My initial ponderings on tweeting during Synod. Comments welcome. Please be gentle! A bishop seeking wisdom.
Observation: Some members of our recent Synod used social media during Synod presentations and debates to communicate with people on their networks who may or may not have been members of Synod.
The social media mainly used during Synod was Twitter but could also have included Facebook, blogs and texting.
Context: Synod comprises close to 200 Anglican ordained and lay people who meet annually over 2 days to discuss and debate various issues, set a financial budget and also enact legislation for the Anglican community in Tasmania. The sessions are mainly open to the public, including the media. However when Synod is meeting “in committee” the matters discussed are confidential and no outside communication is permitted. For example, the media may well be asked to leave during those times.
Culture: We have been prayerfully working at developing an open, transparent and caring culture which shows forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which nourishes our life as a healthy church transforming life.
Responses: “Various” responses (what would you expect/we are Anglican!) The responses have varied from “A good use of technology to inform the folk at home, Tasmania, the world” through to “Aah! How rude.” and “What are they saying about us?”
Reasons ‘In Favour’ and ‘Against':
In Favour of members of Synod using social media during the sitting of Synod:
1. Synod is a public forum and social media allows non-Synod members to know what is going on.
2. Using social media is educational – both members and non-members can learn about the procedures and issues confronting Synod.
3. The use of social media is simply another form of communication between Synod members. After all, Synod members talk at tables during Synod, some pass notes and some even ‘wander around’ occasionally!
Against members of Synod using social media during the sitting of Synod:
1. The negative impact on the effectiveness of Synod participation. If a synod member is using social media during Synod, this reduces their capacity to attend to what is happening at the time.
2. It also raises the question as to which audience a person using social media is addressing. Are they able to address both the Synod of which they are a member and the members of their social media network?
3. The use of social media shows a lack of politeness and respect for other members of Synod. When a Synod member is speaking it is expected that the other members of Synod would give them their due attention. Against this, it is noted that some Synod members are seen reading books or magazines and they are not attending to Synod either. However, this strikes me as a weak argument: just because someone else is doing something impolite, does not make my similar behaviour acceptable.
4. There is a danger of miscommunication. During an ongoing session of Synod any comment on the progress of a debate is by definition partial: it does not give a full picture of the debate. Partial information can be misleading.
5. It is also possible for inaccurate information and misunderstandings to be communicated by social media to people outside of Synod. This could be unfair to particular members of Synod and Synod as a whole because the majority of Synod members are unaware of the information or misinformation being communicated. There is little possibility of correction.
6. Silencing the reticent synod speakers. An unintended social consequence of the use of social media during Synod is that it will inhibit the participation of some Synod members. This inhibition will come about due to the embarrassment that a Synod member may well experience when they make a mistake of fact, emphasis or protocol in their speaking to Synod. In our conservative Anglo-Saxon Tasmanian culture, some people find it difficult to speak in front of a large audience such as Synod. The knowledge that what they are saying is being reported even as they speak by social media is likely to silence some Synod members.
7. Another issue is that some members of Synod will be aware of some of the communications by Synod members using social media but others will not. A key aspect of Synod is that all people have the same access to information to inform their decision making.
8. How is the chairperson of Synod included in the social media information flow/conversations? I would have to say that as President of Synod it would be very difficult to both chair the Synod and be reading Facebook, tweets, texts and blogs!
Relationships are the key to our life together in Christ. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
Technology has the power to both nurture and damage people, therefore we must be wise in its use.
Social Media is an extension of our tongue. James 3:8-10 “No one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with is we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”
a. How are relationships within the whole Body of Christ nurtured?
b. How is a healthy conversation of the Synod as a whole to be gained?
c. What role might social media play in nurturing such a healthy conversation?
What thinketh thee?