There was a time when social networking referred to meeting people face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, for better or for worse, and various and sundry other clichés. It meant shaking hands, reading non-verbal cues, processing verbal expression, and the unconscious tells which reveal a person’s unique character.
But the times have changed, haven’t they?
Sure, we still meet people in person. But increasingly, those first contacts are preceeded by contact on the web through online social networking. To be sure, this has met with disastrous consequences in terms of those who do not first vette the legitimacy of their online acquaintances. Yet, online social networking has also created a mainstream trend where people with common interests eventually gravitate toward each other offline.
I should add that I have been involved in web-based ministry since 1999. While I am not a pioneer, I am quite aware of some of the opportunities and pitfalls of various platforms. My early experience was in IRC, Internet Relay Chat, which I concluded early in 2009. My later experience has been via various platforms, such as the message boards at Kidology.org and blogging, but has additionally settled on Facebook and Twitter in the past year.
In this post I address briefly two social networking platforms which are a part of my routine.
How do I use Facebook? Here is what I personally have chosen NOT to do with this platform
- I do not debate or flame (use vindictive statements to rile others) people.
- I do not download or participate in facebook applications or gaming. I don’t care if others do, but I personally would rather have real conversations than waste away playing games.
- I do not vent my personal hurts or add fuel to what others vent.
Here is what I intentionally attempt to do with Facebook
- I am discerning regarding whose friend requests I accept and who I ask to be my friend on Facebook. For me, it is not a matter of more, but what is best for those involved.
- I keep alert to birthdays and special events of relatives, friends, and professional colleagues.
- I try to encourage those who seem discouraged.
- I try to add positive content which challenges people to seek God, think deeply, or simply enjoy a wholesome laugh.
- I network intentionally with others who have common interests through the use of topically focused fan pages.
- I specifically network with parents and other leaders in my church to encourage them.
- I share parts of my life which I am comfortable allowing into the public domain, such as specific photographs, events, insights, humorous anecdotes….
Here is how I use Twitter. I have a relatively anonymous twitter account. I do have my real photo posted, but not my real name. Several folks I know from children’s ministry have networked with me via twitter and I enjoy reading their 140 character posts. The do’s and dont’s I listed above regarding Facebook are similar to those I practice on Twitter.
Twitter is a much more dynamic networking platform than facebook. Through the use of hashtags, which are proceeded by a # and followed by text to look like #this, I can post content to users who are specifically interested in my precise topic. If it is children’s ministry, for example, I can post something that looks like this: New post about social networking and its impact on #kidmin at https://glenwoods.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/social-networking/. I can even add additional hashtags as space permits, but they all must fall within the 140 character limit.
What I like about twitter is that it allows for quicker interaction between people. My twitter friend list is fairly small, only about 45 people. Many users have thousands of friends. I simply do not have that much time in a day to build that kind of following, nor try to track with that many people. However, twitter does allow users to make topic-specific lists so they may follow some people more closely than others, depending on the user’s level of interest.
While there is a certain level of spamming which occurs on twitter, the platform allows for fairly quick blocking of those abusive users.
GENERAL ADVICE FOR SOCIAL NETWORKING
Do NOT give out personal information to people you do not know. Yes, even adults can be gullible. Do not be one of them. I don’t want to have to scream at the television when the news anchor reports you have become a victim and say, “I told you so.”
Do NOT post your personal information on social networking sites, even if you think you have protected your page and limited who can see it. Trust me, if it is there, people can and will find it.
Do NOT click on internet files such as videos or blind hyperlinks, even if they are sent from someone you know. Chances are it is a virus. This is especially true on Facebook, but can also be true on Twitter.
Remember that anything you post to the internet will likely stay there forever on into perpetuity. This has to do with server redundancy, backups, and the fact that other users you do not know can grab your content and do with it as they will. Don’t want to get caught doing or saying something regrettable? Then don’t do it.
Remember that text always comes across harsher than vocal communication. Nuff said.
I hope this helps someone out there who is considering making the leap into social networking or blogging.