Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Proposed Taxonomy of Bloggernacle Pathologies

In the spirit of communal self-deprecation, I offer the following conjecture. Every participant in the Bloggernacle suffers from one—or, usually, more—of the following: (1) compared with your typical practicing Mormon, above-average discomfort with some aspect of Church doctrine, history, and/or practice; (2) compared with your typical practicing Mormon, above-average emotional, intellectual, and/or spiritual loneliness; (3) compared with a typical practicing Mormon’s desire to share truth, a messiah complex.

With some trepidation I leave this post open for comments, subject to the following rule, which I imagine will suppress a large volume of potentially tempting applications: You may not affirm or deny the applicability of this conjecture to any specific person but yourself. Exception: If someone claims that the conjecture does not apply to they themselves, everyone is welcome to pile on and show them how it does in fact apply to them!


I suggest that there is a fourth one as well:
Those who enjoy conjuring up fictional characters which serve little else but to frustrate others. ;-p

As for myself, I definitely feel the second one pretty heavily. 

Comment by Jeffrey Giliam | 2/15/2006 08:15:00 PM  

Nice try, Jeffrey, but it really doesn't succeed as a new category, since it was just a natural outgrowth of my difficulty with both (1) and (2), and a "safe" role-playing way to relieve my deeply repressed tendency towards (3) as well... ;-> 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/15/2006 08:33:00 PM  

No arguments from me...though I do wonder what role the bloggernacle plays: enabler, amplifier, therapist?

Classic adam's navel question: are we creating the 'nacle or is the 'nacle creating us? Probably both, and no doubt god is behind it all.

Comment by Watt Mahoun | 2/15/2006 08:54:00 PM  

I've got to give myself pathology #1 and #3. I don't know if they are contradictory. It's mainly that I like to disagree with things in general, so to those who are more mainstream I am #1; to those who are questioning I am #3 (How arrogant to think I actually can convince anyone of truth). 

Comment by Mike W. | 2/15/2006 08:57:00 PM  

There's something wrong with us.
Something very wrong with us.
Something SERIOUSLY  wrong with us. 

Comment by Eric | 2/15/2006 10:21:00 PM  

We are Americans..... 

Comment by D-Train | 2/16/2006 12:54:00 AM  

desire to share truth, a messiah complex.  

Hmmm... Doesn't the primary song say "I'm trying to be like Jesus"? Calling a desire to share truth something as unflattering as a "messiah complex" seems to mostly say something about your opinion of Mormonism's heavy focus on trying to be like Jesus, Christian.


Comment by Geoff J | 2/16/2006 02:05:00 AM  

Does discomfort with Church culture fall under #1? I think I may fit #2 as well, but I'm not sure.

I do think that I have an unhealthy desire to self-identify as an "other" when it comes to Mormonism, as if there were something wrong with just being your everyday TBM.  

Comment by Crystal | 2/16/2006 08:41:00 AM  

#2 is screaming my name. 

Comment by meems | 2/16/2006 10:14:00 AM  

Either those things or we just like good conversation and hope to get good insights on something that's important to us. However you want to look at it. 

Comment by Rusty | 2/16/2006 10:31:00 AM  

Yes, but Rusty, if your intellectual and /or spiritual conversational needs were truly being met by the (ahem) real people in your ward or wherever every week, then you wouldn't need to turn to blogging for that good conversation. It gets back to #2.  

Comment by meems | 2/16/2006 10:53:00 AM  

And then, there are some of us that aren't Mormon. But thinking about it, that probably puts me in all three... 

Comment by Pris | 2/16/2006 10:53:00 AM  

D. Michael Quinn likes to say that anyone who stays active in Mormon Studies (reading, writing, or whatever) for more than three years has a personality disorder. I'm at about the two year point myself. Do I have the personality disorder? I suppose we'll find out over the course of the next year, and I'm sure the world is trembling in anticipation.

