— Is What We Post to Facebook Public?

April 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

I do not like facebook for ministry of any kind and yet everything that is done on facebook by anyone can be interpreted as ministry. It’s a kind of catch22 because we share our lives, the minutia and the big events. We witness each other living – the joy and the difficult moments. And despite privacy controls, heavy facebook users – even the most advance – can easily forget that once something is said on facebook,  it can take on a life of its own.

Every month we hear and read stories in the media – and yes this blog is media – that show facebook dialog and quote verbatim from it. We cannot control how our facebook friends set their controls. We cannot control whether someone will take a screen shot of activity on facebook. And even if we turn off the ability of some comments from appearing on home pages and in our timelines, we do not have control over what we say when it goes out through facebook’s notifications. You access those notifications from the tiny globe icon in the upper left of your facebook page. And then there’s the constant rate at which facebook changes how its settings work. Few can keep up with those changes – even the most experienced users.

Many of the ministers I acknowledge in the intro chapters of REACH, know this. They specifically point out that they treat facebook as a public pulpit and that they only state there what they’d say in public.

I assumed that’s why a departing minister decided to announce the departure from a congregation and to a world of UU connections on…..facebook. I wrote a blog about the announcement and how it appeared on that social network. I included a screen shot of some of the dialog that followed the facebook status posting – all of which wished the minister well and expressed sadness. There were more than 35 comments from different individuals at that time. Many of their comments then appeared in the news feeds of their friends on facebook.

My blog post solicited comments from readers through questions that asked seminarians, lay people and clergy to consider the religious and ethical implications of facebook. No one submitted comments.

I shouldn’t have assumed that this digitally savvy minister understood and consciously  decided to make the announcement on facebook. Why did I make this assumption? I did because of this person’s digital experience. The minister had lead the charge  to develop a social network platform-based website for a UU congregation. I had taken a few cues from that work for a project I was working on.

That’s not, however, an excuse for me to make an assumption about what to share here in this blog. But it is how I fell into one. It was the context in which I understood the announcement and decided to write about it here in TheNewUU.

And then the minister today,  asked that I remove the screen shot of the dialog. Of course, I removed it. I also decided to remove the post because without the image it didn’t sock home the point.

Making assumptions – where to post; what to copy online; and what we should realize – can easily become a slippery slope. One that we all can slide down – including me.

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