The Five People You Meet On The Internet*

5 People2*With apologies to Mitch Albom.

One of the inescapable facts of life these days is the internet. You go there to find leads on jobs. You go there for the news. You go there to connect with friends and family you might not otherwise hear from. It’s quickly become not just part of our world, but in some cases, it’s become our entire world.

Which means that the more time we spend cruising the information superhighway (remember when we called it that?), the more likely we are to run into certain types of people. Five types, to be exact. They cannot be avoided, no matter how hard you try; if you have so much as an email account, you’re guaranteed to run into at least one of them, and the more you expand your cyber-footprint, the more likely you are to run into all five.

Chances are, you’re one of them.

So, who are the five people you meet on the internet? Based on my extensive interactions, here they are, from least active to most:

Lurkers – this might easily be the largest category, and everyone on the internet knows a lurker. This type of person is not engaged online. They might have one email address, just to “get with the times”, but they seldom use it. A Lurker is also fond of signing on to Facebook or Twitter with someone else’s account, just to see what’s going on. Every once in a while they might drop a comment or two on a post, but it’s always under their pseudonymous ID. They also like to use Google Earth to look up people’s houses and see where they’re living. Basically, they’re someone’s grandparent, who’s just trying to understand the world their grandkids are living in.

Likers – These are the people who don’t contribute much in the way of content or information, but they will Like the crap out of every puppy picture, baby photo, eCard meme, inspirational quote, and “Click Like to Cure Cancer” post that anyone, ever, posts. They are nice people who want to belong, and have no problem filling up your Facebook feed with ten thousand of their “favorite” things. If you bombard them with enough Like-able content, they will click Like so fast and so furiously that they’d eventually Like a picture of Hitler kicking a puppy while pushing a nun down the stairs, without even realizing it.

Crusaders – There are two classes of Crusaders. The first class pops up every election cycle, or whenever there’s a hot news item about a controversial topic. They tend to post all sorts of pictures, videos, and links that not only affirm their preferred position, but also attack anyone who holds a different view. They are very nice people in real life, but online they tend to be strident-bordering-on-militant, and they won’t hesitate to hide or unfriend people who don’t agree with them. The second class has a personal cause they love to promote or talk about all the time – to the exclusion of anything else. They don’t post a picture or leave a comment that doesn’t revolve around their particular subject. It can be sports, their kids, their church, or their favorite comic book movie, but whenever they get a free moment, they’re ready to share with you all of the details you didn’t know you needed to know.

Trolls – Perhaps the most famous of all the five types of people, a Troll is a professional pot-stirrer, the kind of person who provokes a Crusader for the fun of it. Trolls love causing trouble, and are often better known by the user names on Reddit, FourChan, or other Troll-familiar websites. A Troll is the kind of person who would pop up in the middle of a discussion about the fair tax suggesting that the IRS is not only a great American institution, they should very well have the power to go after and investigate fringe political groups who skirt the tax code. After dropping that little conversational hand grenade, a Troll will then sit back and watch the Crusaders lose their minds. Trolls are very smart, and probably very tired of living in someone’s basement.

Promoters – This is the worst of all internet users because they are always online. Constantly. The kind of idiot who can rack up almost 2,000 tweets in less than six weeks. They have their Twitter feed hooked up to their Facebook, website and blog, so nothing that rolls through their “creative” little minds goes unnoticed. They are usually pushing you to check out their latest ebooks or sharing something witty they happened to think up while waiting on line at the local Publix, or asking you to go check the blog or book of a friend. They have multiple Facebook pages (personal, professional, and product-related) and are constantly asking you to check them out. They are usually pretty funny, or at the very least offer some form of entertainment, but their single biggest trait is that they are ubiquitous, almost as familiar as the other advertising flotsam you see floating around on any given page. Worst of all, they’re clueless about how much they put out there.

There are variations on each of the types, but as far as generalizations and stereotypes go, that’s a pretty complete list. But in case I’ve missed anyone, sound off below and let me know what kinds of people you’ve met on the internet.

