Facebook and Twitter (and other social networks) have the potential to be a fantastic way of communication. I use both – personally and as part of my job. But… every now and then I see a status or tweet that catches my eye and I wonder how much the writer realises the impact that it can have on their ‘friends’ and followers.
There is a very well known speaker who has well over 2 million friends on their Facebook page. Within 15 minutes of updating a status it has been liked by over 6,000 people, shared by over 750 and has hundreds of comments. The stats are similar for pretty much all of their statuses. (For the record – as far as I can see there is nothing wrong with any of the content!) If they decided to put up a status saying something completely incorrect or harmful to someone else – think of the influence that would have on tens of thousands of people who would read it.
Most of us in real world don’t have two million friends! This should not, however lessen how much we think about what we decide to share publicly. Once something is published on the internet, it goes out of our control as to where it may end up. Friends of friends of friends can share; it can be retweeted by complete strangers and all of a sudden, what we say online can be seen all over the world – whether we like it or not.
Our job/role in the community also has a huge significance in the perception of what we publish. Any status I publish could be read with the backdrop of my work in child protection, as a worship leader and as someone on the leadership team at church. Think how much damage could be done by an inappropriate or unprofessional status update. Or, if you have people who look up to you and take everything you say as ‘the truth’ – that’s an incredibly responsible (and potentially dangerous?) position to be in, and one not to take lightly. There are some things that should never be published!
Writing a public blog has been interesting in many ways. One thing I had to get my head around was the fact that what I say could, and should be challenged – even if they are my ‘personal thoughts’. This means people may disagree or have a different perspective to me. Once I got over this, I enjoyed the comments and regard them as a great learning tool. (I do get to approve comments on my blog first, but all have been accepted so far!)
I don’t have any particular rules about what I publish online, except to try to remember to think very carefully before I press the ‘post’ or ‘tweet’ button. There have been several occasions where I’ve got to the end and then deleted it thinking that it’s not very helpful – even if it was true!
Points to ponder:
- What do our status updates say about us?
- Should we be thinking longer before posting – and if so why?
- How can we guard ourselves from the potential of misusing social media to influence others inappropriately?