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Can I protect my kids? Should I even try?

If I saw my daughter run out into the street, I would stop her. No. I would throw my body in front of her path to make sure she didn't get hurt. If I saw my son reach for a rotten apple or a bad piece of chicken, I would stop him. I don't want him to suffer the negative consequences of consuming something hurtful. It is a no-brainer--we want to protect our kids. But how on earth do we do that when the scary people and the bad influences are not out there lurking in the bushes, rather they are right here, situated deep inside the devices our kids keep with them every minute of the day?

It isn't an easy task. On one hand, we could go around and unplug every device, hiding every cell phone, laptop, iWatch, remote control, and television screen. While that might ensure more face to face family time (and probably a bunch of really ticked off kids), I'm not sure it ensures that we are equipping our kids with the ability to make wise choices. Let's face it, some day, our kids will most likely move out of the house and get their own Netflix passwords. At that point, we get to pray that God is big enough to protect them from the Internet and hope we have prepared them to think through what they should be watching and how their technology choices impact them.

So how do we walk that fine line of protecting and equipping? One way is to be very up front. Talk through your concerns. Talk through some of the things your kids should be wary of. Talk through some of the choices they will be confronted with. Talk through some of their options. In other words, empower your kids. Sure, you can block them, spy on them, and catch them in the act. There are some great software tools for that. But, I'll be honest, without the conversation that goes along with it, your kids are more than able to outwit and outsmart any hi-tech solution you may come up with.

From my perspective, protecting our children in a high-tech world is all about training and modeling. Sure, some kids clearly need a very heavy hand when it comes to online connection. But most kids are suprisingly open to having mom or dad sit with them and learn, play, and explore their online worlds together. They are even open to having mom and dad explore limits of technology use, talking through virtual dangers that might unexpectedly pop up without warning, and developing technology guidelines that make everyone a little wiser and a little safer. By making choices together, online safety becomes a family affair, where choices are transparent, and everyone is being held accountable (yes, mom and dad too).

What motivated this blog that is a bit out of step with the things I have recently been writing about? Well, I just got an inspiring e-mail from a mom who had read my parenting blog.  She shared how she and her husband had sat down with their kids and, together, looked up resources on safe Internet use. They also talked through appropriate controls for the kids and found this website:

So, thank you for taking the time and energy to train and protect your kids. O.K. I still am not sure my son understands what safe chicken looks like, but at least I know he understands the virtual choices he is making every single day.


What if we were able to "sense" our Facebook feed?

David Eagleman presents a fascinating TEDTalk where he proposes the idea of using electronic data to add to the way we "sense" our world. Just as a blind person is able to learn how to make sense of bumps on his or her fingertips while reading braille, or a deaf person is able to translate the digital impulses from a cochlear implant imbedded into the inner ear, very soon, we could make sense of digital data  communicated to us through a piece of equipment connected to our bodies.

This means we could get real time, streaming, sensory feedback about all sorts of digital information, including the state of operations in our factory, the stock market, trending Twitter tags, and even the pheromones or heart rate of the person we are talking with.  The implications for communication are even more intriguing. For instance, getting real time, continuous information from big data, streamed to us through patterned vibrations on our device, would provide a subtle, background sensory input similar to what we get from our nose, ears, or eyes.  This kind of information could help us make decisions based on what "the mob" views as positive or important.  But is big data really the best way to make decisions?  How would this change the way we perceive and experience our world? What happens if someone is able to manipulate the digital information, and ultimately, change the way "the mob" perceives and responds to reality?

And what about individuals? Sherry Turkle talks about a "collaborative self", where identity is formed and shaped by the multiple layers of digital connections we have with friends through texting, snapping, and tweeting. What are the implications to our identity if we are able to "feel" not only what our friends are thinking --in real time--but also what a global audience is thinking or feeling?

And what about our cognitive processing? While we already have learned to multi-task information from our natural senses (i.e. hearing and seeing and tasting at the same time), what are the implications to how we think, or what we think about, if our brains are trained to continually process a new sense--one that is  streaming real-time big data? What are the implications to our already fractured ability to focus? What are the implications of the way we interact with people? Can we truly focus on the here and now, to the person sitting in front of us, if we have this constant stream of information coming to us from our sixth, digital sense?

Clearly, the idea of adding a new digital sense to our existing five natural senses is completely intriguing. Please check out the TEDTalk. It is definitely worth the 20 minutes. And, who knows, before long, you won't have to sit and read a blog like this--you can just feel it as the digital vibrations flow through the background of your mind.