Oh, and be sure to follow, like and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And if you haven’t had a chance to read my books, please check out my author page on Amazon. And if you have read my books, please leave a review and tweet the link…

Stop the Band, Kill the Noise


“Smeagol isn’t listening! Not listening! My preciousssssss…”

About every six months or so, I get awfully tempted to become a real blogger, the kind that generates thousands of daily hits and tons of followers on Twitter. I make a deal with myself to sit down and craft content that will draw eyes and ire, generate reblogs and rebukes, and just in general put my name on the minds of people who troll/scour the Internet looking for that sort of engagement. I tell myself it’ll be easy – two to three times a day, I’ll post a list of things that are wrong with the church, or I’ll attack a strawman argument on a hot political issue, or I’ll wade back into one of the denominational war zones that always draw attention and alarm from the masses.

I plan all of this, and I’ll even give it a go for a couple of posts, and inevitably, it falls by the wayside. I can’t do it. I can’t keep up. My brain simply can’t conceive of a way to keep writing about the same things in the same ways over and over again.

Apparently I’m neither creative nor outraged enough.

Regardless – whether my lack of imagination or indignation – I have recently begun to marvel at those who can crank out that kind of content on a regular basis. My Twitter feed is filled with such people; I can’t refresh my feed without someone new posting a blog about 5 Reasons the Resurrection Is Absolutely, Positively REAL or 10 Secrets to a Dynamic Church or 39 Things You Must Do To Make Jesus Happy or Else He’ll Revoke Your Salvation.

(I’m kidding about that last one. Kind of.)

There’s one particular gentleman that I follow that posts links and blogs like that non-stop everyday. I know he’s not writing all of those posts himself, but I am utterly gobsmacked at the fact that he does write an awful lot. And they’re usually good. Some quite so.

Writers like that simultaneously inspire and deflate me. Inspire, because I love the fact that they sit at their keyboard and let the ideas flow down like mercy. Deflate, because so often those ideas are either recycled or reheated. They don’t add much new to the conversation.

I know, I know – there’s nothing new under the sun. Heck, even what I attempt to do here is admittedly what another writer did to far better effect. But what I always try to do is to make whatever I write in my voice, in my honest voice. I fail sometimes; there are occasions when I get up on a high horse and either try to sound smarter than I really am, or try to write with an authority I don’t possess, and when those occasions come along, I am reminded over and over again why I don’t write like that all the time.

Because it’s not me.

So why am I bringing all of this up? Lately, it seems like I’m drowning in noise, endless, repetitive noise. The same people clanging the same gongs for the same audience. Mostly, these posts are on some political or cultural issue, and they only exist to get someone’s dander up, or undies bunched, or pick another metaphor for useless agitation. The same medium through which I find my greatest outlet of expression – blogging – is the one that allows untold others to beat our collective cultural dead horses again and again, and to present the blogs on those poor, flagellated equine corpses as fresh and new and unique, when really they are none of those things.

And this harsh rehashing of the yada-yada-yada isn’t confined to one particular spectrum of the web; it’s not just the church people who do it; it’s not just the liberal media; it’s not just the fringe wackos or reality stars or any other specific class of people. It’s all of us. All of us. Adding to the noise, transferring information because we can, not because it’s needed. Even the very words I’m typing – noise, noise, noise. For some reason, today, it’s exhausting.

It creates a sense that the world will always be irretrievably broken, but if we try just that much harder, we can fix it – yes, we can! If we can get rid of the fundies, the gays, the illegals, the GOP, the Dems, the rednecks, the hippies, the commies, the druggies, the libs, the unenlightened, and the downright socially awkward, then we can all live in the glorious utopia that Our Forefathers first envisioned when they arrived on this fair continent and poisoned the Native Americans after swindling them out of their land.

Ugh. Just make the voices stop, Brain. If you don’t, I’ll stab you with a Q-Tip.

