I just had a friend forward me an email he got from an acquaintance invitinghim to join “Occupy Cafe”. So I did. And I ran across this link to one of the organization’s people talking at Trinity Wall St. about the moral and ethical implications of the Occupy movement. So here it is
The issue of the role of social media in movements dovetails nicely into a lot of my thinking about “online church”. I have long said that there are several avenues INTO Church from online spaces that can and do happen. But the “virtual space” becomes inhabited by the “physical space” as veterans from the physical spaces and events come back in via virtual spaces.
It is this way with churches as much as it is with movements such as Occupy. There is a sense of space and people inhabiting that space that energize the online extensions of that community. This needs to be considered when we consider the meaning of the online church vs the “meatspace church” or “face to face church” (or as some would put it; “real church” – a designaiton I don;t really like that much).
Being at occupation + participating in accompanying social media is strong combo, much more so than exclusively online….the sense of what the movement is like in FTF, electric atmosphere and collaboration comes through to those who have “been there” in the flesh, when they go online, in a way that it cannot to those who are coming in the other way— unless they actually end up coming down and participating in the flesh, and then the online is enhanced in status and experience; as the recall and association kicks in and flavors the online “aura”.
“A collapse of virtual and Physical spaces” is a good way to articulate this. (Max Berger just said that on Net Roots Nation panel entitled “That Won’t Work: What Progressives Can Learn From OWS” )
What many movement organizers and participants will emphasize is that , in addition to “notification” and “meeting info” , online is providing a sense of a mass participation, and a sense of safety in that it becomes a bit less risky (or seems so) due to the group surrounding us and encouraging us to speak up. “Safety in numbers”. But they want us to know that there ARE, actual people and flyers and media and meetings and conversations in face to face space, not simply IDs and avatars and clicks.
I am also encouraged by the integration of video into the Social Media-sphere, re-introducing the element of physical presence (even though only in video), combining or “restoring” the personality and the stories articulated by their conversation. With movements, people are moved by other people, and video and “on the spot” video and even streaming is bringing back some of the lost elements of personal and social communication.
My biggest peeve in perusing the daily, hourly, constant stream of Social Media (Twitter in particular) is the barrage of self-promotion that most organizations think is “doing Social Media”. If I weren’t committed to trying to lend my voice and my skills to helping the church understand and utilize Social Media* , I would have unfollowed a lot of “church” orgs because they seem to know little else than talking about themselves constantly. Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents and Social Media 101, and widely considered to be the number one “Social Media Guru”, also sounds this theme. Before him, 10 years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto authors told us this, back in the day when blogs were “the tool” that most defined Social Media.
In all cases, we all believe that beating people over the head with your needs and desires to sell products or services isn’t a successful strategy any longer. We look to build relationship-based selling models, such that we turn audience into community, and we guard our relationship with our community as an asset, every bit as much as we guard our trade secrets.
My personal definition? Be helpful. The way I built my own personal brand was delivering information that others could use to improve their own lot in life. And I promote others at least 12 times as much as I promote my own stuff on various social networks.
What’s that? “.. promote others at least 12 times as much as I promote my own stuff on various social networks” ?
Have your own voice (that was “Cluetrain” terminology). Marketing speak turns people off. How do we convince people that our community has something for them? I think perhaps it has to do with listening to what THEY are talking about. NOT trying to steer the conversation. Not trying to SET the content of the conversation. It has to do with HELPING them find resources that are of apparent interest to THEM.
So take heed, church organizations. When 99% of your tweets and Facebook messages are promoting YOUR content, YOUR events, and YOUR products, you come off as blind and deaf to the audience.
(* and whatever name it may take on down the road….”Social Media” has been around for 20 years….it’s just the capabilities of the medium that have evolved. Computer Mediated Communication, Virtual Community, Online Community, it all seeks to describe the experience of connecting to people via the network. The Internet finally connected most of these networks together, and the value of the network experienced explosive growth.)
An article from sojo has Julie Clawson taking NT Wright to task for bad mouthing Social Media. The following quote attempts to use a Pew Study to dispel the notion that people spend less time face to face and instead spend more time online.
Let’s just get it out of the way: The warning that Wright and others give is that social media takes people away from actual face-to-face interaction. If we spend too much time blogging and tweeting, we will reduce our time spent with huggable (Wright’s term) people. The problem is – that just isn’t true. A recent Pew Study busted that myth. It reported that, yes, about 6% of the population are isolated and asocial, but that is a number that has stayed steady since 1985 – before the widespread advent of the Internet. The study also found that people who spend time on the Internet are actually far more likely to go out and be with real live people than those who don’t use the Internet.
What I wonder is how these figures are tallied. If they simply ask people about it, then I am skeptical. A majority of folks are not going to admit or even recognize that they spend less time as face to face social beings.
Now I am not advocating for a particular size of the time-slices of the total time spent pie. At least not in this post. But I get the distinct impression that Julie jumps on those survey results a bit too quickly.
I am not ready to say that there aren’t SOME online experiences that are of better authenticity than face to face encounters. There are certainly way too many face to face encounters (including and especially “in church”) that are thoroughly bested by SOME online experiences. This is the main bit of experience that leads me to advocate for social media usage by churches, church orgs, and individual Christians. But the converse (that SOME face to face experiences have elements that we eschew to our social/spiritual/psychological peril (maybe peril is too hyperbolic; maybe “we miss some crucial ingredients of fellowship and social/spiritual communion” is more accurate).
This whole argument about “which is better” : online community or face to face is inane. There are layers of social being, and online relationships bring in some new and often enhancing elements to the social mix. I just wish we the church could give some indication that we are the least bit interested in such sociological issues , which I think have crucial theological and spiritual implications. It seems I am left in most every case to turn to “secular” studies that ask the kind of questions that knock on the door of deeper socio/theological elements.
I get Julie’s point, and agree with most of what she writes, especially how the online conversations can introduce us to people we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet, and the online encouragement we get from people who like what we have to say is particularly valuable for people (like me too) who often feel themselves hesitant to articulate certain ideas in person. Online community has lifted my confidence when I receive positive feedback about what I share online.
And yeah, Wright’s statements come off as extremely stodgy and luddite.
From Chris Brogan (via @gavoweb), re: building movements that inspire and instill belonging. Yet another “DUH” moment for the church, which simply must be “Listening” to what people are saying and expressing.
Webber and Taylor didn’t launch Fast Company by making a platform that praised them. I didn’t launch PodCamp to be at its core. Instead, these kinds of movements work best when you start with the mindset of empowering others, and building leaders everywhere.
The church is NOT listening by using the medium to blast the medium with marketing messages (like “come to our church”)…..the “good news” is not that there is yet “another option” for “doing church” , but that there is “a people” where one can belong and encourages and enables people ti find one another via things about which they are passionate (and here, we get into the notion of “calling” and “gifts”–both need encouragement, nurture, and formation)