Have you ever found yourself three pages deep in the comments section of a webpage, blood pressure dangerously close to boiling over, ready to reach out through the computer and make that idiot see reason? What kind of dumb screen name is “holierThanU” anyway? That jerk must be illiterate, or else they would have seen that the article clearly said — I know: this never happens at TJP, where the comments section is sweetness and light itself. But on those other websites …
Last week, Fr. James Martin had a great tongue-in-cheek piece about Catholic blogs and the inevitable fights that play out in their comments boxes. And then, as if by magic, the page’s own comments started to prove Fr. Martin’s point.
As I read the comments, I imagined all the commenters gathered together in a big room. Some of us were whispering and elbowing each other, pointing at the others, and then breaking out into laughter. You know the feeling when everyone is in on the joke and you can’t figure it out? You offer a fake smirk and then, with your mouth closed, you run your tongue over your teeth searching for leftover bits of food. Feigning interest in the floor, you glance down and you double check your zipper. You develop a sudden itch and rub your back and verify that there isn’t a “Kick Me” sign taped to your shoulders. You quietly wonder… what is so funny? And then you realize … I am.
Or at least, you hope you realize, eventually, when you’re the butt of the joke. But based on some of the comments, fighting the same ridiculous battles that Fr. Martin’s article was lampooning, all I can say is: You just don’t get it, do you?
It’s a wonderful and dangerous tool, this internet thing. If you aren’t careful, you end up connected to everyone, but talking only to yourself. When that happens, we need a gentle soul, a reconciler, someone who’s going to let us in on the joke and welcome us back to the conversation.
Now I get it.