So what’s the take away? What do we do? Personally, I’m culling my Twitter feed, starting today. I’m getting rid of all the counterfeit voices, the people who simply channel the outrage of others without contributing thought themselves. I’m going to delete the emails that merely generate sound and fury. I’m going to hide the Facebook friends who only share tiresome photos and memes from random quasi-political groups.

And I’m quite sure that there will be people who decide to delete this post – and any of my subsequent posts – from their information flow. I can live with that. My style isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine by me.

Today’s just one of those days to take a stand against the people who want to manipulate us with fear or anger or both. I’m not gonna dance to their tune anymore. I’m stopping the band, and killing the noise.

Hopefully, it will give me more time for my own voice.

Yours too.

The > Generation

I bought a book this summer, one I’d been wanting for a while. Got it at a library inventory sale on Saint Simon’s Island. Hundreds of books, each $2 (or 3 for $5), and the selection was impressive. Art books. History books. Cookbooks. Textbooks. Those old, horrible collections of poetry that no one buys except for libraries and people who simply have impulse control problems when it comes to purchasing books. I meandered through the tables and tables of books until I finally saw it.

Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.

Understand, this book is fourteen years old, so it’s not like I haven’t had ample opportunity to purchase it before. I just never happened to have the correct amount of spending money when those opportunities presented themselves.

But on that day, I had the right amount of money: $2.00.

So it became mine.

I started reading the book, and enjoyed it, but got distracted by life and other trivialities. Long story short, the book has been sitting in my office, staring at me mournfully for the last six weeks, it’s subtle red, white and blue cover just begging me to pick it up and re-establish our book-reader bond.

I really should finish it, if for no other reason than I dearly love the people of that generation. I believe they represent what was best about our country: self-sacrifice, hard work, determination, perseverance, ingenuity. Without taking pot shots at other generations, I would daresay that they were the culmination of the entire American experiment, the proof of our philosophical pudding.

Now, that generation is getting older. I’ve buried quite a few of them, and will do so again in the coming years. They are passing into the fog of history, becoming more and more a footnote to the current age. One might weep for them, because of what they represent, and what we will lose when they are gone.

One might. But one needn’t.

There is a generation coming that I think will match that Greatest Generation in terms of character. Sure they are a bit spoiled right now. And maybe they use their iPhones an awful lot. And they have the unseemly habit of using text speak in formal writing.

But they brim with idealistic realism (for a more thorough definition of the term, read this great post by Carson T. Clark) and dream bigger dreams than the two generations before them. Empowered by the Internet and its open door to information, ideas and resources, I believe that they will be the ones who think differently about age old issues and discover new age solutions. I think they will be the ones who, rather than playing the parlor game of politics, put on their work boots and build something that matters.

Lately, I’ve come to realize just how much I sing their collective praises. I find them refreshing because they ask questions, they seek answers, they resist the edict to “just do it.” They want more than just some of the empty promises of the last thirty years – that prosperity equals happiness, for instance, or that more government solves all our problems – and use their imaginations to dream of a better world.

Their taste in music kind of sucks, but hey – you take the good with the bad.

I have hope for the future and want to see them do well. It’s why I teach. It’s why I’m a student pastor. It’s why I read and listen twice as much as I talk. Because this generation needs nurturing. It needs encouragement. It needs room to do and experiment and fail and do again, without fear of being shut down. This generation, I believe, marks a significant shift within the cultural fabric of our country, and we’d best not be slow to see the change.

My grandparents were The Greatest Generation, and I don’t think history will take that title away from them. But if Twitter stays around long enough, I think the ones behind us will at least be called The > Generation.

I believe – I hope – it will fit.

Of Specks, Motes, and the Cacophony of Rage

There’s this verse in the Bible that goes something like, “Don’t look for the speck of dust in someone else’s eye and ignore the tree branch in your own.” To modern ears that’s a bit strange, and it gets even better if you read the King James Version:

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Mote. Great word. Too bad it fell out of usage. “Do you mind sweeping up that mote of cake from the floor?” “I seem to have a mote of tuna salad on my pants…”

Mote. That’s almost as good as modicum.

