I’ve sat down to write this post several times now. Each time it’s been slightly different, with a slightly different focus, but ultimately the same thing has happened – I couldn’t finish it.
Even now, as I’m sat in my comfy desk chair in the dead of night unable to sleep, I’m thinking that there’s no point in continuing to write this.
But at the same time, I want to want to write it.
It’s been some time since I last blogged, so this going to need some back-story.
Just before Christmas I was loving social media. Really enjoying it, I had a lot of conversations going, Twitter was always a source of friendship, information and fun. I was blogging regularly, I had plans to keep blogging, and I was enjoying myself doing it.
Then it got to Christmas time. I went home from university, saw relatives, went away and generally was away from the Internet; away from the online community I’d recently enjoyed being a part of.
When I came back I found that it was hard to get tweeting again. It was like I’d broken a habit, and I couldn’t get back into it. So I thought I would blog about it, maybe explore what my month of near Twitter-silence had done to my relationships, both online and offline.
That was the first time that I sat down to write this blog post. I’d found that being offline hadn’t drastically enriched my offline relationships, as I wasn’t always online, but my online relationships – that sense of community online – had suffered drastically.
I felt a stranger to my fellow Tweeters.
This is where I realised a big difference in online and offline communities.
Offline, people notice when you leave. If you go away or don’t show up to work or uni for a month – people would notice! As Christians we know that churches strive to notice when people aren’t turning up anymore, so that we can find out why.
Online, it doesn’t happen like that. The drop-in nature of social media means that it’s hard to keep track of people. Whereas you might get a call from a friend asking where you’ve been recently offline, online you’re unlikely to be dropped a tweet from someone who hasn’t seen you tweet in a while.
I really don’t like this.
I get that the web is impersonal and the rest of it, I’ve blogged on it enough. What I don’t like is the way that the impersonal nature of the web can come across as uncaring.
As a Christian, I like to think that a collection of Christians together makes a church. So therefore, at least in my mind, the large group of Christians who interact regularly online are a kind of Twitter-church, right?
If we acted in this online church like we did in our physical churches each Sunday then we would have so many friends! In church we greet each new person with enthusiasm and warmth, and strive to make them feel as though they are welcome and are of worth in the community. If we found some way to do this online, wouldn’t it just be awesome? And on the plus side, we have that drop-in nature, and the 24/7-ness of the web on our side! It would be like being surrounded by your church family whenever you need to be.
I have no idea if anything like this is logistically possible, but I hope that we can find a way to make Twitter a huge, caring and warm church.
Reading back through this now I realise that it incredibly poorly written and has no real structure or direction. Normally this would eat at me, but today I’m going to let it slide. This was just written as I thought it, my thoughts straight to paper. Or pixels.
I was going to have an explore about the authenticity of online friendships, but I think that will have to be for next time.
I hope that this post, whilst disorganised and dysfunctional gives you some pause for thought.
So the Christian New Media Awards and Conference just happened. For anyone not aware of this event, it’s about equipping the church in this digital age, and teaches it’s delegates how to make the most of technology and social media as Christians.
I’ve come away from the day not only shattered, but inspired. I attended the conference as a volunteer, and therefore didn’t manage to listen to most of the talks – so the inspiration for this blog on authenticity online actually comes from me physically being a volunteer.
Being a volunteer was hard for me. It really pushed me and stretched my limits. What was it that I was doing that was such a challenge? Interacting with people.
To get to the point I’m going to have to explain myself to you a little bit. I am not a confident person, and I’m not a terribly good people person. I’m introverted. I like video games and listening to music with huge headphones so that I can block everyone out.
So when we were asked as to man the registration desk and be human sign-posts for the day, I was… apprehensious. Particularly when we were asked to be ‘positive, outgoing, smiley and helpful’.
Not my thing.
But yet I persevered and if I’m honest I am quite proud of myself for it – I think that it was a push I needed.
