A friend on facebook said to me that while I have strong opinions online, I seem to be different in real life. I took that to be a compliment and not a insult. I replied to him with the following. I thought it was worth blogging here also.
I think part of the reason is that in college, we are taught to concisely engage and critique the written word, and its ideas, without engaging the persona of the author. So when someone invites us to critique or engage with a idea in a status (particularly if its within a scholarly / ideological context) I see that as an invitation to do that. The problem is compounded in that the boundaries often become blurred and mixed up on FB. The critiques of ideas / ideologies appear to become an attack on the person / s.
The difficulty with online conversation is that we don’t see each others smile, frown, tears or wink. We don’t hear the tone of the voice. Nor feel the touch of someone touching our hand, slapping our back etc. So when we do meet someone face to face, its often a pleasant surprise and different experience to the image we have formed on social media.
My personal modus operand’a on FB goes something like this.
* If someone throws up an idea for critiquing – I’ll go for it and try and keep the engagement to that idea / subject. And if the conversation goes onto a tangent, which it often does, its still an engagement with the ideas to see how far it can be taken.
On opposite side of the coin, I likewise invite and expect a critique and engagement of the ideas, ideologies etc that I throw up on my wall. (Play the ball and not the person.)
* If its a pastoral situation, then engage on a pastoral level. This could entail organising a face to face, private conversation, prayer, etc.
* Humor. I love having fun on FB. I like having fun in real life. So humor becomes a big part of it.
* It’s a way to keep in contact with family and friends. Make new friends. I enjoy meeting people for a coffee, or a meal, who I have made contact with on social media. I have made some great friendships and formed good networks over the years in doing this.
*Learning. Social media has been a great place for learning. Blogging has opened the door to new ideas, other scholars, theological thoughts / ways. It’s broadened my horizons so to speak. Some of that broadening experience has come through a journey of kicking and screaming.
*Voice. Social media, gave me a voice, a means to tell / express my story when no one was listening. Likewise, its given others a voice. A place where they too can tell their story.
*Listening. In many ways it connects on a pastoral level. A lot of people on my friends list are housebound because of disability. Or going through pain and hardship. It becomes a place where they can voice that pain and hardship. So social media becomes a place where they can be heard.
What are you thoughts and ideas as to how you engage with others on social media?