When destructive and unproductive behaviors emerge, our interior lives may need an alchemical shake-up so attitudes spawned such bad behavior can be transmuted into spiritual gold. “Holiness of heart and life,” for all you sanctification nuts out there.
So which kinds of attitudes manifest our lack of virtue formation in social media? I’m going to suggest these three as a starting point for conversation:
Not only do I follow a ridiculously high number of Twitter accounts, I also actively add folks who diversify and deepen my eclectic stream. I don’t feel badly about not following back people with whom I fail to connect for whatever reason. It’s my Twitter stream and I get to be inscrutable!
Early on, my sense of entitlement would manifest as frustration with people who didn’t follow back or engage my queries. Four years later, I still get that way at times, but griping doesn’t make it any better. Instead, I combat entitlement by focusing on tweeting good material, having a sense of humor, and engaging in real conversation wherever I find it. I figure that will be convincing enough, and let others decide whether they want to join in on the awesome.
PRO TIP: Not getting the followers you so richly deserve? Rather than belligerently badger others, play the long game with patience, wit, and expertise.
2. Thinking Too Little of Your Tweeps
Be a real person, y’all. Don’t be a collection of spiritual insights or Bible-quotes-shorter-than-140. You’re so much deeper and more mysterious than this. Don’t be afraid to go off-topic or off-book!
My followers get a heady cocktail of geek-outs, sermon reflections, United Methodist polity debates, Instagrams of my ridiculously-bright-and-incredibly-charming theological offspring, Texas culture, and so much more. Don’t deny your followers the Epic Cornucopia (+5 against banality) that is you.
Approach your Twitter stream similarly. Tolerate and learn to understand other perspectives, follow those outside your cultural, ideological, demographic, geographic, or religious norms. Find people who fire up your imagination and compassion, then let me know who they are!
PRO TIP: Diversify!
Raise the expectation bar and be multi-dimensional. Homogeneity is great for your milk but bad for your mind.
3. Because It’s The Internet, I Can Be Judgmental!
Don’t be the social media police. Don’t be a “Discernment Ministry.” You’ll find things on social media platforms that will disappoint and even offend. Ignore them and move on. If you know that person, take your concerns offline with a phone call or face-to-face conversation.
We know, we know, people will post ridiculous things on social media. Candidates for ministry sometimes say stupid thing. Pastors are openly heretical, flaunt church doctrine, and/or wear white shoes year-round. There’s snark online!
If I had a nickel for every concerned layperson, pastor, or judicatory official who expressed concern over people talking on the interwebz, then I’d have, well, a lot of nickels. Don’t sacrifice the possibility of real community (that happens to take place online) because it won’t be perfect.
Remember the words of St Ambrose, “It did not suit God to save his people by arguments.” Or, in the original Latin, “Don’t feed the trolls.”
PRO TIP: In the words of a (non-tweeting) seminary prof, “Leave your heresy hats and fundy-finders at the door.” Be gracious and hospitable, in social media as in real life.
We’re still figuring out how to be a connected, online church and world, so cautious and skeptical attitudes among church leaders and in the pews are to be expected. Being the best representative possible, no matter what the ministry setting, allows for new forms of community to emerge.
Taking off the old, tired characteristics so often reproduced via social media and putting on Christ may indeed be hard work, but you—and your followers—need nothing less.
What attitude do you find the hardest to root out? Did I miss it completely? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Photo Credit: duncan