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.
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. 😉
In addition to this blog, I also edit/curate articles at two other sites, NewChurchReport.com and SmallChurchPROF.com. Both of these sites consist of links to videos, articles, blog posts, and information applicable to churches. Today I’m introducing you to NewChurchReport.com, with the following from the NCR About page:
NewChurchReport.com searches the internet for the best of church news, ideas, information, and inspiration. Four categories comprise the homepage of NewChurchReport.com:
Editorial philosophy: As the editor of NewChurchReport.com, I look for well-written pieces that have something new to say about churches or the issues churches face. I represent a variety of viewpoints, even those with which I disagree. I am looking for practical or provocative articles that make me think. I include articles from secular media if I think those have application for churches. I don’t post Bible studies, theological treatises, polemical pieces, or argumentative posts. There are enough of those articles elsewhere.
Goal: NewChurchReport.com will be the go-to-source for interesting, unusual, provocative, practical, and inspirational writing. Readers will find church-related articles here that they won’t find on other church-related sites. Let me know if we succeed in accomplishing that goal, and how we can improve NCR in the future.
Contributors: If you would like to contribute an article to NewChurchReport.com, please read the editorial philosophy above before submitting. If you would like for me to consider an article for inclusion, please email me the link, not the whole article. The editing system I use depends on links to the original post or article, so if an article is not on the web at a specific URL, I cannot link to it. All titles link to the original articles, and all original sites are credited. I write the “hook” that appears below each title, which may include a quote from the article, or my summary of the main point of the article.
Disclaimer: NewChurchReport.com is an independent Christian news and opinion publication. NewChurchReport.com does not endorse or promote any particular doctrine, denomination, or point of view. All articles appearing on NewChurchReport.com are chosen for their helpful application to some aspect of advancing the church of Jesus Christ in today’s world.
Scott Linklater started NewChurchReport.com and handed the job of editing the site over to me in January, 2009. All content is selected by the editor, and does not necessarily represent the views of the editor, or any person, denomination, church, or other organization represented here.
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The problem with Twitter is you only have 140-characters to make your point. The example above has been re-tweeted about a million times in the past two days, and frankly, I find it a little annoying.
Okay, so Rick Warren is a megachurch guru, no doubt. Warren has over 65,000 Twitter followers — I have less than 2,000. But the problem here is I think Warren is trying to be clever (who doesn’t occasionally?), but is sending a lot of mixed signals. Here’s what I mean:
Okay, I’ll stop before I get 50 comments telling me to lighten up. My point is this — aphorisms can be clever, but they’re also simplistic and shallow. I personally believe Rick Warren is a good guy, so this is nothing personal. And, he takes his share of hits for everything from gay marriage to his recent appeal for funds. But please, Rick, if you’re trying to pay small churches a compliment, don’t be so clever in the future. Thanks.
Most of you who follow this blog do it by feed reader. If you get me on a feed reader, you may not know about some of the new tools I’m using. I’m finding them useful:
Does all this take a lot of time. Yes and no. I consider it networking time, not wasted time, but it does take some time. You may not want to take on all the social networking tools, but experiment with at least one of them. I’m convinced that this is the wave of the future, even for church networks.
If you’re using social networking, tell us how you’re doing it, and what benefit you get. I’m putting together an article on how social networking can be used with small churches and I’d like to hear from you. Thanks.
I got tired of lugging my laptop to meetings, so I got a Blackberry before I went to NOC2008 in San Diego. Of course, when I got there, everyone I saw had an iPhone or a BB, so I’m not exactly on the cutting edge here, but I’m still impressed. I had no idea you could do almost everything on a mobile device, which brings me to the point — take the quantum leap and make everything you do mobile. Here’s what I mean:
Okay, some of you are way ahead of me on this. How are you using your smartphones in ministry? What apps have you downloaded and how do you use them? Is anyone out there all mobile all the time?
Wednesday I fly to San Diego for the National Outreach Convention — NOC2008! I’m leading the workshop, Small Churches Make Good Neighbors: 10 Ways Your Church Can Change Your Community.
I hope you’re meeting me there, but if not, you can follow all the action at NOC2008 right here. I’ll Twitter the event several times a day (see my Twitter posts on the right column of my blog — feed readers have to click thru to see them).
Also, I’m posting photos of NOC2008 to my Facebook here —
— so you can join in the fun!
I’ll also post the best ideas I come across each day, so stay tuned for lots of good, helpful stuff. So, Friend me on FB, follow me on Twitter, and keep up here each day. See you in San Diego!
I’ve added my Twitter link to the right widget column and my Facebook link to the left column. Please help me jump the Facebook blog hurdle by confirming I am the author of this blog by clicking here. Then, friend me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. I’ll be doing more stuff on both this week! Thanks.