Since any of your three could count as personality disorders, I think it's safe to say that you're building from Quinn's idea, Christian! How do you feel about that? :)

I suppose I might possibly be described as falling into any of the proposed categories. Perhaps I do have a personality disorder... 

Comment by RoastedTomatoes | 2/16/2006 11:20:00 AM  

I participate for two reasons. First, because I really enjoy listening to conversations among people who have thought far better and more deeply about important things than I have. So I guess that fits under both 1 and 2.

But there is another reason, and I can't classsify it. It is like when ESPN does slow motion replays of 30 car NASCAR pileups, with crashes into the wall, explosions, and cars flying through the air end over end. There is a certain kind of fascinating horribleness that holds my attention. And in the bloggernacle, surprisingly often, there is something going on that is so spellbindingly awful that it almost makes my eyeballs want to pop out of my head, and I can't turn away.

So there you have it. I participate in this nuthouse we call the bloggernacle because I can get enlightening, insightful discussion AND trashy kinks, all at the same place.


Comment by Mark IV | 2/16/2006 11:24:00 AM  

Then there are those of us who DON'T overthink every little thing!

(Mark, sounds like what you're referring to is what I call the train-crash effect.) 

Comment by Susan M | 2/16/2006 11:36:00 AM  

Everyone,  it's interesting to hear your thoughts, even those I may not respond to individually.

Watt, my immediate guess is that the answer to both questions is "all of the above," to different degrees with different people.

Mike W., as I said in the main post they're not contradictory; in fact I think multiiple "hits" are expected.

Eric, while I used the word "pathologies" to be provocative, in many cases the word "needs" might be more accurate. To make an educational or Olympics analogy, compared to typical Church members, we may have "special needs." One hallmark of humanity is the capacity and proclivity to invent and construct material and social entities to satisfy our needs, and I suppose the Bloggernacle is just another example.

D-Train, your comment brings up the potential problem that the categories might be so general as to be meaningless. I tried to introduce some normalization by referring to a "typical practicing Mormon" (whatever that means), but I recognize the potential problem. I think meem's response to Rusty is the way I would argue the relevance of the categories in the face of similar challenges.

More, I hope and expect, later... 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/16/2006 12:26:00 PM  

I'm generally a lurker, but perhaps I'll dive in here. I'm definitely #1 and some #2 as well. I don't understand what you mean by #3, so no comment.

I wonder though, why you choose to call these pathologies. They seem pretty normal and even healthy to me. I'm more worried about the "typical practicing mormon" who blindly accepts everything and does not question.

Perhaps as a mental health professional I am wary when people diagnose pathologies or call things personality disorders when they are really nothing of the sort. Just a minor soap box, because I don't think the purpose of this post to be a mental health discussion. 

Comment by AmyB | 2/16/2006 06:23:00 PM  

I don't think any of the three apply to me currently. I imagine that my pathology is one of compulsion ;) 

Comment by J. Stapley | 2/16/2006 06:52:00 PM  

Woohoo AmyB! :) Thanks for jumping-in. Do it more often 'cause you definitely have good stuff to say. 

Comment by Watt Mahoun | 2/16/2006 08:11:00 PM  

Geoff J,  it was not at all my intention to criticize the standard Mormon imperatives to share the gospel and to emulate the Savior. I intended to signal by my opening statement referring to "communal self-deprecation" that this post was meant to be taken light-heartedly (Jeffrey, in his first comment, picked up on this immediately). Hence my phrase "messiah complex" is, like "pathologies" as I mentioned above, a deliberate caricature meant to be on the humorous side. It could satirize a range of behaviors. Per the rules of the thread I cannot specify what I consider a variety of examples that might clarify my meaning; but the general idea is that someone thinks they have something extra-special they feel compelled to offer the benighted community, and they often share it with enthusiasm, gusto, or forcefulness. I hasten to add that on occasion such individuals are right, and that it's not necessarily a bad thing.

