The Use of Social Media during Meetings

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.

+John 🙂

See also, Tweeting Synod: Healthy for Whom? and “How tweet it is”


The Use of Social Media during Meetings — 4 Comments

  1. From personal experience at meetings, the actual, tangible, measurable benefits of social media use during the meeting (that you seem to have entirely discounted) far outweigh the deficiencies you have described.

    Regarding process vs. conclusion – there is no problem here. Tales told during and after Synod are more focused on process than conclusion as it is.

    Regarding confidentiality, if the substance of a meeting is to be confidential, then by all means refrain from commenting – via any medium. Digital social media is no special case here.

    Regarding maturity, maturity is learned. We don’t learn maturity while wrapped in cotton wool. When there are specific problems caused to a meeting as a result of digital social media misuse, address those problems. As it is, I not experienced the problems you have outlined. And I have not seen evidence to warrant the stance you have taken.

  2. I am sorry Johnathon, but having finished reading John’s points on social media in what I think was a very reasonable, balanced commentary; I was then confronted with your post which seemed to be very much more a one-sided affair. With the exception of confidentiality issues (obviously) you seem of the opinion that social media is fine in most other contexts surrounding the issues of meetings to which John was referring? I have found that as this wave of modern technology and means of communication sweep through society, many people (particularly young people) seem to think that wherever social media can be used it is both appropriate and acceptible. The fact still remains that without being in the room for a meeting or discussion, you cannot identify with all of the facts. Moreover you are relying on the point of view of the person tweeting/posting the information. On top of that is the issue that emotion is not very easily expressed through these means of communication either, such that anger or indifference to a situation may be implied and send the wrong message.
    Over the years, newspaper reporting and the like has come under scrutiny where it has not had “all the facts” and there have been plenty of legal actions taken because a reporter has failed to report clearly the entire truth in a situation. I do not deny that social media has its advantages – and lets use those, by all means – but we must refrain from “reporting” in such a way to cause conjecture amongst those who are reading portions of information which should be reported as a whole. There is no problem with telling about the process and the road taken to get to a conclusion…but do it as part of a concise communication after the event when all the facts are at hand!

  3. Thanks for your response, Adrian.

    Yes – for public meetings, I see no solid objections to the use of digital social media during the meeting. To address the points you raise:

    You seem to be dismissing current digital social media technologies as a trend or fad (at least, that’s what your use of the word “wave” suggests). Do you expect that the “wave” will recede and people will stop using blogs/facebook/twitter/google plus/etc? What do you think will replace these tools? Do you think that we can go back to a world without ubiquitous, pervasive, digital social media?

    Certainly you can’t identify with the facts if you’re not in the room – and you can identify with even less when nobody shares their point of view with you. In my experience, you can rarely identify with all the facts even when you are in the room – having more facts made available during the course of the meeting without interrupting its progress seems to be a good thing to me.

    I rely on the point of view of the person communicating with me all the time. I’m also able to objectively give weight to that point of view based on what I know of that person. I am baffled as to why you think that digital social media would make me believe everything I read without critically assessing what I know (or don’t know) of the communicator and the context.

    Newspaper reports are not tweets (nor are they status updates, or blog posts). Certainly, we should expect that people will not deliberately misrepresent the truth or defame others – but these standards should be applied regardless of the medium. But why should we imagine that comments by individuals should or will be treated as if they were written by reporters?

    Digital social media provides opportunities to improve the quality of our meetings – it allows groups spread across the room to communicate privately without needing to gather together or make noise disturbing the progress of the meeting. It gives us the chance to expose our work to a wider audience as it happens – I have experienced this increase the attention and regard given to the proceedings by a wider audience. I find attempts to limit the usefulness of these tools – without sound reasoning – to be frustrating and disappointing.

  4. I use social media… Facebook on a regular basis, it is a fantastic way to keep in touch with family and friends, in particular those many years younger than myself(54 but hey, who’s counting)
    However, it my observation that, when misused social media has a menacing presence in our lives. I take Jonathon’s point about information being accessible, and about process v’s outcome. However I have to express some concern about the degree of engagement with the process of someone focused of Facebook updates; to be a Synod rep, for example, is both a significant responsibility and a privilege, it should be taken seriously and that means paying attention to what is going on. Synod observers who wish to tweet about outcomes and or process should be aware that they are not privy to all the documentation or the in camera pre-synod briefings.
    There is also the small matter of good manners, unless you are a neurosurgeon on call or your partner is about to go into labour turn off your bloomin’ phone in meetings. If you are one of the afore mentioned turn off the ringtone and leave the room QUIETLY to respond to it.
    On a lighter note…I have visions of the tradition Vatican smoke being replaced by a multitude of facebook updates and tweets next time the college of Cardinals meets to elect a new Pope…I hope not.

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