It’s a Small(er) World After All

by: Guest Author

November 9, 2011

Today’s guest post is by long-time commenter Paul. You can find his own blog at

The bloggernacle, the world of LDS blogging, became just a little smaller for me last week.

I had lunch with jmb275, a W&T perma. It was great to put a name and face with a blogger id. Thanks to jmb for the suggestion we meet.

It happened that I mentioned Ann Arbor, Michigan in a comment on a post here at W&T a while ago, and jmb asked if I lived there. Turns out I live east of Ann Arbor and he is just west. We met for lunch at a sandwich place and learned a little bit about one another. I learned, for instance, that although I complained about the cold weather on my mission in Germany, I had nothing on jmb who served his mission in Russia (yikes). And I learned a bit more about Wheat & Tares.

Of course the blogging community is huge, and even the LDS blogging community is unwieldy for me. I’ve identified a few blogs that I like. Some are subject- or point of view-specific, authored by one person, like Keepapitchinin or Middle-aged Mormon Man.

Others are group blogs like W&T, featuring multiple authors and many themes and ideas.  W&T has a fairly diverse group of regular bloggers who are linked by their connection to the LDS community. Some would be change agents in the church; some seem to like to stir up discussion; some blog from specific personal experience (well, I suppose all of them blog from specific personal experience).

Frankly, I’m not wild about every voice at W&T or at the other group blogs I follow, but I like the fact that there are a variety of voices from which I can choose. Even the voices I don’t agree with provide me a different point of view, and perhaps a window into how others in my faith community may feel. Understanding those divergent points of view, I believe, puts me in a better position to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

And sometimes they move me to think differently than I have before.

jmb mentioned to me that he didn’t blog for others but more for himself. I suspect a lot of us blog for therapy to some extent. I believe there are others who blog in order to convince others of a point of view (otherwise, how could there be all those political debates?), but my observation is that most of us are not swayed by an opposing argument no matter how well reasoned. Instead we tend to look for self-confirming evidence of opinions we bring with us. I’m no different, I suppose.

What does move me, however, particularly when I read a point of view I had not considered, is when that new point of view acknowledges what I may already know and feel, and adds a new dimension to my experience. Often (usually) it is not an admonition that I must change my thinking (I don’t want to be told how to think any more than the next guy), but an account of someone else’s faith journey that differs from my own can be compelling and deserves my respect.

Anyway, it was great to meet jmb.  Now I’ll likely read his posts and comments a little differently since he is no longer completely anonymous to me.

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11 Responses to It’s a Small(er) World After All

  1. brandt on November 9, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Wait – 2 LDS Bloggers located in Southeast Michigan!?!?!?! Whoa…..

    (I’m up near Pontiac/Flint area, and both my parents are University of Michigan Alum, so we bleed maize and blue)

    I think that’s really one of the best parts about the bloggernacle, especially as it gets older, and as more and more people are now comfortable with not only the diverse viewpoints, but the fact that we can discuss these issues openly.

    Some of the earlier symposia have done this, but now that we can interact through reading, commenting, and now Facebooking each other, it puts a name to the face, and allows meet-ups like yours to happen more than once a year.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on November 9, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Paul, I was very jealous when jmb mentioned you guys were going to lunch. It really does add a new dimension to meet people in person.

    I think most of our perma team here blog to work out our own ideas, and we each have an individual set of things we want to say. We are each finding our own voice.

    The blogs I enjoy the most are those that provide an additional insight or more succinctly express an idea that I’m on the verge of formulating. For me, it’s probably more topical than preferring specific bloggers. I’m just not interested in every topic that’s out there.

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  3. jmb275 on November 9, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    A big thanks to Paul for meeting up with me. It really does my soul good to humanize and put real faces and personalities with an online personality. I sincerely appreciate that.

    Like Hawkgrrrl, I really appreciate the more introspective posts that cause me to consider something I hadn’t before. In conjunction with that, I loved what the OP said about adding new dimensionality to my viewpoints. That’s where most learning and expanding happens for me.

    Great post Paul!

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  4. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 9, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    I read blogs to change my mind and learn, which was why I was so positive about this post when the draft circulated. Thanks for sharing this

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  5. Paul on November 9, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    First, jmb, thanks for posting my account of our lunch (and thanks for suggesting we meet in the first place!).

    HG, you said it well: “The blogs I enjoy the most are those that provide an additional insight or more succinctly express an idea that I’m on the verge of formulating.”

    Stephen, reading your posts and comments here and on your own blog, it’s clear you are looking to expand your point of view. I admire that in you.

    Brandt, I’ll tolerate your bleeding maize & blue, but since I’ve paid too much tuition to MSU I’m partial to the Spartans. :-)

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  6. John Mansfield on November 9, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    I thought the point of blogging under names like jmb275 or hawkgrrrl was to keep this realm of internet wordsmithing separate from life in the flesh. What we desire can be complicated.

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  7. Cowboy on November 9, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    “but my observation is that most of us are not swayed by an opposing argument no matter how well reasoned.”

    I think this is how it often appears, but a small pet theory I’ve had for a while is that it isn’t true in total. It is very rare that we will witness a person change viewpoints in a short exchange on a single topic. Even on a compressed series of topics I find this unlikely. Still, I would be lying if I said that in sum I haven’t been significantly swayed by interacting in the blog world. This is true even in our face to face debates. It is not common that people actually sincerely change sides during the heat of debate. However, once the debate is long past, and we’ve had the opportunity to let our emotions settle with the merits of the opposing arguments, many of us to gradually begin to shift towards accepting those arguments. At least on some grounds.

    I see it more analogously as the difference between the effects of poison versus brute force. During the conversation debating partners are often trying to literally beat each other into submission. We don’t often see which dog won the fight, even though we each draw a view of who we think “won”, and then lose sight of the particular match in question. The lasting effects of the exchange often happen after the exchange, not during.

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  8. Paul on November 9, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Cowboy, an interesting (if somewhat violent) comparison. As I mentioned in the OP, for me the change in viewpoint is more likely to come when someone shares a part of his or her journey that I’d not before seen.

    I have a friend who scoffs at the idea of political “debates” because his expectation is that in a real debate one would convince the other of the correctness of his position. Personally, I think his expectation is misguided. But you may be right. I guess I’ll know better tomorrow… ;-)

    John, I suppose one-on-one meetings allow the nearly anonymous to peek from behind the curtain when they choose to.

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  9. whome on November 9, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    I read,but I don’t comment often. I like the exposure to other ideas and new ways of viewing the same old,same old. I must admit I do not care for the sniping. However, I understand it comes from the differing viewpoints. A conundrum for sure.

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  10. Rigel Hawthorne on November 9, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    I remember Andrew Ainsworth once suggesting that I email him to discuss a point that was brought up in a blog. It felt strange to shed my masque or secret identity as my email to him contained my real name. It was a good exchange. I sometimes wonder when I travel to a big city if there is someone that reads Wheat and Tares hanging out.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on November 9, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    John Mansfield – it is strange when I’ve been recognized out and about or even quoted once in a sacrament meeting! But I’m not really on the downlow from other Mormons or ‘naclers, many of whom are FB friends.

    In Kathryn Schulz’s book on human error, she illustrates very well how we are unaware we are when our opinions change. We immediately begin over-writing our memories so that the new idea feels as though it was there all along, just waiting for articulation. We certainly couldn’t attribute a change of mind to another person’s influence! But generally, people will upgrade their ideas rather than downgrade them, and exposure to ideas that are outside of our immediate circle of friends is a good way to evaluate the quality of our own ideas.

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