Social Media Wisdom

A few months ago I made a conscious decision to change my social media habits and be much less confrontational. I had noticed that I was getting into arguments on Twitter for no real reason at all beyond wanting to be *right*. I drew up some “rules” for myself and started trying to exercise them.

  1. TwitterDon’t snipe at people whose tweets you don’t like. Just because someone says something you disagree with doesn’t mean that you have to tell them.
  2. Just because someone snipes at you on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to respond. When people started asking me provocative questions on Twitter I simply referred them to the FAQ page on my website and invited them to ask any more questions through the contact page. And frankly, 140 characters is not the best format to have in-depth conversations on human sexual identity is it?
  3. The block button is a wonderful thing. If someone keeps on bugging you despite the fact that you’ve made it very clear you’d rather have the conversation via email or some other medium, just remove them from your stream. It’s so easy.
  4. Use Twitter constructively rather than destructively – At the same time as making these changes to my negative behaviours I also started inviting prayer requests for Morning and Evening Prayer. I don’t do this every day as given my day job I sometimes don’t even have time for asking the question, but I find it a brilliant way to be able to be a positive part of people’s lives and to share in what’s going on. And it’s a great focus for actually praying properly.

I think my social media presence has improved for the better since the start of the year by adopting these simple but powerful rules. Yes, I’m still cheeky and provocative at times, but overall by being more cautious about engaging with those I disagree with and not so quick to jump in I think I have a much more acceptable online profile.

What tools / rules have you found help your interaction on social media?

18 Comments on “Social Media Wisdom

    • To be fair, if people tell me things in confidence, I tend to not betray that. The secrets I could tell you….

      But if you let slip something in public that’s rather interesting, don’t expect me to ignore it. And the biggest crime is not to send me embargoed press releases. Send me something with an embargo on it and I will stick loyally to it. Don’t send it to me and I get hold of it….

      One day this poacher will become a first class gamekeeper. One day….

  1. Trying to use social media constructively rather than destructively is a good idea. I think too often Twitter / blogs can degenerate into virtual shouting matches, which it’s far too easy to get sucked into (I know this from bitter experience… still learning that one).

    One thing I’ve been trying to do is know when to walk away from a discussion and not feel the need to ‘win’.

    As with all interactions, online and offline, the thing that really matters is character and not content. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23) All internet discussions would be better by bearing those things in mind :)

  2. I’ve recently been pondering about how social media and the pastoral role fit together, particularly when it comes to commenting on controversial or sensitive topics. I’m a clergyman and comment from time to time on this site, the Guardian and a few others – I started under a pen-name and have stuck with this. Occasionally I wonder if I’m just being a wimp, but it does allow me more of a blank slate with my parishioners – after all our names are just a google search away.

    I’ve noticed that many, not all, bloggers who focus in controversial areas and publish under their own names are not in positions of overall congregational leadership – often they work in academia or like yourself in self-supporting ministry. I can think of maybe Julian Mann but that’s it.

    I wonder what others think about this?

    • You mean, like Julian Mann’s recent outing of Abp Welby’s secretary as an unrighteous ‘homosexualist’ and his publishing of an ex-gay blogger’s correspondence on Virtueonline without his consent?

      • Well I crossed swords with him on another issue some time back, as I’m sure many others have. Suffice to say he’s not on my RSS feed, and neither is VirtueOnline.

        I wonder what you think, though, about the issue of church leadership and online anonymity? I can tell from Google that you’re a vicar – what’s been your experience?

          • Yes I think the issue of divisiveness could be an issue for me, in a rural setting. In London it may be less of a problem – if you disagree with the vicar or prefer a different churchmanship you can always go down the road, but in a rural setting there can be more diversity, and you’re more of a chaplain to the community so need to be careful about which battles to fight and buttons to press, and which to do publicly.

      • Just as a matter of interest, how did Julian Mann get hold of this correspondence that he published online? Does anyone know? I can’t imagine Abp Welby’s secretary sending it him, and if it was the ex-gay blogger who sent it him, for what purpose?

        Incidentally, it’s very foolish to put anything anywhere on the Internet if there is ANYONE whom you don’t want to read it. As Lord West remarked to Eddie Mair, “I’ve always said to people who worked for me, less people will see what you write on a postcard than what you write on your computer.”

        • There’s a link on virtueonline to the ex-gay guy who claims he complained about it being used without his authorisation, but he does not say whether he passed on the info. He must have.

          I think I can understand your predicament in a more rural setting, but it’s basic Gospel stuff too, is it not? Let your yes… nothing hidden, etc… but I really don’t mean to sermonise here, I’m not walking in your shoes, and my congregation is, on the whole, kind and forgiving.

    • I’m very happy for our vicar or anyone else I know to post stuff under a pseudonym …..why shouldn’t they when I do.

  3. 1) Twitter is a social platform. Do not follow anyone who uses Twitter like RSS. Similarly, if a Twitter user does not engage with you, after multiple attempts to chat, unfollow. Avoid accounts that collect followers like Panini stickers.
    2) Have a disengagement strategy that’s consistent. Know how to wrap up a conversation without necessarily conceding your viewpoint. Something like ‘we’ll have to agree to disagree’ is appropriate.
    3) Recognise when a conversation enters the ‘recapitulation phase’. This is usually signalled by demands to show your conversational partner where they said or implied something earlier on. Exit that conversation. The conversation has become ‘meta’.
    4) If you say you will leave the conversation, don’t be drawn back in. If your conversation partner continues, especially agressively or with accusations of ‘running away’, block them.
    5) This is your Twitter mantra: Having an opinion does not mean it has value or should be heard. This applies to these five points too.


  4. I’m really bad at point (2). What’s really annoying is when you let yourself get riled and then the provocative person treats you like the aggressor and starts their disengagement strategy. I get burned by that every time. lol :)

    • Happens everywhere not just online – I knew twins (friends of my kids) bullied regularly who eventually retaliated – just once- and got punished.

      • Yes, perhaps it’s not a bad lesson to learn from the blogosphere. Bullies are the most self-righteous people on this earth. They’re also very good at convincing people that they’re the victims of other people’s slight imperfections. I think they genuinely believe it themselves. Perhaps they’ve only had unforgiving people in their own lives so have to catch people out before they get caught out themselves. Hope your kids’ friends are alright now.

        • They’re now in their late twenties. My daughter’s still in contact and as far as I know they’re fine. You’re quite right that most bullies are very good at convincing people it was the other person’s fault. Why are people so naive??!

  5. I tend to aim for the goal of “Type what you would be prepared to say to someone’s face”. It doesn’t always work, but I am also seeing the benefit of blocking people so as not to get wound up by them when they say things I disagree with. I also aim to be clearly identifiable, making internet anonymity harder, as it will tend to keep me to typing as if I were speaking to them in person. My Twitter account and blog are clearly linked and I regularly put links to my blog on both my Facebook accounts (I have 2 so as to keep work related friends separate from personal friends, kind of important as a youth worker).

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