I’m sitting in a two-day Boundaries Training workshop; our Presbytery requires all pastors to take this type of training every 3-5 years. I have taken this training numerous times before but one of the topics that is new this time deals with boundaries on social media! We had conversation about whether pastors should allow congregants to be their Facebook friend on their personal page. The case study suggested that a pastor might express a strong personal opinion and some congregants might take offense about what is posted. My first thought was, “Well, everyone in the congregation already knows what I think about most hot-button issues, so they can’t be surprised.” But, I did appreciate the conversation that complexifies how our public persona and our personal lives intersect on social media platforms more than we might be aware of.
After two years of being unable to connect in-person with friends and family, social media has become a lifeline for many of us. Social media provides a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of those we care about. Social media provides a chance to connect, albeit in fairly superficial ways, around topics and ideas that matter to us. Social media is a fact of life now; platforms like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are all around us. And even if we choose not to participate in a social media platform, that in itself is a choice – not participating is a type of participation!
Why talk about this in my “From the Pastor” article, though? Because as a community of people striving to be faithful disciples, we are called to engage in conversations about topics and ideas that matter to us. God calls us to engage with the world around us, not to isolate or remove ourselves from the concerns of our neighbors, our community, our nation, our world. Sometimes that might require us to express a strong opinion that someone else might not share with us. Social media and other kinds of media have a way of polarizing us instead of inviting us into authentic dialogue where we can listen thoughtfully and minds and hearts are changed. It’s hard to have a conversation in an environment that is often as static as a Facebook post or a Tweet. Others can comment and then the author can respond to those comments, but it doesn’t happen in real time in the same way dialogue happens when we are face to face. When we are facing someone, and we can interpret nuances of their voice and body language, we are drawn into a more authentic engagement.
I am thankful for the social media tools that help keep us connected when we can’t connect in-person. And I am even more thankful that we have a Faith Community that gathers and connects and engages around topics and issues that matter.
I look forward to the next time we are together in the presence of God to worship and connect and engage!