Word of the Week

socialmediaIt's rare you meet someone who doesn't have at least one social media channel active (even if they're forgotten the password).

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn everybody is doing it. The day I got a "friend" request from an 85-year-old church member several years back I knew the trend was 100% here to stay! 

And if you simply refuse, then you at least have to have working knowledge of what it's all about.  

As you know, I'm a fan of social media.

Having led the social team at Feed the Children for a season and even recruiting a church member or two via Twitter back when I was the pastor of Washington Plaza I love making disciples of the art form. I know it can work-- to make new friends, to grow your affinity community and to share ideas (and photos) that add value to the world. At its best, social media makes the world feel kinder, smaller and those big hairy goals not so unattainable. 

But on the flip side, social media can be a weapon of destruction. Online bullying is at an all time high. Even elementary school students know what cyber terrorism is. And, living a private life? What's that?

How many times have you and I started a conversation with someone who began, "Well, I saw it on Facebook that you did ______" 

Family relationships spoil by harsh words said with the whole world watching. 

Friendships sour when someone posts they're visiting your hometown and they didn't bother to call. 

Employers sigh when they learn things about their employees they never wanted to know, just by starting up their computers. 

It's a crazy world out there when our social interactions with one another are no longer just about the face-to-face kind of talking. We misunderstand one another. And we can easily forget one another too (even with all of the built-in reminders!) as our feed grows longer and longer with touch points to every Jane, Sally and Dick we've ever known. 

So what's the solution in this "you can't but be social" world? How do we figure out how/ when/ why to post? 

I think about this question all the time, especially as an author-to-be with requirements from my publisher about what type of online presence I maintain. I know what I do online matters. And I never want to take the online community I've built for granted or to miss an opportunity not to speak out on causes that matter. 

But then this is where I worry . . . 

I have colleagues who are fellow pastors, influencers and known public speakers who seem to post (in my opinion) all the time. Every time, they read a book. Every time they eat a really great grilled cheese sandwich. Every time they have a conversation with a friend that moves their spirits or delights them. 

As a "follower" of theirs, I watch how people respond to their openness, gut level honesty and frequency of posts. They are so beloved!  I do admit that I learn a lot from their posts about what to eat where, what political articles I should read and even sometimes get a kick in the pants from their convictions put to practice. 

BUT, here's the thing . . . sharing EVERYTHING is just not me. And as much as I desire to build online community and use my voice to champion injustice, I still want to retain some privacy too. 

I want to be a person that my dearest friends know the best. 

I want to be a person that can have a wonderful date with my husband and doesn't brag. 

I want to be a person who makes advances in my vocational life that LinkedIn doesn't have to congratulate me for. 

In fact, during a particularly tender time in my life several years ago, I went off cold turkey from social media for many months. It was the best self-care! Sometimes, we all need a complete break.

Maybe the answer is that we all have to find our online path. To each their own? 

While none of us can avoid social media, we can make the best choices for us about when/ how we post. Asking ourselves the question when we do post: "Why am I sharing this?" And "What do I want to accomplish?"

For me, not willing to bear my soul to the world on a daily basis might limit how quickly my reach may grow. But, at the end of the night I don't want to feel that oversharing ickiness either. There are some memories and experiences so precious to me that I reserve the right to savor them privately. 

So, though we can't avoid being both online + social, let us encourage one another to be ourselves to post with purpose and in a way that builds us up!