Internet Interactions as Faith

It’s amazing the amount of time and energy we put into commenting or posting on the blog, interacting with people who we’ve never seen. And isn’t this a little like faith? I’m not sure; sometimes I think it is. I’ve never met Jim Faulconer, but I have faith that someone called “Jim Faulconer” exists. Through my internet interaction with “Jim Faulconer,” I get to know his quirks and attributes and ideas. As I see a pattern of posts from “Jim Faulconer” that share the same tone and style, I begin to feel that I know this person, even though we’ve never shaken hands. Other people who I have met (such as Greg Call) add their own testimonies that “Jim Faulconer” exists. I like Greg, and I don’t think that he would lie to me. On the other hand, I’ve never met Jim. Jim’s existence could be a well-orchestrated conspiracy between, say, Nate, Greg, and maybe Dan Peterson, all trying to make me believe that “Jim Faulconer” exists.

And so I exercise my own, Alma 32-like, seed of faith. I plant a seed of belief that Jim exists — that is, I accept word from Greg, Nate (who, by the way, I also hadn’t met in the flesh until recently), and others that Jim exists. I send Jim e-mails — a test of faith in his existence — and he responds. I see his interactions with others. I read his posts. And I arrive at a point where I can say with some certainty that Jim Faulconer exists — despite, once again, a complete lack of any physical or direct sensory confirmation of his existence.

I’m perhaps a little unique among the perma-bloggers in that I’m relatively unconnected to established networks of LDS thought. The only blogger I had ever physically met (until this past week, when I met Nate) was Greg Call. The whole enterprise of blogging becomes an exercise of faith — I accept that people named Nate Oman and Adam Greenwood and Kristine Haglund Harris exist. I’m aware of the possibility for deception or duplication or incomplete information (in fact, at least one commenter has mentioned that he uses various pseudonyms at different times). But I put aside my mistrust, and send out posts like this, knowing that most or all of the people who will read them or reply to them are others who I’ve never actually met — people like “Ethesis” and “Ashleigh” and “Frank” and “John H” and “Rosalynde.” I plant the seed, and sometimes it grows.

And sometimes I later meet people in the flesh, and can physically confirm their existence. I’ve met Nate, and Jared Jensen, and Pete Donaldson — all after I started blogging — and could thus confirm their existence. I’ve spoken with Gordon and Matt on the phone, so I suppose I’ve mostly confirmed their existence; I’ll physically meet Gordon and perhaps Matt next month.

But — to borrow a phrase from Elder McConkie — when I actually shook hands with Nate Oman this past week, did I have any greater confirmation of his existence than I have as we’ve become co-bloggers? Was my faith in the existence of Nate any greater at that time? Did I “not know any better then than I know now” that Nate Oman was real? I did not. At some point over the past year, my faith in Nate’s existence had become knowledge that he existed.

I wish that I could say that my faith in God, or in the Atonement, or in the scriptures, were as strong as my faith in the existence of Nate Oman and Jim Faulconer. But I’m heartened by the positive results in my little exercise of faith. And I also wonder whether or not the internet will become a great tool in allowing people everywhere to exercise greater faith. It suggests a move away from the need for physical confirmation of all facts (think Thomas), and a move towards a more faith-receptive mindset where we can make major decisions based on the flow of zeroes and ones across the ether. People seem ready to embrace this idea. And from that background, new things — such as the consistency of the message, and the way it makes us feel — become more important than the ability to actually, physically touch the hands of Christ. And it will be very interesting to see if one effect of the internet-ization of the world is an increase in humankind’s willingness and ability to have faith in the unseen and untouched reality.

16 comments for “Internet Interactions as Faith

  1. Kristine
    October 16, 2004 at 8:12 pm

    I wish God would start blogging :)

  2. Ken
    October 16, 2004 at 8:32 pm

    Kristine, The above bolg might actaully have been him. Okay I’ll shut up.

  3. Aaron Brown
    October 16, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    Which commenter is using pseudonyms? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Aaron B

  4. October 16, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    To carry Kaimi’s analogy a little farther … it would be a terrible thing to deny the existence of a co-blogger or blog commenter after meeting him/her in the flesh. I suppose we might call those types “Sons of Mosiah” … er, jus’ kidding. :)

  5. October 16, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    Do the concepts of “faith” and “lack of paranoia” overlap?

  6. Bryce I
    October 16, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Kaimi —

    But what would happen to your faith in all of your non-confirmed internet friends and acquaintances if you were to discover that someone you thought “existed” actually didn’t? I imagine your faith in God and the Atonement and the scriptures is better equipped to withstand such shocks.

    As for proof of existence, I can vouch for danithew, Adam Greenwood, Jim F., Chad too, Bill, Jonathan Green, Mark B., The Only True and Living Nathan, and Ben Huff, having met all of these people in real life. The weird thing is that I’ve met these people in various different places, not all at once. I guess the question still remains: do I really exist?

  7. October 17, 2004 at 12:00 am

    I get the feeling I’m being poked fun at, albeit good naturedly. But I must confess that I don’t quite understand the reference, danithew. (Of course, whatever it is, I probably deserve it).

  8. Aaron Brown
    October 17, 2004 at 1:26 am

    Here’s an idea. Someone should create some sort of LDS Blogger Family Tree, so that we can see how all the regulars here and throughout the Bloggernacle know one another.

    Aaron B

  9. Jack
    October 17, 2004 at 1:46 am

    Aaron,

    I’m not sure everyone would want to make such a confession.

  10. Ashleigh
    October 17, 2004 at 2:26 am

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never met any of you. I guess I don’t get out much. But I find myself having faith in you all too.

    I too am curious about those of you who do know each other, what those connections are. I like the idea of the family tree even if I’d be a little fruit on the ground all by myself.

  11. October 17, 2004 at 2:42 am

    There for a while, back in the pre-blog days of mailing lists, I actually had met a lot of the people I’d encountered online. But there always was that air of mystery. I remember when I was still a student someone tried to track me down in the physics department and was very disappointed when the secretary told them I was a student and not a professor. (grin)

  12. October 17, 2004 at 10:34 am

    Logan, I was just being kind of goofy and what I said didn’t really work well. I was just looking for a “sons of ______” to stick in there and Sons of Mosiah came to mind. Dumb. Really dumb. Sorry about that.

  13. Adam Greenwood
    October 17, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    I find your simple faith touching, Kaimi. It is better than Norman blood.

  14. Rosalynde Welch
    October 17, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    You’ve all seen the studies in which a baby (or child or adult) will discern the image of a human face out of the merest suggestive elements. I’ve often thought that we’re similarly hard-wired to construct a human identity out of the merest suggestive elements–a name on a computer screen, an idiolect, an email address. Maybe we’re hard-wired for faith in God too, prone to see his hand at work in our lives, constructed out of the merest suggestive elements of providence.

  15. Jack
    October 17, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    Yes Rosalynde!

    The scriptures really give us no alternative to constucting an image of God which is quite human. Almost without exception, every gesture thought or feeling attributed to God is manifest to us by virtue of imagery utilizing the human body.

  16. john fowles
    October 18, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    Rosalynde wrote Maybe we’re hard-wired for faith in God too, prone to see his hand at work in our lives, constructed out of the merest suggestive elements of providence.

    Isn’t this at least partially what “God module” theorists are arguing?

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