AmyB, I hope this addresses your comment too. In case anyone is wondering, I am not  attempting real mental health diagnoses! I'm fairly confident RoastedTomatoes' reference to personality disorders was meant with similar dry humor, grains of salt, etc. Along the lines of self-deprecation, for a Mormon audience I take the perspective here that typical believing Mormons are the normal baseline, and that Mormon bloggers a likely a little "different" in some way. I respect and even sympathize with the view you express that many Mormons do not examine things closely, but out of humility and to deflate any exaggerated sense of self-importance of the blogging community within Mormonism I chose the rhetorical stance I did here. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/16/2006 08:18:00 PM  

Hehe. Sorry for being a party pooper, dude 

Comment by Geoff J | 2/16/2006 08:47:00 PM  

Crystal,  yes, discomfort with Church culture does fall under (1).

Pris, that may indeed be the case, if you're trying to "save" the Mormons from themselves. I find it very interesting a non-Mormon would regularly participate in Mormon blogging. Do you have a single post that sort of explains that?

RoastedTomatoes, I hadn't heard that anecdote from Quinn, at least that I recall. But in a lighthearted and not clinical way, I suppose there's probably something to it.

Still some more responses to come... 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/17/2006 08:17:00 AM  

Mark IV,  the spectacle of disasters, including social brouhahas, is indeed compelling. (I am oft-mocked by close friends of ours, to whom I once said that my favorite part of Titanic  was when one of the guys who falls off the back of the ship hits the propeller with a satisfying "ping" and his body is sent into rapid end-over-end rotation before hitting the water. (My wife, having advance warning, covered my eyes during the sketching scene; so that was excluded from consideration of favorites!) Now whenever any disaster or violent movie moment is mentioned---planes crashing into the World Trade Center or the like---these friends like to imagine out loud me replaying and watching it over and over again. I can't live it down, despite protests that I really don't, for example, like the horror genre, or even the sport of boxing. It was just something about the physics of that particular fall that was so beautiful...)

And gossip in general is compelling too, and must have always played an important social function. I recall hearing of a study of overheard conversations in public places that reported that about 70% of it was gossip. My guess is that Snarkernacle is the secret guilty pleasure of virtually every Bloggernacle participant; my informal impression is that when the Snarker points his or her relentless beacon my way the waterfall of incoming traffic is noticeably larger than from a Times and Seasons Note from All Over.

However, does any of this constitute a fourth category? Maybe not, because this is a general social thing that could be observed in any online forum, and doesn't depend upon the Mormon nature of the Bloggernacle. However I guess that could be said about factors (2) and (3) as well. Hmmm, so maybe my best defense is that the interest in social disaster / gossip is just another manifestation of (2). 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/17/2006 01:24:00 PM  

Susan M,  even not overthinking every little thing leaves plenty of room for the emotional version of (2). Moreover, not all, but certainly some of those who tend towards (3) are not in any danger of "overthinking"! (I'm not speaking at all about you, Susan M, but just responding to your general statement.)

However I guess I do need to say something specific about J. Stapley, since he has issued the most specific denial yet, thus forcing me to make a specific "diagnosis" in defence of my thesis. ;-> J., your posts on 19th century experiences of sisters with spiritual gifts and laying on of hands, the word of wisdom, and what constitutes exaltation and what it means to be a spirit child of God, some ideas different from standard Mormon notions have been expressed; hence readers might wonder if there isn't a little (1) going on. And also, in a mild and good way for which I am personally grateful, your selfless work with MA and helping so many to make the most of it by going to WordPress suggests that you're a Man on a Mission. ;-> 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/17/2006 07:56:00 PM  

Haha. I love that you responded to my comment seriously. Sorry, I was just poking fun. 

Comment by Susan M | 2/18/2006 12:22:00 PM  

Susan M,  I did detect your humor---and tried to respond with a degree of humor as well! But, there's a little truth in every joke---that's often what makes it funny---so it was a point worth responding to. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 2/18/2006 09:18:00 PM  



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