Blogs: Bitter Rantings or Vehicles for Change?

By: Jake
September 29, 2011

“YSA – Where an expression of an opinion means someone will get offended and a difference of an opinion means the end of a friendship.”

There has here been a wave of discussion on a couple of posts concerning single adults and the role of online forums in expressing criticism of the church. These conversations have prompted me to think about how we raise and deal with criticism.  It was suggested that Facebook groups, blogs and other unauthorised online forums do little to accomplish change and are bitter rants that cause contention and confusion. According to some, blogs should only be used as an extension of missionary efforts and as part of the process in sharing the gospel.

In this post I wish to consider a phenomena that has appeared amongst the British Young Single Adults (YSAs) over the past six months that demonstrates the role that they can play and how they can actually help to make change within church culture.

FML YSA (cached version may be found here) was a facebook page that was created in April. The author and origins of the page are veiled in mystery. Although there are a select few who have been involved in it, including me, the author still remains clouded in enigma. At its height, the page was drawing in 600 views a day, a vast chunk of the YSA population in the UK (considering at the most recent national convention there were 570 attendees, and the average UK dance brings in around 300 people).  It was highly discussed amongst YSA with polarised reactions.  FML YSA was devoted to making fun of the YSA culture in the UK. Reactions were divided between praise for saying what many had been thinking about UK YSA culture and those who saw it as a group of anti-Mormon apostates ranting about the church.

The YSA culture in the UK is peculiar as it is spread over a vast geographical area with only 4-10 young single adults in most wards, therefore, to meet other YSA involves travelling vast distances. At university it was always entertaining when I told my friends that I was going to travel to London (112 miles away) for a dance that evening, and that I was going to return the same evening (that’s about 4 hours driving in total). It seems incredible and insane; yet, for most this is accepted as part of being a YSA.

YSA culture in the UK also creates a pseudo-American culture. There is a fetishisation of all things American:  root beer, Krispy Kreme donuts and Hollister clothing. As one commented on FML YSA: “It’s so sad that the Y.S.A experience here in Blighty is consistently an echo of the American deal.” FML YSA observed: “I’m not saying we’re an Americanised church but if we were British through and through, we’d have five-a-side goals [used for football/soccer] in our cultural halls, not basketball nets.”

FML YSA highlighted these absurdities that had infiltrated YSA culture. It made fun of the fact that we drove so far for a dance and then when we arrived would spend most of the time out in the corridors talking instead of dancing. Why drive 100 miles to stand in a corridor?  It was also noted that 1 in 2 people at a YSA dance would be wearing something from Hollister.

The things raised by FML YSA were cultural issues. Whilst critics said singles should go to the leaders to point these issues out, what can leaders do about what clothes people choose to wear? Nothing. As much as I would love a general authority to get up and tell YSA that they should be original and not all wear the same brand of clothing, it’s just not going to happen. Authority cannot change culture; cultural change comes through individual efforts to change it. Blogs and other online forums articulate cultural issues that otherwise go unquestioned.

Another issue raised by FML YSA was the superficiality that pervades the YSA culture.  As one commenter said:

“We all have “friends” in the YSA that we only associate with because we’re all members of the Church. You know the kind, social leeches basically. If you’re thinking “I don’t have any friends like that” then you’re one of them.”

Another comment discussed YSA who are really friendly for the first minute then start looking over your shoulder for someone else to talk to, leaving you to wonder:  “Am I really that boring that after a minute you are tired of talking to me?!?”  This kind of artificial friendship drives people out of the YSA program.  As one commenter said, “I’ve only been a member for four months and already I want to leave YSA . . . There are far too many self righteous hypocrites running around.”

These social observations made me think twice about my behavior at dances.  That was one thing that made FML YSA so compelling:  recognising ourselves in the criticism.  But there were some who had difficulty laughing at themselves.  This is a key reason some disliked the site: they couldn’t face the truth about their own behaviour.