Mega-church Worship: Shouldn't There Be Something More?

The auditorium darkens, the smoke machine churns, the spotlights find the singers, and the cameras pan across the stage. It is the beginning of a weekend worship service at my mega-church.

The first time I attended this church, I was enthralled by the experience orchestrated by professional musicians and media technicians. But after being part of this congregation for almost 5 years, I find my soul parched. Somehow, the lights, the sounds, and the show have alienated me from the authentic, corporate worship for which my soul aches.

The last weekend we attended services, I found myself standing in the dark, listening to musicians sing songs I didn't know surrounded by people I had never seen before. As I looked around, I saw people facing the front, shadows of the projected images flashing across their faces. Very few were singing. Very few were smiling. Most were simply watching.

Is this all there is to worship? According to Quentin Schultz, in his book High Tech Worship, worship is about  dialouge and community building.  It is dialouge in that it is "responsive and reciprocal". God speaks and we respond in praise and thanksgiving. Then God speaks again and we, again, respond. But what happens when the worship music becomes nothing more than noise filling in the gaps of our meandering thoughts? Is this truly worship when the highly structured format leaves no space for silence, thoughtfulness, or personal contemplation?

Schultz also suggests that worship is more than individual communion with God, it is "one of the main ways that Christians foster community".  Worship involves the vertical communication with God and a horizontal re-commitment to the body of believers. "Worship directs us to participate as one in the divine life of Jesus Christ." So what happens when the service intentionally disconnects me from those around me, intentionally moving my thoughts away from my neighbor and upwards, toward the stage?

If I can neither see nor hear the people I stand next to and can only watch as the professionals hit the soaring notes, interludes, and rythms of the newest Christians songs, is that true worship? On the other hand, is it supposed to be that kind of worship?  It is, without a doubt, this type of performance that invites non-church-goers to venture into a strange place to see what the gospel message might have to offer. It is this high-quality, low commitment experience (similar to a rock concert) that gets the target market through the doors.

So, maybe some of us just need to just suck it up.  A worship style that inherently separates us from a dialogical, community-based experience with our God might be worth the price of bringing others to faith. Unfortuantely, that leaves many of us with a parched soul and a longing for something that brings us into an authentic, intimate, corporate time of worship.

But there is a larger challenge with this pervasive approach to Sunday mornings.  This kind of service communicates to a whole generation of new believers that corporate worship is nothing more than a free concert where the performers slip in a Christian thought and a little prayer between the second and third song and the passive audience watches as lights and images create the illusion of depth and communion where none actually exist.

Mega church worship is complicated. Trying to coordinate very different goals for very different audiences can result in experiences that leave none completely satsified. However, I believe it is time for mega-churches to re-evaluate the choices they make and the messages they communicate through their "worship" services. True worship is important. As the mega-church evolves, we may need to re-consider how and where worship takes place. We may need to quit equating worship and performance. We may need to find space to turn the smoke machine off and come together to figure out what will move all of us closer to a truly worshipping body of believers.


Ecumenical Stewardship Center Leadership Seminar

 PowerPoint for Conference

Generosity in an Emerging Generation

Here are some of the ideas we came up with as far as how cultural changes are impacting generosity:

  • We need to celebrate success, tell stories of success
  • Our programs need to be based on relationships--on building relationships between givers and recipients and between givers and friends. It is when we leverage the power of the social networks of individuals--when 1 person tells another person about something that has caught their attention--that's when people pay attention.
  • We need to ask for appropriate commitments--many people are no longer willing to make long-term commitments--1 time things may be more effective
  • We need to affirm people--let them know we are paying attention--we need to craft our messages with the audience in mind.
  • We need to "relocate" people--help them find their focus and wholeness in life by helping them become holistically passionate about Jesus Christ.  Once they have that focus, we can more easily move them toward giving.
  • We need to keep our vision focused
  • We need to connect people with each other--with other people who are interested in the same sorts of things--to leverage their "cognitive surplus"

Other ideas include:

  1. videos--take videos & pictures of missions' trips, interviews with people on the field--help people SEE where there money is going--help them connect with an individual
  2. remove text and replace with pictures, images, slideshows
  3. instead of a budget total, create a catalouge with pictures of things that the money will go for.
  4. Create a budget with hyperlinks to pictures, videos & websites
  5. Use Facebook and Twitter to help people experience things real time (i.e. disaster relief, missions trip, car wash, etc...)
  6. skyping missionaries

That's what we came up with at the conference.  Are there things I forgot?  Additional things you think are important?  This might just be the place to begin the discussion.


