I enjoy social media. I have recently commenced using Twitter (@tasbishopjohn). I have had this blog for some time. I am also on facebook, and I am a major user of the diocesan website.
I guess I am a fairly outgoing, social being and my experiences with social media have been enriching. I intend to continue in conversation through using them.
I believe that the essential principle in the use of social media is that we are to be Christlike.
Our Conversations are to be ‘in Christ and in context’
All conversations, including social media, occur within a culture. The culture of Christ, the way and rule of Christ, the kingdom of God, calls for the Holy Spirit to have free reign in transforming us into the image of Christ and producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Our conversations whether by social media, face-to-face or letter are to be graced by the love of God and love of neighbour. We are called to be a holy people indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Social Media during Meetings
We are in Christ and we are to be Christ in whatever context we find ourselves in, including the context of meetings where individuals have access to social media.
I have come to the conclusion that the use of social media to comment on meetings while they are still in progress can be extremely unhelpful.
Decision making involves process and if process is not allowed to complete, people can be hurt and poor decisions can be made.
Firstly, Social media can be used to report conclusions, or describe process as it is occurring. To report process as it is happening can breed misunderstanding. If someone is giving a blow by blow description, “Fred is opposing Mary’s view and Mary is not happy” I think this violates the safe environment in which debate and decision making should happen. A wider audience now has the commentator’s opinion of Mary, and Fred’s view on Mary, and both Fred and Mary have no recourse. People who experience this will soon not contribute to discussion and debate and consequently increase the chance of a poor decision being made.
If social media is to be used it can and should be used to report the actual decisions (e.g.“Synod has decided to increase the missions’ budget by 25% over the next 3 years”. ) or occurrences incidental to the process (e.g. “The meeting has been extended to 6pm, drinkies will now be at 7pm”) or constructive comments after the conclusion (e.g. “I appreciated the points that Mary made”). It is inappropriate to take the substance of the conversation, while it remains in flux, and place it in a different forum.
Secondly, there is a maturity question – we have seen in the media in recent times that even some well known people have been bitten by the messages they have sent through social media.
While participants in meetings, such as Synod, may well be mature people, we are all capable of lapses and mistakes; there are no guarantees here. This begs the question where does confidentiality fit in. Do we know when not to twitter? In my view, the safest thing to do is to encourage social media to only be used in the breaks when there is more likelihood that decisions rather than process will be reported and people will be less likely to act on the spur of the moment and communicate something that they and others are likely to later regret.
We are accountable to follow the way of Christ
Relationships are the key to our life together in Christ. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
Our comments on social media are an extension of our tongue. James (3:8-10) warns us:
“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.”
Conversation has the power to both nurture and damage people, therefore we must be wise in speaking by whatever medium.
Let’s deepen our relationships through social media
God put us on this earth to love Him and to love one another. Used appropriately social media enrich our relationships and can assist us in building a healthy church … transforming life.