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Is There Still a Place for Blogs in 2020?

My Top 10 Blogs of 2016

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Just before a new piece of camera equipment gets released to the public, it often gets sent to the camera stores so they can review it. This being the 21st century, they tend to create YouTube reviews of that product and invariably recommend it in the most positive terms. And you can’t help but wonder: Are they really being objective in their reviews? After all, they are the very ones who stand to gain from sales of that new body or lens. A positive review will lead to sales; a negative review will cut into sales. It’s all a little suspicious.

And in much the same way I suppose, a blogger can hardly be a disinterested party when writing about the place of blogs in 2020. But even while I admit my bias, I also genuinely do believe there is a present and a future for blogs. I believe blogs have made many positive contributions to the Christian faith over the past 20 years, and I believe they will continue to do so for the next 20 (and hopefully many more). I’m going to offer a few reasons why.

First, we don’t want to go back to gatekeepers. The early thrill of blogs, and something we may now largely take for granted, was the way they democratized information. They gave a voice to people who otherwise would not have made it past the traditional “gatekeepers”—the acquisitions editors at publishers or the editors at magazines. Before blogs, if you wanted to reach the Christian public, you had to go through one of these channels and were often rejected. But then through blogs you could reach around these channels and independently develop your own voice. This democratization has allowed new and unexpected voices to enter into our conversations.

Second, we are seeing the shortcomings of other forms of social media. When blogs began, they were social media. They were an early form of online social connection between people who shared similar interests, whether that was politics, hobbies, Reformed theology, or anything else. But it did not take long for other forms of social media to develop—Twitter was at first considered “microblogging” and Facebook was a kind of “friend and family blogging.” Yet as much as each of these has displaced blogging in certain ways, none has quite replaced it. Twitter causes as many problems as it solves by its immediacy and by the nature of its character limit; Facebook emphasizes the most urgent information while older updates or articles almost immediately disappear into the void. These forms of social media speak to the present, but don’t adequately archive information. They allow people to speak quickly, but don’t value thoughtfulness. Though they have strengths, they also have weaknesses—weaknesses that blogs address well.

Third, we are seeing the crackdown against Christian voices on many other forms of social media. As I’ve already pointed out, one of the attractions of social media was that it democratized information by removing the traditional gatekeepers at publishers and magazines. But now we are learning that Twitter and Facebook are increasingly taking that role upon themselves. Gatekeeping is now happening at the level of distribution! They are constantly tweaking their algorithms to block certain forms of information and to diminish the reach of others. They dispense warnings and even outright bans to people who refuse to play by their rules. It’s not difficult to foresee a day in which Christians who speak out about any number of pressing issues are no longer welcome on those platforms. Blogs, however, have no gatekeepers and continue to allow Christians to speak out about even the most politically-incorrect topics.

Fourth, blogging is a form of publishing that invites participants from all parts of the world. One of my great joys over the past few years has been to travel widely and to meet Christians from around the globe. (In fact, I am writing this article from Zambia.) I have encouraged many of them to add their voices to the various conversations and to bring their unique perspectives from their unique contexts. As time goes on, I expect we will see more and more of our international brothers and sisters gaining a voice and helping balance out our unseen biases.

When we put all this together, we see that we are unlikely to return to a time where we are comfortable having those traditional gatekeepers in place. We have yet to find a form of social media that adequately replaces the strengths of blogging. And we see the significant cost of committing ourselves to companies like Twitter and Facebook who are showing they are only too eager to determine who can and cannot have a voice through their platforms. This leaves blogging as a unique form of communication that can continue to have a significant impact on the church all around the world.

So is there still a place for blogs in 2020? I believe there is. I am confident we will continue to see blogs thrive in this decade even as they did in the last (and the one before that).

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