As the popularity of FML YSA grew, a similar sized group of haters grew. One of them said that “this has gone from generally laughing at the fact how Latter-day Saints luv Krispy Kremes to it being labeled as anti-Mormon.”  Another critic said:

“FML YSA is evil, and a slippery slope into inactivity, first you will make jokes about ride my pony1, then you’ll criticize your leaders because you saw them wearing Abercrombie, next you’ll disagree with your bishop for appointing said leader as YSA rep, and the next thing you know you’re strumbling through an alley, high on opiates, cursing Joseph Smith.”

These critics often conceded that whilst most of what was said was accurate and true, they didn’t think it should be discussed, because it was negative about the church. Speak no evil; see no evil. But by not talking about it, the problem is never addressed or corrected.  On one of the lengthy debates about the value of FML YSA one said that “these things can be brought up to leaders, does that mean we cannot joke about them too? This is in no way criticising the church or its leaders, at most it is a criticism of YSA reps and organisers choice of activities, who are actually our friends and peers, it is not a malicious attack on them personally.”  Yet, critics had no difficulty slandering the site authors who were committed to making the YSA culture better as anti-Mormon.  To create awareness, cultural criticism must be public. FML YSA used humor to make the young single adults think — to question the habits of culture.

Likewise, blogs such as this one allow people to express their frustrations and make others think about them. Perhaps those who dismiss blogs and Facebook groups are right that they accomplish little, but I have noticed less Hollister at YSA activities (the ratio is down from 1 in 2 wearing it to more like 1 in 6), and it has made me think about what I do that contributes to the YSA culture.  FML YSA also gave encouragement to those who disliked the culture but felt like the only person; they knew that others felt the same.  In bringing cultural criticism into the open, people could feel more connection and hope.  To me this is one examples of how blogs and Facebook groups can be a vehicle for positive change within our culture.

What do you think? What role do Facebook groups and blogs have? Do they just result in confusion and contention? How can blogs and Facebook pages help to improve us as members?

  1. “Ride my pony” is one of the many pointless games that are played in YSA in the UK. Here is a clip that demonstrates how inane and ridiculous it is.  Another game that is often played is ninja, which is covered here in this blog.

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21 Responses to Blogs: Bitter Rantings or Vehicles for Change?

  1. me on September 29, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    i have no problem with criticism of anything. anything worthwhile should stand up to scrutiny. were anti slavery or anti hitler people just being haters? of course now we look at them as heros, but back then they were totally hated on.

    most of it seems like arbitrary line drawing. my family members dont like me saying that Jesus’ church shouldn’t spend $7 billion on a mall. but, they probably wouldnt object to me criticizing if the church was killing people. so, its just a matter of where you draw the line.

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  2. Anon on September 29, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    Me,

    Perhaps you would receive less pushback for your views if you had your facts straight….City Creek Center costs about 1/7 of the amount you quoted, none of it being paid for with tithing funds or other donations.

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  3. NewlyHousewife on September 29, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Anon: If not tithing or donations, then where did the money come from? (I thought it was a donation thing)

    Honestly, this type of thing drives me nuts. Being labeled “Anti-Mormon” for speaking an opinion is a slap in the face for the accused, and a clear sign of ignorance in the accuser. But you can’t point out the ignorant because that’s just mean. Gak.

    Until a GA says something about reading blogs, I’m going to assume they’re clueless with technology just enough to have no idea such things as W&T exist and are unable to comment on any problems. Online forums help create a sense of community otherwise not available.

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  4. Will on September 29, 2011 at 10:24 PM

    Anon,

    Great comment. I can’t give you thumbs up from my phone, so I will do it with this comment.

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  5. Molly on September 30, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    “Blogs: Bitter Rantings or Vehicles for Change?”

    Both? I doubt that the bloggernacle will ever bring institutional change in the LDS church, but social media seems to be very helpful to individuals. The bloggernacle seems to be the foyer people sit in outside the chapel of conformity. Some remain there, making their peace with their non-mainstream views. Others, after sitting a while, finally wonder what they are doing and leave the building. Journaling in general is good for people, and blogging provides a fairly safe way to express thought.

