Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Schooling...

I have heard it said that "the net imitates life." So, with that in mind, I feel the need to share with you something that has been on my heart for quite some time. I have the need to address some issues that present themselves on the web in the form of social media. Now, I am a big social media fan; I blog (duh), FACEBOOK, and I even Tweet...I also have a Google+ account and my world of tech is getting full. However, what I have understood is that the social conventions we apply to real life cross over to the web, especially on sites like FACEBOOK and Twitter and blogs.

Just think, you are sitting behind a screen with nobody looking over your shoulder as you read this. You can be tempted to waive any common courtesy and personal discretion because you think you are anonymous. I find it interesting that people feel protected behind avatars and aliases, privacy controls and the alleged small viewership of their online affairs, but the fact is that we really don't know who reads about us, has researched us or saved online mementos of us to their mental or computer hard drives. I have to admit that managing our online reputation and online relationships require a level of self consciousness and some tact. There is no "net police" to ensure we deliver our social graces, but that is why we need to be reminded of "netiquette" or "Web Etiquette." The gauging questions for all online activities should be: "would I do this in a face to face relationship and is the essence of the conversation fit for everyone to see?"

I have said it before and I will say it again, "I think that people self disclose too much on FACEBOOK and social media in general." What I have found in the lives of people (maybe even you) is that many people have started to avoid difficult conversations by simply sending an email, an update or a tweet. Generally speaking, sensitive conversations should occur face to face. If you are a believer that Matthew 18:15 is a verse that you MUST live by. Let me refresh this for you! "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." This is where many believers #fail...actually #epicfail! Instead of setting time aside to meet with people face to face we throw our 'stuff" out on the web with no discretion (to which I would say that many people are cowards!) #justsaying

Listen, face to face conversation limit the possibility of misunderstandings and allow for the nuances of facial expression and inflection. It's personal and it is biblical. If the individual or individuals are open to having a face to face meeting, a third space such as a coffee shop will diminish feelings of awkwardness. Phone conversations are second best, but still a good alternative.

Publicizing a private conversation on a wall post, in case it isn't obvious, is open to all to see. FACEBOOK wall posts are completely public to all your friends (unless you tweak your privacy settings). So, I come back to my original point that private matters should be handled privately and if at all possible, face to face.

Think about it, you're leaving your digital signature on the Internet right now...ON MY BLOG. I have your IP address, I know when you come in and go out; I know what page you have come in on and what page you left; I know how long you have been on this blog and I know when you come back; I know if you commented or not, even if you think you are anonymous. I know! (but actually I don't care) With all that in mind, think about the consequences of our engagement on any social site. Racial slurs, criticisms without warrant and blatant abuse! These don't fly in real life, and they really have no place in the social media simply because you feel that you are anonymous on these sites.

We need to consider how our comments would be perceived before we actually post them and think about logic above emotion at all times. Above all, think about maintaining a certain level of professionalism since people can use whatever you make "permanent" on these sites against you. Before you hit "post" realize that this will be a permanent reflection of your identity and that it may never be erased. It may even be used against you. This even applies to those who play FACEBOOK games during office hours. I have heard it said "My boss is not one of my friends." That may be true but our world has been made so small because of social media that you have no idea who is connect to who and how. I am amazed how many people have lost their jobs because of a momentary lapse of judgment and posted or played a mindless game on FACEBOOK during office hours.

Try not to carry out private conversation with another person on a FACEBOOK wall or Twitter. Those excluded from the conversation are left to read through the back and forth dialogue as either unwilling or overly interested bystanders (Creepers). By skimming through someone's wall post, you can easily find out where people are working, who they are seeing, where they have traveled and where they currently reside. There are available privacy setting for restricting who views your wall....then use them, not just to protect your own privacy but also the privacy of others, but then there are ways to get around that as well...many of your friends have their settings wide open!

Remember that social media communities are real relationships, real conversations, and as such they should be treated like they are real. It is not about me, myself and I mentality. It is about the collective, the community and the common good. Every post we write needs to be purposeful, on topic and well thought out, otherwise you are wasting people's time on screening and filtering. We have all seen trivial posting on FACEBOOK, Twitter and some blogs, about the banal daily activities that people engage in. If you are a movie star, being followed by a fan-struck populace, maybe they all want to know when you brush your teeth, but for everyday people, this is just overcrowding the web with information clutter. If you must share your daily travails with intimate friends, then create a private group of those closest to you, or use the social network's email service to connect directly to them and them alone.

On another note, I am convinced that many people abuse application invites and consistently invite friends to participate in "vampire, mafia or farm"games that most don't really care about. We call this SPAM! A word to the wise, if your friends are interested they will likely join without your encouragement. If they don't accept the first time, then don't send the group request again! Ask people to join via an email, wall post or direct message...

There is no place for narcissism in social media. Another SPAMMY thing to do is to use your social network for self-promos (ie: daily status updates on your next sales event- or whatever). If that is the only reason you use social media, you will find that people will lose interest in what you are doing. If you, however, "salt and pepper" your account with other interesting tidbits and correspondence then people are more apt to follow you! BTW people get tired quickly of posts that are always negative and how hard your life is... #justsaying Try being positive and #lookonthebrightside of life. Also, posting on how a business is rude or money robbing, maybe one that represents "unwashed vermin" reflects a lack of professionalism and integrity on you as well.

