A few weeks ago, I talked about how blogging has opened my eyes to the little bubble in which I live - there are so many women out there whose blogs have given me glimpses into lives I can't begin to understand. I think you'll all agree, dear readers, that I'm generally not afraid of sharing my mind on my own patch of the internet, but sometimes I do wonder what the point is of speaking out if most of my readers and commenters come from backgrounds and belief systems similar to my own. Of course I'm not looking for an argument or for controversy, but sometimes I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.
You read my blog by choice, and I'm deeply honored by that. I love that so many of you jumped in with your comments on my I Believe post with explanations or your own faith and your own struggles, and I was delighted especially when Georgia identified with an organized religion. Honestly, though, I was sort of hoping that someone - anyone - would have left a comment saying, as a blogger who I'll leave anonymous here emailed me back in February, "not all truth is relative... there are eternal laws that govern humans whether we recognize them or not [and] true and lasting happiness comes only from God." It's possible that no one responded to my posts (or to any of the amazing comments that you left) with anything like that because they were scared; they didn't feel comfortable enough to enunciate their beliefs or they didn't feel it was a safe space to share disagreements. But I'm not sure that's the case. I suspect that no one commented like that because, no matter what we say, many bloggers don't actually want a respectful debate because it's easier to willfully misunderstand each other than to find common ground.
Kristen, who blogs at milo and molly, wrote a post recently on speaking out where she asked, "Do you comment if you don't agree with the post?" And before the last week or so, I would have said yes. I almost always do reply to blog posts that present a different view than the one I hold because I think it's healthy to discuss our differences and to hear other opinions, especially if we're tempted to stay inside our bubbles - blogging can and should be a way to broaden our horizons, and that only happens when we open ourselves to alternate mindsets. But blogging can also be incredibly insular. When we preach to the choir and all we hear in response is "amen," I think blogging becomes dangerous; we become more entrenched in our own beliefs with no regard for the validity of others'.
So how do you pop the bubble in which is a blogger is hiding? How do you encourage respectful debate when others don't want to engage? Last week, I reached the end of my patience with another blogger, the same one I quoted above. She often writes from a moral and intellectual place that is completely foreign to me, and I read her blog frequently for quite some time because I wanted to understand where she was coming from. Often, I left honest comments stating an alternate (and sometimes opposing) position on meaningful issues that she shared. But last week, after I drafted a response to a post she wrote that, actually, made me slightly angry, I realized that there was no point in publishing my comment because her post wasn't meant to inspire a conversation. Beyond that, even if I had tried to take up a dialogue in response to her post, I would have received, at best, blank politeness, something along the lines of, "well, that's your opinion and this is mine." (By the way, Kristen wrote a post about this sort of blogging, too!) And so, with the help of some wonderful friends both online and off, I finally accepted the fact that responding with all off my righteous indignation, no matter how respectfully shared, was a waste of energy.
That worries me, to be honest, because I hope that blogging will be broadening for all of us. I want to hear from others who disagree with me and I want to feel free to disagree with others; after all, we learn and grow by questioning and by being questioned. But by not commenting on this blogger's post last week - and, in fact, by finally unfollowing her altogether - I have stepped back into my own bubble. That's the last thing I want, but I don't know what else do to. It takes two to tango, and I feel like there aren't enough partners out there.
This isn't one of my essay-like posts, where I analyze everything and then come to a conclusion. (It's also not one of those posts where I don't mix my metaphors horribly - sorry about that!) I have no conclusion, dear readers. I really don't know what the answer is to this. Do you? I'd love to hear your thoughts - because, while my bubble is awfully comfortable and safe, I don't want to be Boo Radley.