This is undoubtedly my 15 seconds of fame. Huffington Post picked up my article on social media etiquette. Here’s the link —
This is undoubtedly my 15 seconds of fame. Huffington Post picked up my article on social media etiquette. Here’s the link —
Before social media, a snail mail letter to the editor of your local newspaper was about the only way to make your voice heard. Now Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, WordPress, and Google+ make it easy for anyone to shout out their opinion on any topic, at any time.
In fact, social media might make it too easy for us to let everyone know what we’re thinking at the moment. That may be fine for most folks, but some politicians and celebrities have lived to regret exposing their thoughts, and other things, to public scrutiny. Just ask Anthony Weiner.
Like politicians and celebrities, pastors should exercise some caution with social media, too. Although we’re not running for office, we’re always in the public eye in our own circles of friends, colleagues, and fellow church members.
When I started blogging seven years ago, almost no one in my small town of 1200 people read my blog. For a while I enjoyed my local anonymity because I was able to express opinions on topics I never would have addressed in a Sunday sermon or Wednesday night Bible study.
However, as my local readership increased on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, I began to rethink my previous reckless “opinionating.” I developed some personal guidelines to regulate my social media posts, tweets, and status updates.
These are six things I consider before I take a public stand on controversial topics:
1. Is this an ethical issue or just a pet peeve?
Like lots of folks, I have an opinion about most things. However, I have discovered I don’t need to weigh in publicly on everything. I now restrict my blog posts to church ministry topics, and my Twitter and Facebook updates to church or ethical topics. Of course, that doesn’t count the times I am just goofing around on social media, but I play that safe, too!
2. Can I influence the situation?
If I can’t have some influence on a situation, I have decided there is not much point in my commenting on it. Therefore, I never write about the latest Federal Reserve Bank efforts to jump start the economy because there is nothing I can say to influence the Fed’s action. You get the point.
3. Have others spoken out who are more credible or qualified than I am?
My example in #2 comes to mind here, too. No one cares what I think about quantitative easing or economic stimulus. Those topics I leave to the experts, the pages of the New York Times, and other esteemed sources. If somebody more credible than I am is addressing the issue, I probably don’t need to add my two cents worth.
4. Do I have something constructive to offer?
When I first started blogging, I quickly fell into what I call “blogger’s syndrome” — posting righteous indignation and scathing opinions eviscerating others who disagreed with me. One day it occurred to me that anyone can rant, but I ought to be offering positive perspectives and solutions. I deleted more than one blog post after coming to that decision. Now I try to offer a positive solution, outlook, or suggestion, and I don’t attack individuals or groups. I know it is a cliche’, but I decided that I would actually be the change I wanted to see. In other words, the way to peace is the way of peace, to paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh.
5. Am I willing to risk my friends, my reputation, and possibly my job by taking this position?
What do you do when there is an issue so compelling that you must take a public stand? I think then you heed the words of Jesus from Luke 14:28b — “Won’t you first sit down and count the cost…?” If you take a public stand, are you ready to risk your friends, your reputation, and possibly your job as pastor? Sometimes the answer to that question has to be “Yes!” However, most of the time, it’s not. I’m not encouraging cowardice, just awareness that public positions also have personal consequences.
6. What am I personally doing now to change the situation?
Finally, before I write about an issue, I reflect on what I am doing to change that situation. Call this hypocrisy-avoidance, but if I am not willing to “put some skin in the game” as the saying goes, maybe I ought not to comment.
Since developing these questions, I am enjoying blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking more than I used to. I notice that I regret fewer posts, delete fewer tweets, and in the process have increased my readership. If the unexamined life isn’t worth living, according to Socrates, then maybe the unexamined opinion isn’t worth tweeting either.
I crossed two significant (for me) milestones yesterday. First, and most importantly (again, for me), Fuller posted my DMin degree. So, I am now official. As the old joke goes: “My friends call me Chuck; you can call me Dr. Warnock.” Or something like that. Anyway, here it is. The downside is that I still have to wait several weeks for the diploma to be printed, signed and mailed. (Apparently Fuller was not as confident as I was that I would actually graduate!)