I share these with you because I am concerned that many folks, especially believers are defaulting to hiding behind a screen and not interacting with people the way that GOD intended.



Cindy Doroshuk said...

So true Pastor Gerry! We are quickly losing the art of conversation. You can see it in kids who sit beside each other and text rather than talk. I also think the distancing that takes place in social media allows us to become bolder in the things we post - things we would never say to a person face to face.

Carol Thiessen said...

I agree Gerry, although I admit I am at fault. I have chosen to send an email to someone when I should have confronted her face to face. I see the error of my ways. Good Blog I look forward to reading more

Anonymous said...

if more people TRULY cared about accountability, like you, alot less pain would happen. thanks for caring!

SoulPastor said...

Anonymous....It would be good to use your name or tag or sort!

Horst Peters said...

I agree!

Over the past several months I have changed how I use Facebook (the only social media I use). To begin with I deleted just about every app I had on Facebook. Then I deleted all "friends" whose only connection to me was through the apps I had deleted. I tightened up my privacy settings and deleted almost everything from my profile. Then I took a look at the list of 'friends' that remained and deleted all those that I don't have some kind of regular contact or connection with, especially people I never or rarely see face to face.

The exception to this is a bunch of cousins I have in Germany and their kids that are on FB. It's kind of neat to chat with my cousin's kids whom I have never met but who like to keep in contact with their relatives here in Canada. It's a nice bonus.

I have cut way back on my FB activity and use my time differently. Mostly I message my kids when they don't return my phone calls. That way I have a better chance of hearing from them.

I've stopped posting useless status updates. I'll occasionally comment on something a friend has posted.

Between cutting back on the information I share, and who I share it with I feel much more comfortable with my presence on FB.

People don't have a need to know every detail of what's going on in my life.

Anonymous said...

Scripture warns us about the use of our tongues... we need to watch our thumbs equally.

SoulPastor said...

Good point Anonymous....BUT Again, it would be good for you to use your name or tag!

jennasmom said...

Hey G! I totally agree. I've recently noticed on some peoples' posts, that they say things that I'm most certain would not be said face to face. I like phone or face to face interactions with people the most. But I like FB because I'm nosey too! It's a great way to snoop around legally. :P
It's a really techie world we live in and though it comes with great advantages, I'm not liking it 100%. There seems to be so much that pulls us away from relationship with each other and FB is just one more impersonal thing that is a popular form of communication. A lot of people don't even answer their phones (land lines)anymore, but you can always catch them on FB. Sigh. Frustrating. I guess I'm old fashioned; or do people have time for people anymore?- I love the personal interaction, it "recharges my batteries" and you just don't that same level of interaction over the "ninny-net."
I also feel challenged to change a few things myself, too. I've actually started a New Years resolution list (ya, I know it is only August), but I'm going to add some FB changes to my list. Excellent words of encouragement. Thank You and thank you again.
Joan Haugh

Jordan said...

Love it.

Anonymous said...

It amounts to 'courage' to confront, to confess, to let it be, to let go or to move on. In a few words: "he who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin...(and) whatever is not of faith is sin."

Nice to have a pastor who leads by example. There's a tendency with us not to examine what we say or do, and yes, to over-examine (me). Our new media is really just exposing an old problem, the dismissal of our hearts. On the one hand it says 'if I can only say what I really feel'. That takes courage. But on the other hand it takes courage to 'shut up' and leave it with God, and swallow the pill. If we say nothing who will know what is really going on, leaving others in the dark and not allowing them to love us or to misunderstand us; and if we share too much, we fail to love others who hope to share and be understood.

Getting this right varies with situational needs and maturity. 'Love covers a multitude of sins...' means we sit tight and roll with the punches, or make a consideration for those who are not able to yet handle, or maybe don't need to hear at all, what we have on your hearts. Yet correction is also necessary.

But knowing each others' hearts is definitely what is at stake. The old problem is 'distraction'. Media distract. But it's no different than the hobby, the newspaper, the day's highlights or what the neighbour's doing. We're busy little beavers, or should I say Marthas. We say nothing or of little import, or we say too little or talk too much.

When was the last time someone confessed their sin to you, or you confessed yours? The Bible makes it clear that is how we heal. How often do we say how we feel, knowing full well that feelings run through us wildly all the time; and what happens if we ignore those feelings? Feelings inform us of what's up in our minds and hearts.

You're right Jerry, without face-to-face encounters we have little authentic idea into what is going on. But we shouldn't' browbeat the misuse of technology if we aren't in the habit of relating well in the first place. I suspect that the misuse is only a symptom of our real-life relational mismanagement anyway. Sure, the techie distractions ill-equip us for the 'real' stuff, but they also aid in examining our failings, which your own words reveal.

My opinion is that we train ourselves in real communications. That we study the Word for the purpose of practising what it says about it. Again, I think our tech problems only reflect what we are or are not doing in our face-to-face conversations. Why don't we implement a forum for training in heart-to-heart talk, that is safe and inviting? Maybe not. The turnout would be dismal. I don't think having a heart-to-heart talk with myself is what is called for. I do plenty of that already.