Social Networking, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and the Pastorate

Twitter I now Twitter. I also Facebook. Is this good or bad?  Read my thoughts on making social networking redemptive and tell me what you think about it.

Erika works on me about technology and communication. You would think that she would want be to back off, but instead, she encourages me in it and keeps telling me to move forward in communicating my thoughts.  Lots of wives want their husbands to be quiet. Erika tells me to say more. I'm a lucky guy. Anyway, I started my blog a few years ago because I thought that I had some things to say and as a pastor, I thought that I could use it as a teaching tool.  It has been far more effective than I ever dreamed.  For a long time, I was very content with my blog. Still am, actually. I liked to think things through, write essays, and explore new ideas. My readership is not huge, but I have a few hundred people who regularly check out what I am writing and have had visitors from every country imaginable. So, it has been a good outlet. Like I said, I was totally content.

Facebook Then, Facebook came along. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of Facebook. I go there every once in a while and I have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends from the past. I feed my blog into my Facebook page, but I am not one to update with pithy sentences on what kind of cereal I had or how long I was stuck in traffic.  You can only read about  me being late for a meeting so many times before you realize that I have a tardiness problem.  Seriously, it is just too much information. But, everyone was doing it and if everyone is doing it, it must be a good thing, right? I mean, EVERYONE can't be wrong, right? Um, right?  Yeah, right. Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more that it seemed like a good idea, at least for the sake of networking and communication, which is pretty important for a pastor. Plus, Erika starts telling me that I've got to get a Facebook page. She got one first and she actually set me up with my page. So, I blame her.

Yes, it is good to connect with people, but it is not good if we reduce all of life to soundbites and pithy sentences that explain little. We lose something when we don't take time to really think about things in depth or we don't care to engage thought on a level more intricate than what can be said in 140 characters. The danger and superficiality of the technology was keeping me from seeing the possible benefit if used wisely. At any rate, for the first time in my life, I felt myself resisting new technology because it seemed strange and unnecessary to me. I am a pretty fluid thinker, but I suddenly realized that I was getting set in my ways.

So, at the continued urging of my wife, I have now joined the Twitter revolution. I use the term "revolution" loosely. There is no social networking Che Guevera leading us to publish every thought that comes into our head, but the way that people connect is being affected by this in a profound way. I do not pretend to be even remotely interesting enough to chronicle the events of my day for the public, but I thought I'd give it a try. I set it up last night along with a changed format on my blog. My Twitter updates will pop up in the upper right hand corner of my blog and they also update my Facebook status. The cool thing is that I can text Twitter updates from my phone so it takes virtually no time at all. I can do it at a red light or waiting in line at the grocery store, if I want. I might end up using this after all.  You can subscribe to my Twitter if you want, but I haven't tried that yet.  Click on here and follow instructions, I guess.

The more that I think about this, the more that it might be a good thing. I am always thinking about something and it often has to do with where I see God working in the world around me. Now, instead of having to wait and create a blog post once a day or 3-4 times a week, I can pull out my Blackberry and broadcast praises, insights, observations, and things that I am learning and experiencing in the moment. Again, I do not think that my life is all that interesting or that anyone is waiting around to gobble up my latest tweet, but it does organize my thoughts and I have had tons of conversations and connections with people through blogging and Facebook that I would not have normally had. Maybe Twitter will provide the same interaction or more.

Anyway, the whole process can be pretty disingenuous if we are not careful because people rarely write things that do not cast them in a flattering light. The whole social networking experiment has a tendency to cause us to only promote ourselves in the best light possible, which can lead to hypocrisy and vanity, causing us to see ourselves as much more important than we really are as we act as the star of our own life drama, displayed for all the world to see. Spiritually, this can be a very dangerous thing. So, I think that everyone needs to beware of trying to act cool online. For example, if you are going to put a picture of yourself up, make sure that it really looks like the person posting, not you from 10 years ago.  As in all things, we must submit ourselves to God and serve and glorify Him in everything. 

Will this enhance my pastoring?  Perhaps, as long as I am genuine with it and truly reflect what I see God doing in my life, my family, and the world around me. The way I figure it, about half my church is on Facebook. I can send an email to our church and get only one or two responses. Email is so 1999, isn't it? Only a handful of people in my church comment on my blog, even though quite a few read it. Blogging was huge around 2005 but is already fading as a primary means of interacting in Web 2.0. But, I can put something on Facebook and I get comments there and people stop me in the hallways at the church and say something to me about it.  Twitter is basically the same, but easier and faster than Facebook and it updates my Facebook page. Facebook is 2008 and Twitter is 2009-10.  What's next?

This blog will continue to be my main outlet. It feeds into Facebook and Twitter updates here. It is my creative home and I feel comfortable writing long essays about what interests me. They do need to be shorter – yes, I know. But, I am willing to change and adapt to new technologies, especially if I can use them to give praise to God and chronicle the blessings that He pours into my life through my wife, children, church, and through all of my experiences.

By the way, we're getting a puppy today. HUGE learning experience for the family, but good for the kids. If you had read my last Twitter update, you would know that. 🙂

4 Responses to Social Networking, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and the Pastorate

  1. Allen,
    Your wife Erika is very gifted in recognizing one of God’s great communicators both written and spoken. I have said this many times that you are in the top five Bloggers who fits that description. Your Heart for the Lord is always very visible in your witness for the Lord.
    Wayne

  2. Andrew Jones on the Twitter revolution:
    “I read through the letter to the Hebrews again yesterday, and noticed that believers are to “exhort each other daily”. A daily connection is difficult with a typical weekly church rhythm, or with our lives of geographical isolation. But social media can make a positive difference in helping us stay connected, share how we are doing, and offer quick 140 character exhortations to each other . . . Darker side? A follower is not necessarily a friend. I would rather have a single good friend than a million followers.”
    http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2009/04/twitter-moment.html

  3. Just for clarity, the last two comments in this post were by me (Alan). Erika used my laptop to comment and her name was already up and I didn’t notice it.