I do not know whether this is an American thing, but I read around here and there, particularly in those that I would call the “sensitive” Catholic blogs, commenters complaining that they are insulted on Facebook or Twitter for upholding Christian values.
It is, I think, as if they would seek some sort of validation. “Sniff, sob, someone called me a bigot, and someone else even a … hater! Please, please Mr Blogger and dear commenters, tell me again this is not the case!”
Now, as Catholic I understand there are two sexes, and they are wired in a very different way. The more sensitive, more delicate and more emotional feminine mind may well be more easily upset from derogatory or outright insulting remarks; but when I read that grown men have the same reaction and seek the same emotional reassurance from the “sensitive support troops” I begin to be seriously alarmed at the damages the omnipresent culture of sensitivity and permanent emotional reinforcement has done to us.
It seems to me that some men all too often forget that God made them able to fight wars, to kill and be killed. I wonder how a man whose emotional stability is compromised, and perhaps the entire day ruined, by insults from people he doesn't even know would perform under enemy fire. What I can tell you for certain is that in my culture and generation merely to whine with third parties about what someone else has said about one's moral qualities would have attracted some not entirely unjustified remarks about one's manliness. Speaking of my blogging experience, I find my load of rubbish in the comment bin, and when it passes my spam wall I simply take care in future it doesn't; and the situation is still far more peaceful than at “Homo Smoke”, where the offences and insults were a daily occurrence (don't worry, I wasn't a pansy either). In the present day, Catholic men should, if you ask me, invite controversy, because in this day and age Christianity itself is controversial; far more so than it was the case in the West even during the Cold War, or the flippin' Seventies. Yes, it will cost some friendships; yes, it will cost confrontation, even with people we love, even within our own family. So be it, more deposits on our heavenly savings account; one day, that account will be cashed in.
When I was in elementary school, my teacher used to scold whining boys telling them to stop, because one day they must be fit to go to war. The same I heard from my father several times, so it must have been a staple of conservative boys education; and a wise way of educating a young man it was.
Our generation was fortunate enough not to have to go to war, but this does not mean that it was and is not confronted with serious conflicts, be it communism or secularism.
Christian men are born for combat, and Catholic ones must be twice ready for it. As a Christian, we will be insulted, belittled and mocked rather often. Good! It means we are doing it right. We are supposed to fight the good fight and shrug away insults and mockery; and let us call ourselves lucky enough we are not tested beyond that.
Our generation was not probed in battle. For Heaven's sake, let us not be said that Facebook, Twitter or a discussion forum are a hard probe.
I don’t like talking about my blog, which is the reason why I never write blog posts like “this is my 300th post” and the like.
Still, I have been blogging for almost one year now and have, I think, learned one thing or two about what – at least in my case – goes and what not.
As I have written a couple of times in the recent past about Catholic blogging, I thought that I may write here a couple of suggestions that might be obvious to the already experienced blogger, but not so obvious to the person thinking of starting a Catholic blog for the first time.
If you were to ask me for advice about how to start a conservative Catholic blog, I would – based exclusively on my personal experience; your mileage may vary – suggest the following steps. Others will, no doubt, have different opinions. Still, here we are:
1) anonymity. It is pure illusion to think that future employers – or people relevant to one’s business – will not trace all your activity whether you want it or not; and this without you having any control about the matter and without you ever knowing what damage this has done to you. If you are like me you’ll seek wisdom, not martyrdom.
2) No public stat counter. To have a public stat counter means to make an emotional investment in how many page views you get, in front of all your readers. This can easily lead – human nature being what it is – to a perversion of the scope of the blog and you might end up writing what you think might bring more page views, rather than what you think is more deserving of a blog post. Do your own thing. It’s not an exercise in popularity.
3) Activate comments. People like to comment and yes, you will like to answer to them. It doesn’t take much time. Only a very tiny minority of readers comments, but many more enjoy to read the comments. Comments also help to clarify and expand the blog post material. In time, you’ll receive many useful hints about further posts, too.
4) Moderate comments before they are posted. It is astonishing how every blog is visited by people whose only apparent scope in life is to annoy others. Don’t be a Pollyanna, it’s full of rubbish-spitting trolls out there. You will have a “trash” button. Use it.
5) Variety. Blog about a mixture of news and general issues. A blog is very useful for themes of general Catholicism because, contrarily to what you may think, your blog posts do not get buried. See below about this, point 7). Use your blog to propagate Catholic devotions. Particularly the Rosary. And Fatima. Ah, and Padre Pio. Oh, and Pius XII. You get the drift……. 😉
6) Post just a few blog links. Too many links is the same as no links. Have just a limited number of links that work as a real endorsement and whose profile well complements your own blog. Escape the temptation of the “I link to you if you link to me”-mentality. It doesn’t even work, because being buried among 200 links against your burying others among your 200 links is, I think, not going to help much. I would also opine that Google is, very probably, smarter than that. Ah, and don’t be an ass: link to the right blogs even if they don’t link to you. You are trying to give a service to your readers, not to wage a link war….
