A few weeks ago I had a posted about Facebook, FaceTime, social networking and how it has the proclivity to trick us into thinking that we are maintaining actual relationships well, and starting new relationships well. Ignoring the irony behind the fact that you are reading this on a blog post that was both Tweeted AND posted in Facebook, the problem is that electronic means of communication almost never work well towards really strengthening a relationship like we hope that it would. The result being that we have a generation of people in which the later half are 60% less empathetic that the first half of that generation. I know my tendency is to be on Facebook or Twitter rather than spending time with those who are in front of me and concentrating on time with them.
While at the same time I don’t believe that we should totally go against where our culture is at in this area by disallowing ourselves from things like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, or any other social networking tools. I don’t feel that separation is a great response, but we do need to look at when it’s appropriate to use each service. Some blogger wrote something about some word. The point of all that, for me, being that the word why is a great word when trying to determine if you are using some form of social networking to your detriment rather than in a way that helps you by increasing the level of your relationships.
If we aren’t careful with how we use technology to communicate with people, and if we aren’t careful about thinking through how, when, and why we use different types of technology, then my fear is that we will begin to use them increasingly more, and unhindered. Doing this, even with things like email, puts us at a distinct disadvantage in our effort to build stronger relationships, rather than weaker ones. The more we utilize these, sometimes beneficial but not always necessary, technologies the less we interact on a deeper level. In this we are missing a vital part of living in community with others. So thinking about your mission and how technology can either hurt, or help, is important.
For example, in our church we had a season of fasting this past year and normally would encourage a fast from food. However, due to how our college students (a good majority of our church), use Facebook, we encouraged them to fast from Facebook or media. Now, we also have a Facebook and Twitter account that we use to help communicate events, announcements, and whatever else needs to be sent out. So the question of why became really important at that point. Of course, not everyone fasted from Facebook or Twitter, but there was a significant enough number of people that it begged the question, “Why use this for announcements at this point?” so we didn’t. Granted visitors, or those browsing through could have seen those announcements, but social networking sites by their nature don’t normally have guests the same way a main website would. So we stuck with putting our announcements on the main site and left them off Facebook or Twitter to further encourage fasting from them while also letting visitors who saw the main page know what’s going on.
When is the last time you asked why before sending out a Tweet, or updating your wall, or checking in at a restaurant? How is social networking helping your mission, how is it hurting your mission? Do you need to make some changes to when and how you send messages?