Monday, 24 February 2014

Real Life versus...?

In the whirl of modern social media, I find it all too easy to forget one particular arena or tool as I focus on others.  The lure of, an Edinburgh based social media initiative, based around posting a single photo each day with (if one wishes) some reflection or sharing, has rather distracted me from Facebook and blogging, and even taken me away from Twitter unless I make a special effort to interact.  But why bother I (maybe) hear you ask?  The whole social media thing is fraught with potential for problems and miscommunication and wasting time, isn't it?

I disagree, of course.  There are times that following the holiday antics of friends of friends on Facebook or choosing one of the many rants to trend with on Twitter can seem to melt productive time away like the spring sun melts the snow on the Argyll hills. But the connections, the deep conversations, the long distance immediacy of interaction is breath taking.  I tend to tether this iPad to my smartphone when I am sat on a ferry or waiting for a few moments between meetings or visits, and catch up with the whirl of hundreds of people that I know or am connected to.  I see their joy, their pain, the excitement, their frustration, their questioning, their certainty, their doubt: the list stretches on and on and on.  Occasionally the connection becomes very intense, through a direct message because the pain is too much for public consumption, or a text because other avenues have dried up. People, their minds and souls, are out their in this virtual community.

I have always been convinced that God wants people to minister in this place, that is not a real place. Some people do, and I have met and worked with some of them. Some transmit encouragement and challenge, some manage and care for online communities.  But the social media and web presence of a real life Christian community is a vital part of that community's mission.  This is nothing new to say, and I, and the churches and organisations that I represent are far from perfect at this virtual presence business. But we try. We tweet. We try and promote our Facebook presence. We try and keep our websites fresh and appealing.  This is proclaiming the gospel, just as much as living our real lives in our RL community.

A footnote and final reflection on social media.  I have tended to avoid some social media tools, mainly for reasons of time constraint, but this evening I fell off my LinkedIn wagon and actually sent some network requests out to people from a suggested list. Why? Well, why not.  The faces from, in some cases the distant past, brought back memories of the past 25 years in quite a startling way.  I was quite nervous about sending some of them - work colleagues from pressured projects in the past may not be that excited about the automated pestering that linkedIn will give them to connect with this random Episcopalian from their past.  But I look forward to making some of those connections and sharing just a little of where our divergent lives have taken us.

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