7) Be patient. A blog must grow like a tree, with the slow accumulation of concentric circles of blog posts. The accumulation of good, serious content is at least as important as the issue of the day. A blog slowly builds on the foundation of a growing number of posts your readers will love to browse around. I see this on my own (hidden to you 😉 ) statistics, with a surprising percentage of page views daily devoted to old posts. This I hadn’t expected. A blog doesn’t work – as I thought initially – like a pile of magazines, with the older ones being buried under a ton of newer material; rather, it works more like an electronic archive always accessible – and continuously accessed – through individual clicking and search engines. You’ll do well to link to older posts within new ones anyway, as it shows to your new readers that there is a lot to read around.
8 ) Method. A blog can’t eat your life, because if you do you’ll soon abandon the effort after the first enthusiasms. Rather, the decision to devote so and so much time to the blog every week – something reasonable, but “visible” and half way constant – will help you to make of this a long-term project. Those who start a blog for the stat counter – and those who think that the world has been waiting for what they have to say – will be disappointed and will soon stop blogging.
9) Honesty. Make every blog post something uniquely yours. If you link to external material, write your own thoughts about it. If you take the habit of merely posting external documents that hey can easily google you don’t give anything unique to the reader. Readers don’t visit your blog for the text of, say, “Universae Ecclesiae”, but for your take on it. The first can be had everywhere, the second from you only.
10) Images. Post images whenever you have time. Make the image relevant and striking; or use it to bring some irony, or a joke, or even to administer some cod liver oil when appropriate. Pay attention that you do not infringe about other people’s copyrights. Still, don’t be a slave to the pleasant layout: if there’s no time, it’s better to post good content with a simple layout than no content at all.
11) Tags. Post all tags you think relevant to the post. Don’t neglect this part because tags are an important part of your ability to be reached through internet searches. Whenever I saw a sudden decrease of pageviews the reason was, without a single exception, my forgetting to write the tags.
12) Technology. Make your readers as comfortable as your technical savvy allows. Post on twitter and facebook, allow internal post search, etc. Similarly, use the technology available to you. The “timer” function – allowing you to write when you have time, and to publish when you think it’s right – is a very useful tool.
13) Bite. Make your blog unique, not just another “let us get along” product. Give it assertiveness, substance, chuzpah. Write an opinion, not merely a fact. Tell clearly what you want to say. Don’t be afraid of being harsh with people who deserve to be treated harshly. You are blogging, not having afternoon tea, so stop being so English 😉 and take inspiration from the chap in the photo above 😉
13b) Bite part II, or political incorrectness. Don’t be afraid of exercising your rights. Tell it as it is. For example, don’t say “gay” unless you mean “happy”. Use “homosexual” or “sodomite” instead. You may want to sprinkle with “faggot” and “poof” whenever a harsher reproach sounds appropriate, but that’s up to you. Don’t be pussyfooting around. You have an agenda that must be said loud and clear, not whispered. Show your readers that you eat meat, not tofu. Ridicule the enemy, as this has always been an extremely effective weapon. Una risata li seppellira’ (“a laugh will bury them”).
14) Blog profile. Do your own thing. Don’t ask your readers how they’d like your blog to be, and don’t try to fathom how they would best like it. This is nonsensical; tot capita, tot sententiae. Write your blog as you like it, and other people will like it too. There’s no blog which, when properly cared for and written from the heart, doesn’t attract the readership congenial to it. Even sedevacantist sites, when properly made, attract readers! It is better to have a product with a real, individualised character, that one which tries to be all things to all people. The first gives a very good service to a limited few, but the second no added value to anyone.
15) Keep your ego outside as much as practicable. Blog anonymously and if you can (no spouse around, say) don’t tell anyone you’re blogging. Train yourself to think that you write to fight the good fight, not for human recognition. Your service is twofold: a) to God, who sees you even if no one else knows, and b) to your readers, to whom you give a service if you give a unique and instructive product instead of a copycat, or a collection of common places. This is also useful for point 1) above.
16) Accuracy. Write your blog posts in correct, proper English. If you don’t know the difference between “their”, “there” and “they’re”, “its” and “it’s”, “Popes” and “Pope’s” and the like, do not expect to be taken seriously. If you are, like me, a foreigner, do make an extra effort. “He who [writes] badly, thinks badly” (Nanni Moretti).
17) Seek remuneration. The thing with the free meal, and all that. You put a lot of work in your blog and give your readers a service which some of them will find valuable. Don’t be a wimp, and ask for your readers’ prayers (I suggest the “about the author” page for that; we don’t want to be a nuisance; or perhaps we should be a nuisance?). With the years, think of how many they might become. One day, this will be a very useful currency, and certainly worth every minute of your time, and the best compensation for your effort you may desire. Most people are honest folks: when they see added value, they are glad to give back for it; and don’t think you don’t need prayers because, if you are any similar to me, you most certainly do.