Friday, 2 September 2011

Internet perils

It has been a busy week. As a colleague said to me, returning after the holidays is a bit like stepping into a pool of ice cold water. I had two non- work resolutions this week, one was to manage a trip to the gym, the other was to compose a mid week blog post. The blogging resolution fell by the wayside, but I mustered up the energy for a (short) session on the treadmill - I think on Wednesday evening. We went out for a meal (during which I almost fell asleep) on Thursday. Was that only yesterday? My memories of the whole week are starting to get a bit hazy...
Although I did not blog myself, I did find time to take a cursory glance at other blogs I read regularly. My attention was caught by a post on the e-Church blog in which Stuart seemed to suggest self harm could be akin to the sacraments - " blood as liquid emotion". The link was to an article entitled Self injury and the Sacraments by Stacey. I was a little dubious about the idea of self harm as sacrament, partly because self harm does seem to be a growing trend, and can have an unfortunate glamour. Can I be quite clear here that I am not unsympathetic to those who self harm, it is a well documented response to pain and trauma, I just think there may be dangers if it is dignified/ mystified as "sacramental" in some way.
Anyhow, it then emerged that Stacey had  also written a  rather offensive post  and as a result was receiving death threats and having her details published on antagonistic websites. The post  was most unedifying and really did say more about Stacey tendency to over react to supposed homosexuals than anything else, but the comments did also shock me and  made me think about the way the Internet  often brings out the worst in all of us. I am an enthusiastic blogger and I love the Internet, but the instantaneous and potentially anonymous nature of communication it affords can free us to to say and do things that we might otherwise hesitate over.
        Most schools have a  non bullying policy, but more and more they face the problem of how to deal with situations where a member of the school community bullies another through email or social networking sites. I have heard some awful stories on the news about young people driven to contemplate or commit suicide because of cyber bullying, sometimes involving targeted "hate pages" set up about them. Blogging is a slightly different field to social networking. Bloggers put their opinions,  which are sometimes controversial or provocative, out there for comment and , to an extent, should be able to carry the can. There are limits though; on the Internet, as in real life, we should not match hatred for hatred.
All in all, I was quite glad I'd prioritised the gym...


  1. Stuart seemed to suggest self harm could be akin to the sacraments - " blood as liquid emotion". ............. I was a little dubious about the idea of self harm as sacrament, ..... I just think there may be dangers if it is dignified/ mystified as "sacramental" in some way. - Sue M

    Hi Sue M,

    I think you may have misread the statement on eChurchBlog relating to Stacy's piece. And therefore conflated Stuart's description of self-harm with a sacrament; yet nowhere is there the suggestion that self harm is akin to a Sacrament. Heaven forfend!

    What was being suggesting is the sanctifying grace one receives in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, "is the only way to completely conquer the urge to injure yourself."

    Only say the word Lord, and we shall be healed!


  2. Hi Phoebe,
    I wasn't suggesting that Stacy made a link between self harm and the sacraments (read my piece, I don't suggest that the idea was present in Stacy's post.) But Stuart did say that self harm was "making the invisible, visible." Now, as you will know, a sacrament is defined as " an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." So, Stuart's title did seem to clearly link self harm and sacrament. His comment that "blood is liquid emotion" also surely was a reference to communion (the sacrament) and the wine as the blood of Christ. Obviously, Stuart can perhaps explain more clearly what he meant, but that was how I read it.
    I thought the link Stuart made (not Stacy!) between self harm and sacrament was fascinating, but I had my reservations (not criticisms!) around it. If you look at Stuart's post, you will see that I commented that self harm is more an "outward and visible sign of an inner state of "disgrace" or spiritual / emotional dis-ease, rather than grace.
    I did not think for one moment that Stuart would wish to create a spiritual mystique around self harm, but I was concerned that some sufferers from this condition might see things this way. I know of at least one friend who told me she saw the cuts as a badge of shame/ honour and who commented that she felt "high and pure" while cutting herself - although she now knows she was just very, very screwed up (her words!) So those kinds of responses to what is, after all, a symptom of acute mental distress, are already out there!

    By the way, it is not true that the sanctifying grace of the Sacrament is "the only way to completely conquer the urge to injure yourself" as many atheists have therapy and recover completely from this impulse. Also Stacy (I think) still admits she struggles in this area.

    But I am delighted to hear that she personally finds it so helpful in this area of trouble.