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Blah, blah, blog!

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The Internet phenomenon of "blogging" has mesmerized the world.  The term is a contraction of "web log," and each day millions of bloggers are transforming the way people obtain news and information, forcing the mainstream media to adjust to the changing times. 

By logging onto an internet website, bloggers can enter their comments, reports, or special events, including pictures and video. The "blog culture" includes all age groups and the use of camera phones, text messages and 'play-by-play' descriptions via cellular connection have made possible the instant and worldwide reach of "blogdom."

Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia, reports that as of December 2007, 112 million blogs had been tracked by the blog search engine Technorati, and now the meaning of the word has expanded to include "any bit of media wherein the subject expresses his opinion or simply talks about something."

The topic is broad so in this commentary we are limiting our attention to the personal blog, the most common type by far. In a personal blog, someone posts regular entries on a given subject, much like keeping a diary or journal. Does this sound like it could be fun, mentally stimulating, and even therapeutic? Indeed, Mr. Wales relates that scientists have long known the "benefits of writing about personal experiences. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery."

These are some of the positives, but, have you considered the other side of the coin?

Sharon Housley, marketing manager for FeedForAll and NotePage product lines, cautions regular online users to be careful of new trends in cyberspace. Females and children are particularly vulnerable to "cyberstalking," where predators lurk, reading blogs that reveal personal information and photos, which aid the stalker in locating the actual residence of the blogger.

The least of the blogger's worries may be identity theft, but a blogger needs to realize that what is posted on the Internet stays on the Internet – permanently. Undisciplined blathering on a blog can get you in trouble. Years later, when an important job interview is on the horizon, no one wants to have a prospective employer discover inappropriate photos or dialogue from a blog long, long ago! Employers are now searching the web to make sure they are hiring the most qualified candidate and not one who has publicly defamed a company or the character of a former boss.

We should all keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians, "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:6). Is your blog edifying, complimentary, kind and thoughtful of others, or does it reflect an angry attack on someone else? The latter, cautions Mr. Wales, carries consequences.

In our litigious society, any blog perceived as defamation or slander could be considered a case for the courts to decide. Several cases have been brought to the courts, so blogger beware, if you think your username or anonymity will protect you. Many a blogger has been surprised that the attempt to hide behind a screen name ultimately proved futile.

Remember that "in the multitude of words sin is not lacking" (Proverbs 10:19), and, in the Day of Judgment, Jesus Christ warned that humanity will be held accountable for every "idle word" (Matthew 12:36). The next time you complete an entry or comment on a blog, ask yourself if you are happy with anyone reading your thoughts at any time, either now or in the future. If you can truly answer in the affirmative, then you may have successfully completed a positive and useful blog. If you cannot, then all you may have done is "blah, blah, blog!"

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