    “According to some, blogs should only be used as an extension of missionary efforts and as part of the process in sharing the gospel.”

    This utilitarian view of writing is why Mormon artists are unknown outside of Mormon circles. Laughably it’s also a theory of art perfected by the goll durn pinko commies:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_realism

    “YSA culture in the UK also creates a pseudo-American culture. There is a fetishisation of all things American: root beer, Krispy Kreme donuts and Hollister clothing.”

    COR. GAHH. So painfully true. Were we in the same YSA ward back in the day? Root beer makes me gag. And yet I was forced to ingest root beer floats because we couldn’t have a proper pint.

    “At university it was always entertaining when I told my friends that I was going to travel to London (112 miles away) for a dance that evening, and that I was going to return the same evening (that’s about 4 hours driving in total).”

    Especially considering that thirty minutes is considered a long drive for most Brits.

    “These critics often conceded that whilst most of what was said was accurate and true, they didn’t think it should be discussed, because it was negative about the church.”

    This attitude is horribly Orwellian and is a hallmark of abusive personalities and organisations. If there is a problem, an abuser will blame the whistleblower rather than addressing the dysfunction.

    “FML YSA used humor to make the young single adults think — to question the habits of culture.”

    Art and humour as subversive techniques — lovely. I’m sad to see the site go for this reason. Joseph Smith seemed eager to play a role as an innovator. It would be a shame to see young people bowing to stale conservatism.

    “What do you think? What role do Facebook groups and blogs have? Do they just result in confusion and contention? How can blogs and Facebook pages help to improve us as members?”

    Critics shouldn’t mistake healthy dialogue for “confusion and contention”. One of the major things the LDS church is lacking in general at the moment is any means to openly discuss problems within the church. All people reaching adulthood from now on will not have lived without the Internet and the open communication it fosters. Organisations that don’t realise this is now a major part of how people communicate are going to lose membership. Honest communication can only improve individuals and the groups that they belong to.

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  6. hawkgrrrl on September 30, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    I know firsthand that sites like StayLDS and blog communities have made it possible for otherwise hopeless individuals who felt they didn’t fit in to find ways to make the church work for them. Finding like-minded individuals helped them to see that not everyone is a mindless conforming Stepford-like robot. Using media for missionary work is fine, too, but not without its own perils and it’s certainly not going to help members feel connected to each other.

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  7. Aaron R. on September 30, 2011 at 6:16 AM

    “FML YSA is evil, and a slippery slope into inactivity, first you will make jokes about ride my pony1, then you’ll criticize your leaders because you saw them wearing Abercrombie, next you’ll disagree with your bishop for appointing said leader as YSA rep, and the next thing you know you’re strumbling through an alley, high on opiates, cursing Joseph Smith.”

    Easily one of the funniest things I have ever read online. I sincerely hope this was a joke.

    I’m sad that I did not hear about the group before now. It is difficult for me to comment on the content of the group specifically, but I think most blogs or fb groups are neither bitter rants or vehicles for change. Most people are pretty sincere in expressing their emotion and try to do so constructively, even if that is not always to my tastes, and ‘bitter rants’ are rare. However, I just think that most internet content is too superficial and overloaded to be more than a diversion for most people most of the time. Perhaps the biggest problem with this group was people taking it too seriously.

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  8. Stephen Marsh on September 30, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    Until a GA says something about reading blog — one actually did and encouraged people to blog as well ;)

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  9. Jeff Spector on September 30, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    “The bloggernacle seems to be the foyer people sit in outside the chapel of conformity.”

    Wow, I like this description. Probably very true.

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  10. Phil L on October 1, 2011 at 2:13 AM

    I don’t see why you have a problem with American culture. Zion after all will be in America, so when Zion is established it will be Americanised and so it has a divine seal of approval. By criticizing it, you are essentially criticizing God. If you understood the divine role of America you, and the online group, would have spent less time criticizing God’s church and land.

