Social media—and sincere connections

Christian Science Committee on Publication for Northern California. “Santa Clara Religions Prof makes social media relevant” September 26, 2011.

Thanks to Santa Clara University professor Elizabeth Drescher’s Tweet If You (Heart) Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, I’ve finally found a social media guru that I can actually relate to.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just not the kind of guy who responds well to the scare tactics we hear from those who would have everyone believing that unless their business, team, club, school, or church is using social media, they might as well call it quits.

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I understand that being engaged with social media is important, even essential, if I want to stay in touch with an increasingly digital world. But if my engagement is motivated purely by the promise of “getting my message out” to the billions of people “out there” on the Internet, I’m not so sure I want to join in.

For me, social media is not so much about telling someone what I think—or what I think they should think—as it is connecting with my community and nurturing relationships.  

I didn’t just make that up. It’s the conclusion I reached (as a religious guy, I’ll call it a “revelation”) after reading Dr. Drescher’s book. 

I admit that in my work as a spokesperson for my religious faith here in Northern California, working predominantly with traditional media outlets, it can sometimes feel like my “message” is not being heard and that there’s not much I can do about it. The effect is that I’m tempted to speak louder, longer, and more impertinently, even if there’s apparently no one listening. And then I think, “I know! I’ll start using ‘social media’ and then I can be assured that everyone will hear what I have to say!”

Not so fast.

Common sense would indicate that I’m more likely to be heard if the person(s) to whom I’m speaking already has some idea of who I am and that I care about them. This is where social media comes in.

Although I’m very new at this, I’m finding that social media standbys like Twitter and Facebook are great places to get to know folks—old friends, new friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends. And something interesting I’ve noticed when I’m tweeting and facebooking and blogging is that the less I preach and the more I engage with folks about subjects that matter not just to me but to them, the more people tend to listen.

And then something cool happens.

As I get to know others by sincerely listening, connecting, and engaging with them, I find my message is more likely to be heard.

I have no doubt that reading Dr. Drescher’s book is going to improve my ability to use social media. But more than that, it’s almost certain to make me a better person, one who sees this evolving digital universe as good a place as any to practice what he preaches, to do unto others as I would have them do unto me (see Matt. 7:12).

Eric Nelson 

Items of Interest
Call to prayer in Britain
November 7, 2011

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