Anyway…while the wording of the verse may be a bit interesting (after all, who wouldn’t notice if a tree branch had punctured your eye?), the concept behind it is fairly simple: don’t be so blinded by what you see as a fault in someone elses life that you miss the fault in your own.

As an individual, this has never be a problem for me. I know my faults pretty well, which is to say I know my faults like a geek knows his Star Wars trivia. (Quick, name the character who’s arm got chopped off by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley cantina!) I wouldn’t say I obsess over them, but I try to keep my weaknesses under review so I can always look for improvement.

While this can occasionally produce a bout of nuerosis, it does have a great side benefit: it means I have less time to obsess over the faults of others. That doesn’t mean that I don’t; I can rattle off many things about many people that bother me greatly, but in general I try not to base my life around endlessly correcting people who have gone astray in my view.

This comes in handy quite often on the Internet. If I read something that offends or bothers me, I generally tend to say, “Wow. That bothers me. Hmmm. What should I do? Do I comment? Write a response on my blog? Maybe create a new meme from an online meme generator? Or stage a protest rally at my favorite restaurant? Thinking…thinking… Nah, I’ll just go check my email. I’ve got other things to do.”

Lately, I’ve noticed that there is a small group of people who do not seem to share this character trait. If they read something on Facebook, Twitter, CNN, FoxNews, Disney Junior, with which they disagree, their response seems to be more in the vein of:


And why? Because of the mote. The speck. That thing in someone else’s life that really bugs them and makes them lose their junk.

Or, as my great-grandmother used to call it, “Pitch a hissy fit.”

Mote-noting seems to be gaining popularity as people in the digital age seem less and less inclined to just let things go. We are becoming a nation of intruders, on both the left and the right, butting in wherever we see the particular mote that we note and trying to scream people into submission to our view. And if you don’t believe me, just wait until the presidential campaigns kick into high gear.

I wrote some on this yesterday, about how the words that we sling into the atmosphere can crush someone quite easily. I can’t tell you how many people contacted me yesterday and said, “You nailed it. I’m feeling that exact same way.”

It’s fatiguing, and it is also dangerous. Because when everything is a hyper-sensitive issue, or everything is a massive lose-your-junk event, then all of life becomes shrill, and truly important things fall by the wayside.

It’s a cacophony (another great word) of rage. It’s chaos. Lunacy.

And it’s everywhere. So what’s the solution?

It’s painfully simple: concentrate on the tree branches in our own eyes. Back when the Chick-fil-A brouhaha started, I read a great blog post by a young man named Dale Brown. Dale happens to be married to a former student of mine, and he’s also a priest. I thought his view bears repeating (though I recommend reading the entire blog):

This world will become holy only through individual men and women becoming holy, and that has to begin with us.  Therefore, tomorrow I will not be at Chick-Fil-A, but I will say a prayer, read Scripture, attempt patience, forgive those that wrong me, practice silence, ask for forgiveness; and through cooperating with the Grace of God in the Presence of Holy Spirit maybe a small insignificant part of America will be sanctified tomorrow in that with God’s help I myself might be made holier than I am today.

You may not be religious, but Dale is spot on: only by looking to correct our own lives can we expect the world to become a better place.

Motes, beams, specks and branches. Let the sawdust fly.

Words Are More Than Words, You Know…

Some days, you write for the world. Others, you write for yourself.

Today is an Other.

There’s a verse from the New Testament book of 2 Timothy, chapter 2, The Message translation (man, that’s a lot of modifiers) that keeps rolling around in my head. They form a song that is just stuck on a continual loop, and they alternately inspire me to believe that great things are possible and that the world has become a Byzantine Hell.

“Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.”