Social Technographics

Forrester Study 2010


Creators (publish a blog, upload videos)

Conversationalists (Tweet, regularly post Facebook statuses)

Critics (post ratings & reviews, engage in online forums)

Collectors (use RSS feeds, add tags, use collection sites like Delicious)

Joiners (maintain profiles on Facebook)

Spectators (read blogs, listen to podcasts, read tweets)

Inactives (none of the above)


Who is your target audience?  The top 3 are the ones to go after with social media. How do we get the bottom 3 to become more active?


When God is Too Small: Seeking God's Greatness While Raising a Child With Special Needs

This Sunday I will be speaking for the first time about some of my experiences raising a handicapped child.  Even though my son, Aaron died 2 years ago, I am still processing God's lessons about power, control, and living with a mighty-sized view of God. If you are interested, join me at First Baptist Church of Cambridge, 10:15, this Sunday.


Here is the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies my story.


Churches on Pinterest

Here is a link to a small list of churches that are using Pinterest. At the Converge workshop we ended by contemplating possible uses of the 3rd fastest growing social media site. Mars Hill has a nicely organized page that draws the reader into links on their website. Each of their blogs, testimony-type stories, announcements, or sermon series is accompanied by a well done picture that is then pinned and organized on their board. Actually, their board seems a bit more well organized and accessible than their website which can feel a bit overwhelming. perhaps this is the new look of information seeking and communi building.


Social Media & Ministry: Converge Biennial Workshop

Here is the powerpoint I used at a recent workshop presented in Washington DC.



Facebook & College Students: Some recent statistics

THis graphic is a great compilation of some of the most recent studies on Facebook & college students. 

Is Social Media Ruining Students?
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Day 17: The Buzz is Gone--Now What?

I remember last month like it was yesterday.  I would get all goose bumpy when I posted a Tweet and my world rocked when someone "liked" a Facebook comment. Yeah, I miss those days.  Now, a new tweet is nothing special. I can post a Facebook status in my semi-awake state in the morning before I go to work and can post a pin on Pinterest in between making dinner and falling asleep watching the evening news. My tweetdeck chirps, and I don't even care--I don't know the person chirping at me anyway.  My voyage toward social media competence now reminds me of that scene in the Chronicles of Narnia when the Dawn Treader runs out of wind and just floats around (I believe that's the part right before they are attacked by bad monster-things). Yep. I have begun to master the tools, but am growing weary.  I still don't have many real friends on Twitter but I continue to get connected to good blogs and identify good trends in my professional work.  The Facebook posts keep scrolling on, whether I pay attention or not. And although I still struggle with who my audience is--my mom, publisher, spammer, former student or future employer--I got 48 birthday wishes from people who at least knew my name. 

As this social experiment evolves, I continue to parse through what is worthwhile and what isn't.  And although I am wondering even more seriously about the ROI of blogging, I am getting into a workable routine of surveying my social media environment and trying to manage some sort of momentum.  And maybe that's what this part of the voyage looks like--surveying and maintaining.  We all know that if there is nothing new--whether it be in our Facebook or Twitter work, we will die.  Well, ok, that might be overstating the metaphor, but if we are too inactive, people will stop paying attention.  But if we are too active, they might forget what we look like at our real job--the one we get paid for. So maybe my lesson for today is that when things get busy and we don't have anything terribly pressing to say, we need to shift into survey and maintain mode--keeping enough wind in the sails to keep us moving so when the next great idea comes, our sails will be ready to go. As I sit in the social media doldrums, I will continue to move.

Sail on, baby, sail on.


Day 16: Blogging as Futility

I received this motivational message from a colleague.  Thanks, Matt. But just an FYI, in my mind, I am AWESOME!


Day 15: Blessing with the "Like" button: Reverent affirmation through Social Media

One of the reasons I began this social media challenge was to try and figure out how to use social media tools to minister to people.  In theory I know it should work. In reality, it gets a little confusing how my Facebook pictures of puzzles, declarations of how cold it is outside and Twitter conversations between me and my office buddy constitute "ministry". If I am encouraging pastors to hop on the social media supertrain, what, exactly, do I tell them when it comes "touching the lives of people you care about"? How do we do that?

I have come across 2 words that beautifully describe the "ministry" part of social media: Reverent Acknowledgement.  Blogger Keith Anderson refers to this concept, plucked from seminary classrooms, to describe the act of "bearing witness, of beholding" the lives of people we want to bless. "The logic is that when people know they are heard, seen, and understood, they can be more open to God."

