First Third Conversations

Social Media: Why one youth director chooses to embrace it

facebookA blog post by Sarah Bane

My relationship with Facebook has been contentious throughout the years. I can still remember when Facebook made its debut on my college campus, and I intentionally made the decision that I was not going to get sucked in. Witnessing countless friends become slaves to their virtual communities, I wanted no part in their Facebook.

In the summer of 2006, a camp coworker sent me an email request to join Facebook. The only thing stopping me from having an account created was clicking the “I accept” link in the email. On July 9, 2006, in a covert operation led by my camp coworkers, I was ambushed during my daily morning email check. Two of my strong, male friends held me down, while another friend found my opened email account and clicked “I accept.” I put up a fight, but it was too late. I had a Facebook account. My virtual persona had been born.

Something must have happened in the following months and years that that gave me a change of heart, because I am now one of the savviest of savvy Facebook users. I even decided recently to graduate to the next level of social media (for me, at least) and get a Twitter account.

Perhaps my evolved attraction to Facebook and other forms of social media is what Jesse Rice describes in his book, The Church of Facebook, as our “innate need for connection” (p. 35) that rose out of the “force that is capable of synchronizing a large population in very little time, thereby creating spontaneous order” (p. 20).

It is my belief that any technology that reinforces and/or strengthens relationships is “good technology.” Any technology that tears down, demeans, or excludes people from relationships is “bad technology.” This becomes tricky, however, when sites such as Facebook can operate as “good” and “bad,” according to my definition.

This is why I feel it necessary as a public leader in the church to have a healthy association with the various social media outlets that the community I work with uses. Because, let’s face it, social media is not a fad that will go away in a few more years. Sites and technologies will progress, and I’d rather embrace what is to come, using it in a way that strengthens my community instead of running away scared.

To be clear that I do not look at social media through rose colored glasses, I offer an example of a time when Facebook was used in a destructive way in my life: A mom of one of my confirmation students posted a Facebook status that she was very disappointed in the confirmation program I had helped design. The mom did not say why, she simply said she was disappointed and left her opinion out in the virtual world for others to see and make assumptions.

Hearing this kind of feedback is necessary for my job and is an opportunity for me to enter into conversation. The problem, though, is I am not “friends” with this mom on Facebook. It was only by indirectly hearing about her post via a coworker that I ever knew of her disappointment. My opportunity for dialogue with her was out my reach.

Social media is not the sole way to connect to young adults today, nor is it our most prevalent evil. But maybe through establishing a set of healthy guidelines for our social media use, there is potential for it to be a powerful ministry tool.

When technology lends itself to strengthening relationships, the church has an entry point to be relevant and intentional with a wider audience. Facebook and other sites like it have inadvertently provided the world a space for people to feel genuinely connected to others in a comfortable way.

You might even go so far as to say social media sites have provided a home of sorts to its respective users. When used appropriately, social media can offer a sense of solidarity, helping us navigate the twists and turns of life. Oddly enough, this solidarity is much like the body of Christ.

Sarah BaneAuthor Bio:
I’m Sarah and it’s good to know you! A little bit about me: I love singing, being outside, and thinking about how the first third of life integrates into the whole life of the church. I recently graduated from Luther Seminary and recently joined Shepherd of the Valley’s (Apple Valley, MN) Youth Ministry team at the end of July.  

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