I began this catholic dialogue blog on December 8, 2010. This anniversary came and went without my notice until I sat down to write about Pope Francis’s Tweet below.
I was a big believer in the internet and social media as tools for uniting humanity and networking for good works. Today, I’m not so sure that I share Pope Francis’s optimistic hope for “spaces that are rich in humanity”. The internet is becoming more inhuman and inhumane as the years go by. Malicious software and malicious humans prowl the net spreading misinformation and attacking all in their path.
And yet, there is still good to be found. There are voices speaking out for justice, peace and equality. Calls to unite for resistance. Ideas to ponder. Reflections to encourage. Experiences to share.
I embraced the internet early. VERY early. Hubby arranged for a dial-up connection for me as a birthday present. We were one of the first families in our small town to get connected. I can’t remember the exact year. It was some time in the mid 1990’s. What I do remember is the excitement of hearing the other-worldly sounds of the modem connecting through our phone line. If you’re nostalgic for the old martian sounds, here’s a brief walk down memory lane:
The connections and downloads were painfully slow and tied up the phone line (a serious issue in our family of seven.) The initial subscription came with a 30 hour/month limit. But, I was hooked. At the time I was completing distance courses in theology, and was eager to check out resources online. I ventured into a catholic chat room, eager for good discussions and a chance to test my knowledge. I didn’t expect the depth of passion (obsession!) of some participants. This was my first encounter with militant apologetics. I quietly sneaked out the back door and did not return.
My work in Marianist leadership began in 1997, when I was elected communications co-ordinator for the Marianist Lay Network of North America. The internet was brand new. Friends in the social justice world were quick to criticize the inequality of access to online communications, but I firmly believed in the potential of networking across the miles, languages and cultures.
As I transitioned into international leadership, the internet became even more vital. Relationships and friendships were formed through emails. It was such a joy to eventually meet email friends face to face at meetings. International communications became easier as more and more countries were connected online. Language became less of a barrier with online translating machines. Documents and news were sent back and forth in seconds.
The internet was also the spring-board for my humble writing journey. First, the blog. Then came the wonderful invitation from Maureen Weber at the Prairie Messenger to write a column for the paper. This was soon followed by an invitation from Dennis Coday to write for the NCR Today blog. Sadly, life circumstances curtailed my writing in the past few years, but I owe a debt of gratitude to both Maureen and Dennis for their faith in me.
Today, the ideas are many but the writing is still sporadic. The internet is both friend and foe. It provides me with countless resources to read and ponder each day, but it also consumes my time, my mind, my energy and my creativity. Just one more click! Just one more article! Just a quick check for updates!
The hostility of online writing and discussion boards keeps degenerating into mindless ad hominem attacks, even from people that I otherwise admire. Much needed dialogue is replaced with echo chambers; like-minded people whipping each other into a frenzy of anger and hatred at the “other side”. Our short attention spans bypass serious, in-depth journalism to click on the latest outrageous comment, usually without context or back-ground.
Several times over the past few years I’ve been tempted to “get off the grid” completely. No Twitter. No blogging. And yet…
I believe in the adage of praying/pondering with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. It is important to stay up to date on current affairs. Hiding our heads in the sand does not make the bad news go away. I can, though, try to control when and how much I read the news.
Each day, whether I write or not, people find their way to this blog. These readers come from around the world. Sometimes (often) they are connecting to past writings. They make their way here via search engines, looking for articles on various “things catholic”. Some stay and read a few extra articles. (Thanks, WordPress stats!) So, catholicdialogue.com will continue to plod along. Perhaps, hopefully, it will regain some its past energy. What paths will it take as it enters its 8th year? I don’t know.
For all who have followed faithfully for so long…
For all who have been kind enough to stop by for a quick visit…
For all who have been generous enough to Like or comment on a post…
Thank you…and God bless!