Twitter and Facebook have been foundational in helping me to meet, greet, befriend, chat and sometimes, plain old guffaw with thousands of people I might not otherwise have met. Although I’d resisted Twitter until I became Chaplain of MediaCityUK, I am now a total convert despite it initially feeling like moving from a Mac to a PC.
Being a bit of a ‘social satellite’ as my party-days’ nick-name used to be, it hasn’t taken me too long to get from 0-60, or however many followers. I like chatting to people; I love that you can throw a prayer, quipit? It’s not a website, or a directory, or even (for those of us hopefully looking God-wards) some form of Scripture stream, but sadly that’s the way some people misguidedly use my account.
They scour my friends, challenge, newsflash or a splash of care and concern into the ether in just 140 characters and not find yourself pigeon-holed on one topic for the rest of the day. Joining a twitter stream, if the topic is worth an entire day’s attention, which is rare, to be fair, can also be a real buzz.
My interactions are genuine, as it seems to me are most of those I am hooked up to. The relationships – whether casual or committed – are also genuine. It isn’t a ‘tool’ for other purposes, it is a social hub, a media hub, a social conscience stream, a place to share, challenge and comment and of course, if I think something interesting has come along, or that hooking people or ideas or events up would be a genuine opportunity for them, I mention it to them, just as if we were face to face.
Trouble is, I get SOOOOOOOO many people wanting to hook up as if I were some sort of advertising hub, or in order to push their own agenda through that they don’t even bother pretending to be sociable. I mean Twitter IS Social Media, isn’t (it actually amuses me when I see a new paraTweep (think parasite) hook up with a distant relative with no idea that they won’t be lucrative channels for their church/business), then bombard me with Bible Quotes or events at churches, or business venutres or even products that are so far from meaningful to those in my stream that they can end up making it look like a page torn out of a telephone directory.
And let’s face it, it takes time to trim your stream, to watch for paraTweeps, to block the spam and advertising and make decisions over whether to unfollow or block offending parties who are making your stream anti-social, and turning your own followers off.
It’s a wierd world where others can turn people on or off irrespective or your own relationship with them – and I know this because I’ve unfollowed Tweeple whose stream has read like ten copies of the Bible shredded and put back together in the wrong order. Not because I don’t love the scriptures, but because there’s a time and a place and a protocol that says that social media should be just that, first and foremost.
Being a priest I like to think of it as koinonia, but I’m just as happy to call it community and to be a part of a real – if virtual – community that doesn’t brow beat anyone into believing, belonging or buying anything.
Sure, it’s a useful ‘tool’ if you want to look at it like that; but as with every tool, it’s only as good as the person wielding it. If the way that you use social media tools is not primarily sociable, don’t feed off somebody else’s relationships for your own ends. Biologists call that sort of behaviour parasitic, and parasites tend to suck the life out of – if not kill – their hosts. So if you’re feeling guilty about blocking/unfollowing your own paraTweeps, don’t. They’re one thing that you don’t want to suck up if you want your social media to stay that way.