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  11. Jake on October 1, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    NewlyHouseWife,

    “Being labeled “Anti-Mormon” for speaking an opinion is a slap in the face for the accused, and a clear sign of ignorance in the accuser. But you can’t point out the ignorant because that’s just mean.”

    I always find myself in this dilemma. I have decided that it is my duty to make them aware of any ignorance and that need overrides the danger it might offend.

    It should be pointed out that when the GA encouraged us to blog. It was to be used as in a faith promoting way. It was to use it as a missionary tool rather then an expression of frustrations, or difficulties in the LDS church.

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  12. Glass Ceiling on October 2, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    Jake,

    Give ‘em ten years. When they realize that most are still single or inactive, then they will change their opinion about those trying to make positive change. Fact is, the singles program in America is sad at best too . For all age groups. Singles have yet to realize that they themselves hold the key: they are the ones who can and should make change because no one cares more than them. It is quite literally their problem. They should stop waiting for permission.

    Joseph Smith said to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Trying to find functional ways to help folks live their religion…even if it requires taking a hard look at current institutionalized dysfunction, is a good cause. And was that not much of JS’s legacy anyway?

    Our Church seems to be in the threshold of growing up. I believe blogs can help in this process, but it will take a few years. Blogs are too new to make wide predictions of their utility yet. But I feel comfortable in saying that they are changing the conversation, which eventually will change people’s will to open their mouths in real-time, which may eventually put pressure on those in charge. But it will take much time. As far as singles go in this equation though , many will suffer before things get fixed. Many have for generations, and many do now. It’s a sad, dirty secret that is becoming a bit more painfully obvious even to the casual observer. Thank Heaven.

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  13. Phil S on October 4, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Great Article

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  14. FML YSA on October 7, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    FML YSA will rise again…

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  15. Andrew S on October 7, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    ^this discussion just got real.

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  16. hawkgrrrl on October 7, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Glass Ceiling – maybe we need a foreign exchange program for singles. Because while I was surprised the Brits would copy American culture, we all know Americans are huge anglophiles, right-o guvnah? It’s a win-win. Marriages will abound. Former flaws will be viewed as sexy and cool. Everyone’s happy!

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  17. FML YSA on October 8, 2011 at 3:24 PM
  18. Jake on October 9, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    Hawkgrrrl and Glass ceiling.

    I think a foreign exchange programme will work. Of the three Americans who I know who came over here to study they all got married whilst here. That’s a 100% success rate. We get American culture and you get a spouse.

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  19. Joel Sparks on October 16, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Profound mate, very profound.

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  20. Emmie on October 25, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    “. . . There are far too many self righteous hypocrites running around.”

    This. This is one of the key reasons I decided to take a huge step back from the church. I wish I had known about FML YSA sooner, it does make me feel a little better.

    I don’t think groups and blogs can help that much, it’s too easily perceived as contention. Those who feel like a change in ysa culture needs to happen need to make the effort. I know it’s hard, I don’t pretend to have any enlightened answers. All I know is, all the way through youth and the beginnings of ysa all I experienced was exclusion and singling out of people who don’t fit the hollister stereotype and that HAS to stop.

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  21. x1134x on January 6, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    In a somewhat related medium, the surge in approval for medical marijuana, and marijuana re-legalization in general is due to the fact that the vast user population now has a vehicle to voice their facts without fear of reprisal for those facts: online blogs and comments. Its hard to brag about busting “tons of pot” or “millions of dollars of coke” when the users can report back that the price and availability of their drug was completely unaffected.

    being able to voice logical opinion without being ranted down by the horde is a valuable part of the internet. The fact that it is permanent and uncensored leads to all logical arguments being brought to LOGICAL conclusions rather than propaganda feeding the masses the party line.

    I also believe blogs to be responsible for the unsettling within the republican party.

    In my humble opinion, though many discussions do contain rhetoric, vitriol and trolling, they also usually conclude on logical truth, and refute all the rhetoric. Its just ugly to have to read the vitriol within the logic to some.

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