How does this relate to being authentic online? Well as far as I’m aware, online I’m not like that. Online I can be more outgoing and open, more confident. Heck, online I can even manage ”public speaking” through my blog.
You’d never catch me doing that in person.
Online I am thrilled to be making contact with people and meeting strangers, whereas in person I find the idea of speaking to strangers terrifying. Particularly a group of them!
What I’ve realised is that in terms of typical online authenticity – I am not authentic. Sorry. You’re reading fake words right now, I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.
This is where I begin to get confused. Because despite what you just read, this isn’t fake. It’s real, it’s my thoughts put into my words.
Does the fact that I probably would find it difficult to say this to you in person (particularly all of you at once!) make my words have any less weight, or authenticity? NO!
So if online me is still authentic, but not the same, what does that mean?
In another blog post I brought up the idea that ‘online versions’ of ourselves could be MORE authentic than our offline personas. I would really like to be more outgoing and confident, and online I am. Does that make it a truer representation of me? It’s the me I can’t bring myself to be offline, a look at the inner me?
I have no answers – sorry. I guess that another way to look at it would be to say that – as long as there is no intentional deception – we’re authentic everywhere. It’s just that we can express ourselves differently through different mediums.
TL;DR, I have no answers on online authenticity for you. Do you have some for me?
Well hello there. It’s been a while, quite a long while.
I realise that this blog has been somewhat neglected over the past few months, but here I am hoping to not let it happen again. If you’re interested, here’s some personal updates since I last posted:
- I’m a married man now! I got married in July to the most wonderful young woman; we couldn’t be happier!
- I’m no longer a journalism student. The shorthand was too much for me, obviously. I jest, I could have kept at it, but I suddenly felt that it wasn’t for me anymore, and that I have more skills that could be put to use in my new degree: Entertainment Technology. It’s a lot of video editing, animation and things. I am glad to have done the year of journalism, and I really think that year will help me out with the rest of this new course!
Now, on to the blogging. This is going to be a pretty short blog, partly because I’d like to just ease back into blogging but mainly because I have no conclusions on this – and I would REALLY like to hear from you, hear your opinions.
It seems to me that when it comes to Christian blogging communities, that’s exactly what they are, Christian blogging communities. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it just seems that we can get stuck in a – prepare for a cliché – holy huddle.
On Twitter particularly there is a very strong community of bloggers who support each other, write for each other and critique each other. It can be a really encouraging and welcoming group.
The thing is, we only ever seem to be writing for each other.
Do you think that there is a way to blog, with evangelistic intentions?
I understand that just by putting our blogs out there we are doing some form of evangelism, and may evangelise in ways that we hadn’t forseen, but is there a way for us to intentionally evangelise through our blogs?
I really have no answers, and that’s why I’m hoping to hear from you about this.
Over to you:
- Can we evangelise through blogging?
- Do you agree that there is a bit of a ‘holy huddle’ situation going on?
- Am I completely wrong?
So the Saturday just gone was awesome.
Not the most technical term I know, but probably one of the most accurate.
For those that don’t know, Saturday the 20th of October was the Christian New Media Conference, held by Xianne New Media in partnership with Codec and Premier Christian Media.
This conference aims to take a look at current and emerging media and technologies, and apply them to church. Roughly.
The day was brilliant. With over 25 speakers in a range of different talk ‘streams’ there was something for everyone. And there was a lot of ‘everyone’.
I was on of the 400 odd men and women that travelled to Kings College London for the conference. From a show of hands in the main lecture theatre it seemed that attendance this year had nearly doubled from the previous year.
Social media was a key part of the conference. Not only was it one of the main focus of the speakers, but it was extensively used by those attending. And I mean extensively.
On average there were 500 tweets an hour pouring onto the #cnmac12 hashtag.
There is far too much for me to include in a blog post, which leaves me with asking you some questions instead.
- If you attended the conference, what was your best bit?
- What was the main message to you?
- If you didn’t or did attend, will you be next year? Why?
Thanks for reading, it would be great if you could comment!
One last thing: Pickle.