces the anonymity of the internet and helps us to be known to one another in the Quaker blogosphere is that many of us have been using our name. Of course, for some of us who have a concern for privacy and internet security--myself included--that gets to be a bit tricky, which is why some of us use our first name and last initial, or we shorten our last name so it won't be [as] searchable through Google.
In addition to the disciplines of accountability and speaking plainly so that we might support one another on- and offline, using our names has been a great help in practical matters to find one another when traveling to events, such as the FGC Gathering. There's one less layer of society to have to peel away when I can know a blogger right away as "Robin" or "Martin" and not as "QuakerFriend" or "FriendlyWorshiper."
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