Monday, March 23, 2009

Facebook -- So, What Are We Learning?

ChaliceChick is asking some questions about Facebook and YRUU. Good stuff and I hope she prints the answers.

Many of us dived in to Facebook with both feet, to try out the medium. Some of us have devoted large amounts of time to this new (to us) medium, all in the name of discovery. What might look like addiction or a diversion/aid to procrastination was, in fact, a noble pursuit, dedicated to finding the strengths and weaknesses of the program.


And some of us have figured out, by trial and error, our boundaries. Only friending "real" friends, not friends of friends. Realizing that the flip side of connecting with old friends from high school is that the old acquaintances from high school whom you also friended can now see the minutiae you post about your life. And you will see the minutiae about their life and how they want Christ back in Christmas and have no patience for people who don't get that we're one nation under GOD and then when you post a status update referencing your evangelical sermon, an old boyfriend wants a copy of it so he can debate you ...

Lot of pros and cons about Facebook. It's a great tool for passive evangelism -- posting UU videos, articles, etc. Except there are some folks we probably wouldn't evangelize to, who might be on our list.

So, how big do you allow your Facebook pool to be?

Safest, of course, would be to keep it to just family and friends. But even that could be risky. Do you want your mother seeing your best friend's comment about the party you both attended?

I remember reading some where that because we all wear different masks depending on who we are talking to, it's very difficult for children when their worlds collide, e.g. Mom and Dad up at school, chatting with their teacher. They wear one mask for Teacher, one mask for their parents. Standing between them, they're trying to switch the masks back and forth. No wonder they act a little squirrely.

Facebook is where our worlds collide. I have my UU friends, my high school friends, my cancer-parent friends. Different worlds. Different masks.

I love, love, love that I have several minister friends on Facebook. They allow me peeks behind the curtain. We commisserate when we're procrastinating on a sermon. I get glimpses of how they combine personal life and ministerial life.

And I've seen them do Facebook in different ways -- making it wide-open, friends with their parishioners, or more restricted, making another hard and fast rule against friending congregants.

It's easy to see there are pros and cons both ways. Open it up, and conversely, you need to be less free with your status updates. Keep it just friends and family, and you can be more open.

But what a great tool it is for ministry, and so I'm still stuck, trying to figure out the boundaries. If your congregants are also Facebook friends, you can post notices of upcoming events, generate excitement -- "Get to church, Friends! It's going to be a good one!"

And you get to see in their lives, in real time. Someone is sad -- there it is, on Facebook. Someone has a birthday, loses a dog, loses a job, has a date, has an ill parent ... the mind swims. How much, as a minister, do you respond to? How much ministering are you going to do because of the information you glean from Facebook?

It's enough to make a wee seminarian decide to cancel her Facebook upon ordainment!

So ... what are the rules you're developing? So far, mine are: only friending 1 degree people (e.g. no friends of friends), not responding to status updates unless I'm willing to reestablish a relationship with the person (face it, there are some people whom I enjoy knowing what's going on in their lives, but I just don't have the time to add in an active relationship) ... and not releasing sermons to ex-boyfriends.

Those are my rules. What are yours?


ms. kitty said...

Smart little seminarian! Discerning and formationing away there on boundaries! Yay!

Seriously, I have begun to see some of the disadvantages of being too open on Facebook and have cut back a little. Only 1st degree friends.

Limited visibility of relatives---like my exhusband's step-daughter who friended me. However the photos she posted and the language she used in her Facebook posts appalled me and I said something, to which she replied defensively, and in other words, "you're not my mother". And I'm very glad I am not her mother because then I would still be married to her step-father. TMI, I know.

I am really careful about what I say on Facebook because of all the people who read my stuff because they are my "friends".

And I am trying to figure out why Facebook is so fascinating that I go to it several times a day to catch up on what people are doing. I think twittering is really TMI for me so I haven't checked that out and probably won't. But Facebook seems different somehow.

Anyhow, I read CC's and was shocked to realize that I hadn't even thought about the dangers she poses in her questions. Really good food for thought.

Ms. Theologian said...

You and Chalicechick ask good questions!

a. I too only friend people I consider friends. Now that does include people I haven't met in person, if we have a longstanding Internet-based friendship.

b. I have signed privacy agreements up the wazoo with clients, so I just about never write a status update about work.

c. I use the privacy settings on Facebook fairly extensively and separate people into lists (K-12 friends, writer friends, poet friends, UU friends, work friends) and give the lists different viewing powers of Facebook status updates, notes, photos, etc.

d. I think the amount you reveal is similar to how much you reveal in a sermon, which is to say, some, but not all. There are just many more decisions to be made in Facebook than in sermon-writing.

Ms. Theologian said...

To Ms. Kitty's question about why it's so fascinating, there's a fair amount of research (I'm trying to find it, but I'm on my way out) that Facebook can mimic some of the social grooming behaviors of our (primate)ancestors in terms of checking in and making sure that we're okay. Fortunately, we do not have to eat each other's nits.

Lizard Eater said...

Ms. Theo: I am scurrying to FB to try and get some larnin' about this whole list thing. And, re: your second comment -- Ow. Coffee snorted through nose. Ow.

David Throop said...

