Friday, December 04, 2015

Social Media: Influence or Polarization?

A. When I look at the team at 12Stone Church®, the leadership giftedness of Kevin Myers is obvious, but there's an amazing team there with him that is off the charts. It's been a pleasure to get to know Dan Reiland, Chris Huff, Robin Ritchie and others there these last few years.

Dan Reiland in particular is the "executive pastor" to end all executive pastors. He wrote a piece the other day called, "Influence or Interference," that really got me thinking. Many know that I have a quasi-addiction to social media. Part of it is the fact that I like to make people laugh. Part is the same reason I enjoy teaching--I love to share ideas, especially if I think they are neat or if I think they are important.

B. In a polarized America and a polarized church, social media hasn't been much fun lately, especially when you are aiming for some sort of middle. Social media is fine if the only people you're engaging agree with you. But in the melting pot of Facebook, east meets west. People you keep separate in real life intermingle.

I've repeatedly experienced an initial comment on Facebook that sparks an extended battle between east and west on whatever topic. I may be long gone from the discussion, but the battle goes on and on. I wish there were a Facebook function where you could end discussion, just freeze it where it is. Contrary to popular belief, I don't actually enjoy starting fights.

But when you have 2000 people in the same room, the expression of any position is almost bound to start a fight. A few times lately, the polarization has been particularly painful.

C. Something about Dan Reiland's recent post sparked something in me. This sentence especially caught my eye: "As a leader, I always have an opinion, but I shouldn't always share it." He has a list of questions he asks himself before he interferes with his team.

His questions made me think, "What would a good list be for me on social media?" When I have a thought, when should I post it and when shouldn't I?

Here's some for starters:

1. Am I going to hurt or offend someone with this comment?
Hurting is different from offending. Is there anyone I'm going to tear down when I should be building them up? Jokes can hurt, so funny should especially be screened for hurtfulness.

There may be a time to offend, but I should carefully think it through and be prepared for the consequences. Maybe this is also the place to put, "Am I going to tick off one of my superiors?"

2. Will my bold statement actually change anything, or will it just make me feel good for a second?
Probably the biggest problem with social media is when we use it to vent. We feel good for a second, but the fight keeps going and the alienation deepens. Am I improving the church or just making myself feel good for telling someone off?

3. What will others do with my words?
It's not just a matter of what I mean. Who am I feeding? Who is going to take my words and push them over the edge, take them to the next level? Am I going to start a war? How am I going to feel when my friends start tearing each other apart?

4. Do my words pull together or push apart?
I'm on some big teams. There's my School of Theology team. There's the IWU team. There's the Wesleyan Church team. There's the kingdom team. I don't want to polarize these teams. I want to pull them further together.

5. Am I increasing or diminishing my influence?
Every public statement or decision I make either increases, decreases, or has no impact on my influence. There is a time to take a hit for the greater good, but you want your net influence to be growing rather than diminishing. Will my comment put money in the bank or make a withdrawal?

6. What is my gut saying?
When I get an uneasy feeling about emailing something or posting something, it's usually my subconscious warning me that I'm giving into a carnal or selfish impulse or that I'm running the risk of ticking someone off. If I get this, I should think/pray about it some more, maybe get a coffee, maybe ask someone, maybe sleep on it. My bias should probably be against posting.

There is a time to unfriend someone who always poisons your well. I've never done it yet. You can also make it so that some people don't see certain posts. These moves go against my natural impulses, but these are times of great polarization indeed. Remember the proverb that says, "Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself" (26:4).

So those are some questions I've decided to start asking myself before I tweet, blog, or post on Facebook. What would you add to the list?

1 comment:

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