So how does reverent acknowledgement happen in the face to face world? It might include asking people on Sunday morning about their week or their sick child or their home improvement project.  It might include calling during the week to see how the job interview went or dropping a card in the mail encouraging a weary young mother.  Each of these acts say that you are paying attention to the life of your friend and that you care.

While it isn't exactly the same, there is no reason we can't use social media to acknowledge the joys and struggles of our friends in a way that is even more timely (we dont have to wait until Sunday morning) and more focused (we don't have to guess as to what they are worried about--it is right on their Facebook page).

The real trick is to take a technology tool that highlights one-way communication and self-messaging and turn it into a tool of acknowledgement and blessing.  According to Anderson, this happens through quick Facebook "likes", Twitter shout-outs, blog comments, or even a well-timed e-mail or wall post.  It doesn't have to take a ton of time, but from personal experience, I know I get absolutely shiny inside when I get a bunch of "likes" on my Facebook post or someone retweets what I said. In one quick push of a button, my friends tell me they are paying attention, they care about me, and they think that what I had to say was nice.  The occasional friend's comment on a blog or a Facebook post are an even clearer way of them pitching in and entering my world.

If we want to be using social media in a way that impacts people's lives, I sincerely think we need to move beyond one-way, self-centered (or church-centered) broadcast messaging and figure out how to use the "social" part of social media to be present with the people we care about.  And as lovely as reverent acknowledgement is for our family members and close friends, how much more meaningful can these little acts of kindness be for those who respect us or look up to us?

So, here is the challenge for today: commit to taking 5-10 minutes a day and read through the Facebook and Twitter posts of friends, family, people who look up to you, and people you feel particularly called to reach out to. Be free with your "like"s, quick comments, and strategic affirmations.  Remember, it doesn't have to be big.  After all, a quick hug can say much more than a personalized sermon.  When it comes down to it, social media doesn't have to be a mass of random messaging and narcissistic primping.  It can be a way to shine a little sunshine, a little affirmation and a little fun into people's lives.


Day 14: Do numbers really matter? Analytics & Twitter tracking

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a blog or Facebook post that you have worked hard on sitting out there, looking lonely and unread.  It is easy to assume that if no one comments, no one is reading. And if no one is reading, it isn't working. But before you conclude this social media experiment was a bomb and throw in your mouse and cancel your blogger account, let me propose a walk into the world of social media analytics. Analytics is all about finding out how well read your websites and posts REALLY are and what kind of virtual splash you may be making even though you can't actually see the ripples.

Before I get too far, I have to admit my naivete in this field.  But, as confusing as all of these tools and numbers are, I have learned one thing--analytics can help you measure your effectiveness and, even more important, focus your effort into the things that are actually working.

The first step in keeping track is to figure out who is watching.  After all, if you know who is paying attention, you can do a better job of focusing your messages for that particular audience. While there are a number of ways to keep track of who is looking at your sites, there seem to be a few tools designed especially for people like me; people who are just getting started.  The one I have fallen in love with is Google analytics.  One of the reasons I like it is because it is free.  It requires that you paste some HTML code into your blog (a little techie but not too bad), and the payoff is really fun.  Unlike my blog site's statistics reports, Google analytics adds a number of pieces of feedback like where the people who read your site live (it gets down to a city by city analysis) and is loaded with colorful graphs and pie charts.  Another helpful aspect is that it measures which keywords people are using to find your material.  Using keywords to your advantage is key (get it--key) to drawing attention to your site.  There are lots of ways to say things, but if you use a few of the right words, you can increase how many people will find you.

A second tool that has been recommended in a number of blogs is HootSuite. I haven't looked into that format too much, but the tool will track not only your blog, but all of your social media.  It is also a nice way to organize your tweets, Facebook posts, web sites, and lots of other tools.  If you have more than one person working on social media, it is a nice way to collaborate and organize what you are doing.  HootSuite can also schedule your tweets or Facebook posts for the week.  So if you want to do a bunch of blogs or tweets on Saturday when you have time, HooteSuite will allow you to schedule the time and date those things will actually appear.

While knowing your audience is important, knowing what they are saying about you is also a good idea.  One of the easiest ways to do that is to track your Twitter "mentions".  My TweetDeck does this beautifully, so that if any tweet shows up with my name or my church's name, I can see it.  Seeing what strangers say doesn't mean I will reply, but it seems pretty important to know what topics resonate with people or what things really tic them off.