The other milestone happened yesterday — I crossed 1,000,000 page views on this blog! Which means that Debbie has looked at this blog a lot! And maybe a few other folks, too, I hope. I’ve been blogging here since December, 2006. If I figured this correctly, that’s an average of 12,350 or so views per month. Compare that to an average month in which I preach to about 400-500 people total. Of course, I realize that some people spend 3 seconds or less on a blog site, including mine. But still social media enable us to have conversations with lots of folks in lots of places, and most of the time that’s a great thing.
If you’ve been here for awhile, thanks for sticking around. If you’re new, I hope you’ll check in often. In 7 years of blogging, I’ve made my share of mistakes, offended some, encouraged others, and enjoyed the whole experience. Recently I refocused my blog around the theme of my DMin study and dissertation — churches building communities of reconciliation. Reconciliation is like Will Roger’s famous quote about the weather — “Everybody talks about it, but nobody ever does anything about it.” On this blog, from this point forward, I’ll be highlighting how my church and yours can do something about reconciliation. Stick around. Thanks.
Recently I cancelled my Linked-In and Plaxo accounts. I had previously cancelled my Twitter account, but now have one under @PeaceFriendsCom to promote my blog, PeaceFriends.Com. I mostly look at my own family’s Facebook posting and photos, and spend almost no time posting to Facebook, except for my blog posts which go up automatically. In short, I’m pretty unsociable about social media.
Here are some of the pitfalls of social media, as I see them, especially for pastors:
1. You think you’re anonymous. “Public anonymity” sounds like a oxymoron. You know, like airline food, military intelligence, hot ice, and so on. But Twitter, Facebook, et al, while appearing to really connect us with others, don’t. What social media do is to create an exchange “as through a glass darkly” to quote the Apostle Paul. There is a sense that one can post comments or quotes that would not be said or shown in a face-to-face encounter. Hence, public anonymity. How else can you explain today’s “boy-behaving-badly,” Rep. Anthony Weiner. Either he has a political deathwish, or he thought somehow he was anonymous. The Emperor’s New Clothes comes to mind here for some reason.
2. Nuance is lost in social media. The raised eyebrow, the tone of voice, the wry smile, the sense of humor are all lost in social media. Emoticons, I’m sorry, are not good substitutes for human facial expressions, even if they do help clarify (“is he mad, or just joking”) the writer’s intent. I won’t even get into correct spelling, grammar, syntax, and all the other skills of proper writing that are lost, but nuance is a big one for me.
3. It’s easy to be stupid. While we might choose our words more carefully in a real-life encounter, social media is a linguistic drive-by shooting — quick, blunt, and irrevocable. Of course, you can delete your tweet, but that won’t prevent someone else from capturing a screenshot and putting it on Twitter again. Rep. Anthony Weiner, again, is a good example.
Of course, being stupid isn’t limited to explicit images or inappropriate comments. Pastors and church leaders need to consider carefully their social media interaction, whether on blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other social media platforms. The now ubiquitous stories of employers checking out an applicant’s Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter accounts before hiring make my point about caution. Do not think that your social media account is your private business. If you’re out there, someone in your church or community will be reading and watching.
All of this doesn’t mean that pastors are limited to tweeting Bible verses or Christian platitudes. But, a good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t show it to your ___________ (deacons, elders, spouse, senior pastor, mother, etc) don’t Tweet it.”
“Please re-Tweet this article, hit the Like button, post it to your Facebook accounts, and help me get this out there in the blogosphere,” he said ironically. 😉
According to a new survey, over 84% of mothers online — some 27-million women — can be grouped into 5 “digital mom” categories. However, these tech-savvy mothers use the internet, social media, gaming, texting, and other online content in different ways and for different purposes. Churches can benefit from the insights of this new study by the marketing company Razorfish, and the world’s largest mom-centric website, Cafe Mom.
The survey discovered these five “digital mom” types:
1. The self-expressor mom.
Typically in her early thirties with one preschooler, and possibly more on the way, this mom is as likely to be stay-at-home as employed. She balances the most limited household budget of all 5 types, and so needs to shop for value. This mom is a highly socialable networker, and has a higher than average number of friends in her online social network. She both creates and participates in online polls as one of her favorite ways to engage with others. Her social network page is often decorated with digital badges, photos, and playlists which communicate her style. Marketers can involve the self-expressor in their online brand campaigns by appealing to her artistic and individual sense. She seeks the advice of real-world friends on parenting, but then turns to her online friends for addition advice and guidance. 40% of moms fall into this category.
