Sunday, June 07, 2015

Faith in Social Media 2015

I was recently asked to speak at the above conference hosted by the Beds and Herts Media Trust about how I have been using Facebook in parochial ministry. I had the privilege of working alongside an excellent colleague who has also sought to use social media to build networks within her own local community and into those networks to be and bring the church.

We spoke initially in the 'Case Studies' section of the day and then ran 4 small workshops - more social media surgeries - working from where people were starting from and dealing with their issues and questions.

Our case study presentation looked, in note form, a little like this:

·         Introduce ourselves, parishes.  Perhaps something less formal like explaining our personal profile picture, why we first began to use FB.
·         Overview: reasons for using FB, approaches and intentions.  E.g. Public face, accountability, advertising, building relationships.
·         Basic decisions e.g. who manages the page, linking to website,  page vs group, age limits, difference between Facebook and Twitter.
·         Using FB via a group, blog linking, vulnerability, boundaries, time of day, invitations e.g. baptism. (Referencing my invitations to being Baptised at the Easter Vigil and the Festival of the Baptism of Christ posted on Facebook)
·         Using FB via a page, community linking, messaging, knowing the age/gender profile, creating an ‘event’.
·         Closing comments; not the answer to all evangelism and rapidly changing landscape. Vital to engaging in modern communities.

Following the conference which was an excellent opportunity to network and share what we have discovered through interaction I was interviewed by Mike Naylor for BBC Three Counties Radio - the interview which went out at 8.40am this morning.

I'm very grateful to Stephen, for editing the interview down.


Anne said...

Good interview and interesting points - but I felt you slightly avoided the question about people's anxieties about using social media. Yes, you are interacting with real people - and some of those people are malevolent - which is why the older generation, especially, have anxieties about social media.

Fr. Simon Cutmore said...

Fair comment Anne. It wasn't an international avoid on my part.

Reflecting further - for some and perhaps for the church generally as an institution, anxiety about social media is lack of confidence with the tech and reminding people that social media at their heart is about relationship building is important reassurance.

There are malevolent characters in any community - the online one is no different. If we stay indoors out of fear of what might happen, metaphorically or literally, then these characters have won. I wonder how the church can play a part in helping build good community online for all as it tries to play an integral part in doing IRL?

Anne said...

Sure it wasn't an intentional avoid (or an 'international' one! Curse of predictive text strikes again!)

I don't think it's just lack of confidence with the technology that brings anxiety about social media.

I would question whether the online community is the same as the real life one when it comes to encountering and interacting with malevolent individuals. It is much easier to create false identities online, even multiple identities, and you lack the additional clues like seeing body language and simple gut feeling that leads you to be wary of certain people IRL. Also people who IRL seem loving, caring and responsible can act in quite different ways online - a bit like people do in cars when road rage takes over. It's not just the young who need to learn to be cautious about who they trust and how much personal information they give away online - older people who haven't grown up with the internet as a normal part of their lives need to do so too.

Using social media can be great, and make contacts and build communities which could never come into existence without the internet, but it is still largely 'unpoliced'.

Different social media have different risks and problems. Sharing information and interacting on blogs is relatively easy to police, but it does take a lot of effort on the part of the blogger or webmaster if it is to be useful and kept up to date. But some people feel safer, as the 'community' is more circumscribed. Facebook and Twitter are much more problematical, until you learn about blocking, limiting who can see what you post, direct messages etc. which don't share information with large numbers of people you don't know. So maybe churches need to do some education about those things to give their congregations confidence and help keep them safe, as schools do with their pupils nowadays. Trouble is, that's one more task when there's so much else to do!