I have not yet Facebooked for these reasons. Also because I have a tendency to be drawn into such things and spend way too much time. But I'm considering it cuz I'm getting emails from old college buds asking me to get on Facebook so I can be on their friends list.

This looks like a valuable starting point: 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know. (Hat tip Schnier, who I recommend generally. Worth reading the comments at this link covering all the problems that still remain after the 10 tips.)

Kristina said...

I have backed off Facebook, making it known that I'm just not there much. At first it seemed fascinating, and I was spending tons of time there, but then I realized that I was reading a lot of status updates that said, "doing my laundry" or "drinking coffee before work" or even "admiring the sunset." Why on earth do I want to know that? I was not connecting deeply with anyone, I was using up valuable time.

For those few times when someone posted something deeper - the loss of a relationship or a life, for example - I thought "Why am I reading this HERE?" and I didn't want to give a public reply, I wanted to pick up the phone and meet over coffee.

I feel like a curmudgeon because everyone else seems to just love Facebook, and perhaps I'm a Luddite and a curmudgeon, but I just don't think it's for me. I pop in on occassion to see what's up....but nothing more.

I prefer to waste my internet time reading blogs. :-)

Anonymous said...

"c. I use the privacy settings on Facebook fairly extensively and separate people into lists (K-12 friends, writer friends, poet friends, UU friends, work friends) and give the lists different viewing powers of Facebook status updates, notes, photos, etc."

I do this too! I also only friend people who I know (either in person or online) and no one I work with.

Work is for LinkedIn.

I do think though that maybe this will possibly lead to us being less duplicitous. If you are an alcoholic bastard then people are going to know and maybe you could get some help... or hide further in the closet. Guess I have to think that through more.

EmJay said...

Really, Really good questions by both you and CC.

I was introduced to Facebook through my UU church in an effort to communicate with the "30-something" group. Wow! I don't have any answers, just blown away by the complexity of the issues.

I'm just going to add to the issues by noting my experience of having an adult church group where some people use Facebook and other don't has created a different sort of communication problem where there can be an imbalance of information which can impact the dynamic of the group during in-person gatherings. It is a delicate balance. Some relationships that I cherish have been facilitated by appropriate use of Facebook and then I see other relationships that are "Sunday only" type deals that could flourish with a little Facebook help. As a parent with young children, I might not get to have an in-depth conversation with someone on Sunday morning, but I have been able to engage in quite rewarding diaglogues with people via facebook or email. As with any new tool the rules still need to be worked out according to the situation.

I have used Facebook to introduce UUism to two of my high school friends and discovered that one of my former college roommates discovered UUism on her own around the same time I did. Facebook is just an effective tool to spreading the UU word and anything else in our life is.

Also, my one hard fast rule has been no work friends or comments on Facebook. That is a lot easier for me to do as an attorney, than for a minister. :)

Lizard Eater said...

"Facebook is just an effective tool to spreading the UU word"

Rock on, Emjay! :) This past Sunday, I mentioned "Passive Evangelism Via Facebook" in a sermon.

Ms. Theologian said...

I'm pasting instructions from a friend on how to use lists below because I've found other instructions incomprehensible. This is time intensive, unfortunately:

1. Go to Friends
2. Click "make a new list" and name it something that makes sense.
3. Add all the people you want
4. Go to "settings">"Privacy Settings"
5. Under Profile you have the various areas you can restrict. Under each section on the dropdown menu click Customize
6. Under "Except these people" type the name of your new list if you want to keep them from seeing that area. I think you need to save each item.
7. Go to Applications >Edit (bottom left) and under "Edit Settings" you can click the profile tab and do the same thing for some applications. I did it for "Notes" so my dad can't see them. When you write a note you can choose to do it there as well. AS far as I know it's the only way to hide notes from certain people.
8. When you accept a new friend request if you want to limit them
choose to add them to this new list when you accept the request.

Steve Caldwell said...


You may want to check out the current SW District child and youth protection policy - available online here:

On pages 7 and 8, you will find the district policies that cover electronic communication between youth and adults.

Some of the SW District policies are cumbersome.

For example, if you have a link to your personal blog or website in your email signature line at the bottom of your email, you have violated the child and youth protection policy:

"Adults will not advertise, promote, or publish links to their own personal journals, blogs or websites
to children or youth."

This policy assumes that any adult blog content is inappropriate for a district youth to read and generally ignores the fact that our lives are just not that interesting to our youth.

Liz Hill said...

One problem I have is traveling "home" to visit my family, and being careful not to post where I am lest people I'd rather not see come find me. Thanks for posting the instructions for lists. That might help me!

I have made it known to all FB friends that I do not accept invitations to make lists, play games, or receive cyber flowers, plants, pets, karma or mandalas. Nothing personal...

This week I challenged my friends to find one of their FB friends and meet them face to face. I'm doing that myself.

David P. said...

My wife is a Jr High school teacher, and while that's not a ministerial position, it does have some aimiliar issues. What she ended up doing was creating a second "Mrs. Pollard" account to keep in touch with her students. This will be especially effective this fall when she spends several weeks as a "Teacher at Sea" on an oceanographic research vessel.
Perhaps having a separate "Rev. Whatever" ID to keep your clergical and personal lives differentiated would address some of these concerns.