Let's begin by raising a glass to the internet. Sure, there are some awful things that happen out there in the wild wild web but there's also a lot that's a whole lot of fun. Here are a few things I've noticed over the last few months of observing, commenting and linking to Mennonites on the internet.
1. GAMEO still rules the Mennoweb. Back about the time the good folks at wikipedia were all glassy-eyed about everyone working harmoniously together to edit everyone else's work for the greater good, the few web-savvy Mennonites out there already knew better and set up something that looks and feels like a wiki but isn't. Good on them. The look hasn't been updated since 1996 but you can count on the content. And I'm pretty sure that, had they set up a Mennonite Wikipedia instead, we'd have 22 splinter versions of GAMEO by now.
2. Facebook vs Twitter: Mennonites prefer Facebook to Twitter (yes, so does just about everyone else). I already knew there were a lot of Mennonites on Facebook but I was surprised at how small the Twitter community appears to be. Admittedly, some might be hiding and avoiding talking about Menno-like stuff so I don't recognize them as Mennos. Mennonite institutions seem to be working on that assumption because just about every Mennonite institution that is not opposed to the use of technology has a Twitter account and uses it to announce news and headlines to the Twittersphere. That's right, to the hidden Mennonites who might be on Twitter and care. I pretty much quit Facebook over a year ago but if you want to follow the Drunken Menno that way, you can "like" the linked Facebook page and then I will periodically interrupt the stream of pictures of your friends' vacations and babies with pithy commentary and cocktail recipes. You're welcome.
3. Sports, Food and Furniture: A casual wander through the internet leaves one with the impression that we are a very athletic people who eat a lot and spend our time making furniture. I knew about the latter two before Twitter but only recently discovered our athleticism. Search Twitter for "Mennonite" and you will need to find a way to filter out all the scores from the Mennonite high school and college volleyball teams. Unless, of course, that's what you were looking for.
4. Bloggers and aggregators: The vast majority of Mennonite bloggers appear to be earnest young people blogging about faith and life. Many of these are easily found in the Mennonerds superblog. A number of the bloggers are pastors or students of Divinity and the blog posts often come off as mini-sermons. Nothing wrong with that. If they're too tame for you, you can always hop on over to Young Anabaptist Radicals, where the discussion is just as earnest but a bit more impassioned and possibly more controversial. Another place to find sermonettes is the Mennonite World Review which pulls together news and blog entries from around the web. The Social Mennonite does this as well. It is way more inclusive; I've been in there, right alongside things like the recent dancing monkey video which either represents a commentary on Mennonite culture too obscure for my poor brain to fathom or a flaw in the aggregating algorithms used by paper.li. Other Mennonite bloggers talk about food, childhood memories and DIY. There remains only one Mennonite cocktail blog.
5. The Shirley Showalter Effect. On regular weeks, about a dozen people pop over to my blog and presumably read what I have scribbled here. When Shirley Showalter tweets or shares my blog on fb, 2-3 hundred people pop over. It's a little overwhelming. I mean, I didn't set up enough chairs. When I started, I imagined that readership just stays steady or grows incrementally. But social media is choppier than that. I have 30 some followers on Twitter and less than 200 friends on Facebook (see above); Shirley Showalter has over 2,000 Twitter followers and more than 1,500 Facebook friends. When I post something, people who already know me know to ignore it; when Shirley Showalter posts something, people who don't already know me discover me -- for better or worse. That's the power of weak ties. I've never met Shirley Showalter. I think she discovered me from a retweet of the "10 ways Mennonites are like Hipsters" post. This remains my most popular post, I think because Mennonites erroneously believe it is a compliment to be called a hipster. My personal fave is World History from a Mennonite Perspective. So far. Anyway, thanks Shirley! If you're ever in town, I'll buy you a drink.
Have you finished off that bottle yet? I'll have another cocktail recipe for next week. Good thing I didn't give up drinking (or social media) for Lent. Cheers!