November 12, 2009

Visibility of established Friends

As I've been catching up a teeny bit on my blog reading, a thread has been piecing itself together for me. Or maybe it's been two or three threads, coming together to add some heft to an observation I've been mullling over...

First, as I mention in my previous post, I came across the proceedings from the 2009 conference on the Emergent and Convergent trends among Friends. The proceedings appear to lack a point of connection or a direct reference to the Quaker blogosphere that had promoted the concept of "Convergent." That apparent omission from the printed proceedings has not left me.

Then I read Martin's comment to that post, in which he explains,

I have a great concern that some of the most embedded institutional Friends (like some of those at the conference) are all but invisible online. Maybe they should jump into more blog conversations...
Shortly after reading his comment, I read Robin M's post on the essentials of Quaker practice, followed by a quick look at the list of blog posts lining up on QuakerQuaker.

Not only is the online community of Quaker bloggers and blog-readers missing out on the voices and perspectives of those long-time established Friends--whether "institutional" or not--but as the number of Quaker blogs grows, it seems that we, as Quaker bloggers, have been falling away from what had been a bit of online etiquette--that of using our name when first introducing the blog or when leaving a comment. Or, if we didn't use our full name, the practice had been that we'd use at least a recognizable part of it.

While crafting this blog post, I updated my post about online etiquette to include my thoughts about the value of using our names when blogging and commenting:
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."
The name stuff is fairly straight-forward to address, but I'm harder pressed to think about the involvement and visibility of long-time, well-known Friends.

Here's part of a comment I left in response to Martin's remarks:
I'm conflicted about the degree of online visibility to afford to "embedded institutional Friends." On the one hand, these long-time Friends and educators most likely have a long and broad perspective that many of us "free-roaming," less institutionalized Friends don't have. It would be wonderful to have their experience reflected in the blogosphere, much like Brent Bill has been offering.

I recall that for a while, Friends' pastor Scott Wagoner was maintaining a blog, and also that every now and then, even Lloyd Lee Wilson would offer a comment.

On the other hand, I also think it's important that more established members of the Religious Society of Friends give space for less established Friends to find their voice and grow into whatever gifts and ministry may have been Given to them. Not to mention that some of [us] early Quaker bloggers have taken up new things--families and careers included--that reduce [our] visibility and presence online...
Maybe it falls to the less established, less institutional Quakers to say plainly, "Hey, we need a guidepost right about now. We're feeling a bit lost. What can you bring to the discussion and conversation that might help...?"

I'd like to think, as the years go by and as my hair is turning whiter, that I'll still be connected to Friends within the meeting and via the Internet. I'd like to think that I'll be willing to speak openly to an issue of concern--all while being "appropriately visible" to the Friends around me and to the body of Friends that may be treading just a few steps behind, to the side, or in front of me.



Martin Kelley said...

Hey Liz: thanks for following up. I'm crazy busy, but a quick reply. I often try to talk about trends I see without pointing at individuals or individual circumstances and sometimes that makes what I say less than clear. By embedded, I was thinking less of the sort of older, established Friends (the Lloyd Lee Wilson types) and more of the younger Friends I know who have formed strong friendship networks that are more-or-less invisible outside Facebook, kitchen hangouts and the occasional wedding or gathering (this is part of what Quaker musician Jon Watts talked about the other week). Maybe someday I can come up for air and talk more about what I mean, this is still forming half-fuzzy in my head, grin!

cath said...

liz--appreciate your effort here to encourage ways to bring together people who are not bloggers or blog-regulars with those who are not.

I have to say, though, that I (not a blogger, not even a blog regular) received enough negative responses to my POV (or attempts to "fix" it) that I simply stop reading blogs for months and only checked in today.

Maybe your book will help to bridge the gap.

cath actually part of my name :)

Robin M. said...

One of the ongoing problems is the difficulty of living one's life fully and documenting it at the same time. Some people are gifted in personal connections and not so much in writing, others are fabulous writers but prickly or shy or bombastic in person.

I wonder if the current crop of young adult public Friends (meaning the ones younger than you and me and Martin) are having too much upheaval in their personal lives to be able to write effectively about their spiritual journeys just yet.

Hystery said...

Robin, such a good point. I'm terribly shy at meetings for worship and at other Friendly gatherings. I am also sad that I don't know many of the Friends I'd like to know because there is no way I could afford to go to the Yearly Meeting or even the more local events. On the other hand, I'm fairly certain that many Friends have gifts to offer that have nothing to do with the organizational stuff associated with Friends...and that's OK too, isn't it? I think there is an historical tendency to underestimate the contributions of individuals who eschew institutional visibility.

Liz, I've commented on my own use of a pseudonym on my blog. For some of us Truth and safety are better served using a nom de plume and I reserve the right to name myself. Of course, I also come from a background in which friends and family often know each other by alternative names as well as legal names.

Liz Opp said...

Martin -

Thanks for clarifying your original remark. I'm curious to learn more of how you think of "embedded" or "institutional" Friends.

Cath -

Gosh, it's good to see you here! I know just the tiniest bit of the journey you've been on... Even the blogosphere is not a perfect setting for communication, and everyone uses blogging--including reading and commenting--with different expectations.

And yes, I'll be curious to learn if or how the book is impacting the online and offline conversations about Quakerism.

Robin -

Another consideration about young(er) Friends--and I have to reflect back some 20 years to think about this--is that their focus may be more on who and what is in their life right here, right now, whether or not there is upheaval going on.

I'm amazed and awed by the young adult Friends who make the choice to travel to a committee meeting for FGC or to plan some Quaker event, for example. That's a lot of time away from local friends, school, and day-to-day being "just" a young person. I don't know if I would have made the same choice back then...

Hystery -

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about the real name/pseudonym quandary. I'll comment over there...


Linda (haven) said...

Hi Liz --
Thanks to you and to the others who commented, for this discussion. I am one of the more invisible Friends who is trying to make connections via the blogosphere, and although it has taken time, I'm pleased with the connections I'm making.

I especially like your comment about being less anonymouse to others. When I began blogging, it was a bit frightening to me, and I wanted that anonymity as a cloak, but as I continued, I saw that it was yet another way of hiding one's light under a bushel. I want genuine relationship, to the degree it is possible over the airwaves!

I try to contemplate deeply the life of Friends both locally and globally, and to listen to how the Light directs me. In that, I'm hungry for connection with other "deep thinkers" in our largely spread out community.

I would welcome comments and dialogue with the more 'institutionalized' friends as I read their works and crave that conversation. I am also always happy to find a new blog (and a possible new friend) of someone just venturing out to try their hand at writing in public.

I think we are blessed to have the world of blogging and websites to help us let each other and strangers know what we are up to. We have a valuable and potent message for the current world, and I for one am a believer in the small efforts of many individuals contributing to a large change.