As a writer, I love words. As a preacher/speaker/writer, I really love words. I’ve seen firsthand the power of a well-placed phrase or word to turn a person’s entire day around. I’ve also seen the ugly side of words. Recently, I’ve seen it more than ever before.

I don’t know if I’ve suddenly become more perceptive (which sounds like a brag, but it’s not; it’s like I’ve suddenly developed a lexicographical Spider-sense) or if the world has just gotten meaner, but my soul feels inundated lately with words of hate and anger and malice. Maybe I need to quit reading the news. Or change my Facebook settings. Or follow new people on Twitter. Regardless, I’ve been overwhelmed the past few days with a sense of hopelessness that borders on pathology; it’s been a few years since I’ve felt the need for anti-depressants, but I caught myself wondering yesterday if I needed to call the doc and get the ‘scrip refilled.

It took just sitting in silence, staring at an empty computer screen, hoping for some kind of words to come tumbling out, for me to realize that what was troubling me was words. Other people’s words. My words. Careless words. Masquerading words. Hurtful words.

Words rooted in rotten thinking.

To be honest, I’m tired of reading the latest Culture Wars postings. I’m tired of the in-your-face rhetoric, the taunts, the de-personalization that leads to people being characterized in such broad ways as to render any individuality moot. I’m tired of 99%-ers and 1%-ers, Republicans and Democrats, Atheists and Christians, and whatever else is out there polluting the airwaves. I’m tired of every moment in life being amped up to the point that you can’t even breathe without it feeling like an anxiety attack. I’m tired of people wanting to convert, convert, convert the person who doesn’t walk in lock-step with a personal ideal. I’m tired of being barraged with yet another freaking Facebook post asking me to buy something that will help me lose weight, and then asks me to turn around and sell it myself.

Wait. Different rant. Strike that last sentence.

Mostly, I’m tired of one of the things (conceptually, anyway) that I love so dearly being used as an instrument of my own demise.

I’m tired, in short, of words.

And that makes me sad. It has frustrated me beyond description to sit down and want to write something but not have the energy to write it – not because I don’t have something to say, but because I don’t have the energy to defend myself whenever that one person inevitably reads that one sentence out of context in their own head and decides to make me pay for their incorrect presumptions. I’m not stupid – I realize that by putting my thoughts into a public forum I am inviting public comment, even rebuke if the public doesn’t like what I have to say. I accept that. It’s part of the writer’s territory.

But what I am weary of is the fact that EVERY post, every Facebook status, every Tweet, every stray thought that escapes mine or someone else’s brain, automatically becomes Ground Zero for some people’s ideological Armageddon. It’s a gross exaggeration, but the fact that I even have to type that I know it’s a gross exaggeration is because I KNOW SOMEONE WILL COME ALONG AND FIND FAULT WITH ME USING EXAGGERATION AS IF I BELIEVE IT TO BE FACT.

When, in fact, I’m keenly aware I’m exaggerating for effect. Not manipulation.

(Side note: sorry for the all caps. I suddenly channeled my inner-grandma who just got on “the Facebooks” and doesn’t know caps lock is a no-no. I apologize.)

Words are more than mere words. They can be hammers. They can be bridges. They can be medicine. They can be death. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this; or if they do, then they don’t care two-whits about the people on the receiving end. I know not everyone subscribes to my religious views, but even if you take the word godly out of that 2 Timothy quote, there’s still a lot of truth to the statement that empty words are just poison to the souls of everyone you meet.

Including your own.

And that sums up what I’ve been feeling: poisoned. Contaminated. Infected. Like having the flu, or a bad reaction to a not-so-well-cooked burger from Greasy Ed’s Burger Joint and Oil Change Emporium (“We’ll grease your engine and your innards!”).

The funny part is that this post will do nothing to help the actual situation, but I can honestly say that I feel better for having typed it. Eloquent it may not be, but it’s honest, and it comes from my desire to live a life that makes my words count.

And that is all I can do: make my words, and the life that gives them utterance, count.