Thursday, 5 February 2009

Social media: being and doing church in public

Here's a great article, 8 Questions to Ask Your "Social Media Expert"

Now, I've already commented about a year ago in response to a negative view of blogging amongst churchy types.  Funnily enough, I'm more hopeful that the same fear response won't be repeated in the social media space.

Why am I more hopeful? Five very good reasons.

  1. Contemporary social media is so alien to lots of people, but also so natural to lots of others, that it's becoming just another one of those things like cricket, beer and dyed hair - some do, some don't, where's the beef?
  2. Churches are pretty much by definition dispersed communities that struggle with issues of internal communication. Social media can - and increasingly does - fill that gap beautifully. Square peg, square hole.
  3. At least one Bishop is active on twitter - hallelujah! [And if you want to follow me and dip just a single toe into twitdom, sign up and follow alantwilson]
  4. "In Christ" is a great place to be: it's my experience that relationships between Christians tend to form faster, go deeper and mix wider than in any other context. But. The coin has a flip-side - it's easy not to notice that churchy friendships have squeezed out the other ones. Good news! Social networks are great places to chat with anyone and everyone, especially if you're willing to put up with a bit of rib-poking about being so unhip as to think Jesus is da man ;)
  5. Social media can be a truly humanising place, where people can flourish through distinctiveness, relationship and communication, whoever, wherever and however they are. It's a C21 trinitarian story. No, really.

So what's the connection with the article? 

Well, one of the ways that people misunderstand what it is to be church is the horrendous norm of niceness.

That's why we don't know how to say, or how to hear, "I don't think you know what you're talking about." It's a place where all too often people who want to claim expertise often can and do exactly that.

So in spite of being optimistic, a nagging voice says: no. The church is in the business of communication, and is royally bad at it in public media at every level. If we let the wannabe experts be the opinion formers in the social media space, God help us.

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It's great to get comments - a good way to encourage, challenge and help me! Thank you. Jeremy