I’ve been on Facebook since around 2008 (my head says 2007 but I’m not 100% certain.) Without a shadow of a doubt I was one of the one billion people who logged on last week.
I signed up at a time when it was a relatively new media. At the time I only knew about ten other people who were signed on as friends, and none of them were my mother. In its infancy, much time on line was spent playing the apps that could be accessed through Facebook.
Not long after signing up, I was to find Facebook invaluable. Unfortunately I had had my first lot of cellulitis, and in my reluctance to go to a doctor had ensured that the infection forced me to rest and be off work. The first couple of weeks saw me being virtually housebound, with an extremely swollen leg, and raging temperatures which meant I couldn’t leave the house. No fun when you had one child to take to school and another to get to nursery. Thank goodness I had great friends and family who were able to offer support in the simple tasks.
At times when I felt that I was cut off from the world, Facebook was able to remind me that there were people around getting on with life, but also interested in how I was getting on, and if the husband and the kids were coping with my inability to move.
These days I’m more than a Facebook user. I tweet, although not regularly and usually about rubbish. I blog, again not always regularly, and these days even less as more caution about what to say comes into play.
What fascinates me is how I’ve had to change how I use social media as different people use different platforms for being in touch. Email for me was always the way in which people got in touch about substantive issues. Facebook was for friends only, and tweeting was just for fun.
However it becomes difficult to turn down friend requests from those who see their minister as their friend, and these days I find myself saying yes. It’s good in some ways. It allows a quick window on where in life some are at any given time. When births, deaths and marriages happen, there is a possibility to respond naturally.
Of course the more open pattern of friendship means that you either learn to use Facebook properly, and make use of the folders to ensure that some know different information from others, or you learn to moderate yourself. Of course the second is possibly worth doing anyway. In the times when you are angry, annoyed, desperate to be noticed, it is usually best to post a cake than angry, harsh, hurt words.
As we engage with people, it is also necessary to respond in the way in which they feel it is appropriate for them. While much of my congregation continues to use the traditional phone, letter or email approach, there is a younger group who prefer the private messages of social media platforms.
I’m still learning. Learning what is the right thing to say. Learning that it gives a suggestion we are always available. Learning that sometimes every gadget needs to be turned off and put away, so a little space is found.