2. The utility mom.
The utility mom is in her mid-to-late thirties and is raising a couple of tweens. She is likely to have the most children at home, yet spends the most time online in her social networking groups. Yet, she prefers to bring her own real-world friends into her online network, rather than make new online friends. She is more likely to join online groups, particularly if they are local school groups or groups providing practical information. While she will answer other online polls, she creates little online content herself, and has the fewest online photos posted of any group. She does like online game and quiz widgets, but values information from her real friends over that of her online network. The utility mom uses her social network time for both monitoring her own children, and her own enjoyment of playing games or answering quizzes. This mom is 26% of digital moms.
3. The groupster mom.
This mom is in her early thirties with elementary school-age children. As the name implies, she is more likely to join groups or start groups than any other digital mom segment. But she is also not the most social of the digital moms, receiving more friend invitations than she sends. She is confident and sees herself as a go-to person for advice, but not necessarily shopping advice. She depends upon her online friends for parenting advice, although she says she is more influenced by brand programs on social networks when it comes to purchasing. She also ranks the highest in sending private messages online, and values 1-to-1 communication. The groupster mom is 12% of the digital mom cohort.
4. The info-seeker mom.
In her twenties with her first baby, this mom is looking for information. She is among the best educated of all the moms, and is most likely to be a stay home mom. She is interested in parenting information, which she prefers to get from real friends, but she will also turn to online parents in similar situations to hers. She values the mom-to-mom conversations online, but while she uses social networks, her primary concern is to get product or parenting guidance. The info-seeker is 12% of the total group.
5. The hyper-connector mom.
This mom is the oldest, usually in her forties, with the oldest kids, usually teenagers. Experienced as a parent, she uses social media more to chat with others, and gain information on products she might be considering. She also monitors her own teens online usage, and is likely to play video games online with others. She accesses digital news channels more than younger moms, and also blogs, leaves comments on the blogs of others, and is the highest content creator in the survey. She is highly active, inviting others to join her online community of moms. She values this online community more than expert opinions, online reviews or print advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions. This mom is 9% of the digital mom universe.
Other insights into the world of digital moms includes —
You can download and save the full report here. The report is 36 pages and filled with charts and text explaining how each “digital mom” segment uses Web 2.0 media. If you’re interested in women’s ministry, the internet, demographics, or social networking, this report will give you lots to think about.
I’m starting to get into Facebook. Debbie and I have connected with old friends, our own family, former church members, and lots of new “friends” that we would not have met anywhere else.
As experienced Facebookers know, not only can you find friends online, but you can join causes, too. I’ve joined a few causes, let a few other opportunities slide, and read them all with interest. Some causes are being touted by professionals. I won’t name names, but they’re probably your “friend,” too. That’s the downside of social media — insincere friends trying to get you to do something that benefits them. Actually, that happens in real life to, so maybe this is not so virtual after all.
Another way to identify with your new online Facebook friends is to become a fan of someone or something they’re a fan of, too. Which got me to thinking about the whole missional vs. attractional church debate. Dan Kimball stirred the pot a little with his shot at missional churches that don’t grow. Julie Clawson fired back with her take on the missional scene.
But, what’s wrong with attracting people? Jesus did it. Granted the thousands abandoned him in the end, but they still got fed, healed, encouraged, taught, and loved. Maybe some of them got it later. We don’t know. But, Jesus is the most missional guy I know, and he wasn’t offended when big crowds flocked to him. Of course, he recognized that most of them didn’t get it, but he still did what he could with them.
While there is a big difference in becoming a “fan” of Jesus Facebook-style, and becoming a disciple of Jesus New Testament-style, it’s not a bad thing for people to be drawn to Jesus and his church, even out of curiosity, even for entertainment.
The challenge is leading fans to become friends of Jesus, real friends. After all, Jesus said to those following him, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” Maybe starting as a fan can lead to something more. What do you think?