So, do numbers really matter? I say yes.  It makes me feel better that just because my blog post looks lonely, doesn't mean it hasn't done it's job. And, as I refine my blogging, tweeting and posting skills, I am getting a better handle on who I am talking to and what is most important to them.  Social media analytics doesn't have to be confined to nerdy statisticians and computer geeks.  With a little work, we can use numbers to make us better at what we do.


Day 13: Community on Twitter? Really?

Building community over Twitter is hard. I have been tweeting now for almost half a month (yeah, well when you’re my age, that’s like dog years) and I am still having a hard time seeing community--oh, I've read people who say it's there--but I haven't seen it. In fact, I feel more like an outsider looking into other people’s fun lives. For instance, a couple of tweeters got engaged the other day and announced it on Twitter. It was really cute and as the congratulations came scrolling in (I almost sent one myself) I had to remind myself--I don’t know these people—at all! I am just a lonely follower who found their names on my Twitter recommended list and thought their picture or their screen name looked nice. As lovely as that is, is it community?  Is it the basis for community? Is it a small glimmer of community shining through a glass darkly?

According to David Hansen, blogger and frequent tweeter, Twitter is made up of “a group of stranger-friends” where we “offer one another mutual support and prayer. We mourn together, seek advice together, and rejoice together. I consider this community.” As much as I yearn for that, I simply don’t see it flourishing in my experiences, each made up of 140 characters.  According to Elizabeth Drescher, author of Tweet if you heart Jesus (and also a twitter “friend”), the power of social media is in the social aspect—not the broadcast aspect. It is when we share with others about our days or our thinking that we build the stepping stones of relationship. While that sounds SO compelling, the closest thing to an “interpersonal conversation” I have had is when someone told me I simply didn’t understand how to use Twitter. Those 140 characters cut me like a virtual knife--but at least he talked to me.

David Hansen asks an interesting question: “is being ‘face-to-face’ really the most important common denominator for community?”  After spending countless Sunday mornings talking to people who I know as well as my formless twitter friends, I would have to say "no", relationship-building is clearly the most important part of building community. When you don’t spend time interacting with one another, whether online or face to face, community won’t work. But, my bottom-line problem is that I haven’t figured out how Twitter works as “interaction”. It seems more hopelessly one-way and broadcast-based than Facebook.

So here I am.  Frustrated and skeptical of those who preach the gospel of ministry and love through Twitter. I want to believe. I really do.  I want to be a Twitter cheerleader, an agent of change, a virtual lover of all things new, but after “following” every person I know in real life and trying to “talk” with my new formless Twitter friends who don’t have a clue who I am, I am tired.  So if you happen to read this and DO feel community on Twitter, please talk to me. Tell me what it takes. Tell me what to do before I become a Twitter drop out.


Day 12: Pinterest, I get you.

Pinterest. It feels like one more wave I am missing as many of my friends (some older than me) surf this new social media space with passion and skill. Many have secretly shared with me that they have spent entire evenings wandering through this lovely virtual garden of ideas. I’ll be honest, it took me months to figure out where this secret garden was and how to get in.  Once I got in, I have to say, it just looked like a virtual garden mess—weeds, pictures, pins, boards and all.  It seemed like just one more social media spot I have to check every morning so I won’t feel like I'm missing something.  Will it never end? My Lucky Charms are getting soggy already!

It was the day my friend came into my office, once again sharing with me her joy of Pinterest, that I decided to take my own advice, jump in, experiment and not quit as soon as I became overwhelmed.  Since this particular friend is an advanced social media junkie, I asked her to explain.  We pulled up the program and she showed me how to create my own Pinterest boards.  She showed me her boards and the kinds of things she likes to look for.  She showed me how to put the “pin” button on my Internet navigation bar so I can easily “pin” things I like. Then, like a parent pushing a child on a bike with no training wheels for the first time, she shouted “you can do it, Peggy!” and went back to work.

I fooled around for awhile, then found a topic I liked—recipes.  I hate cooking and ran out of good recipes years ago so I started wandering around pretty pictures of food.  Those pictures brought me to lovely recipe sites. I began pinning recipes I could make the next week.  When shopping day came, I just went on my pinterest board and quickly compiled my menu. I also wandered around humor sites and found some great pictures—since visual humor is always easy to share, I pinned a few things that I can put on Facebook later when I don’t have anything particularly fabulous to say. Pinterest; I get it. Am I a Pinterest junkie. No.  Can I ride through the garden without training wheels? Oh, yeah.

So here is my advice—it is the same advice I’ve given before.  Don’t give up. Take baby steps and keep taking them until you find the loveliness in the tool.  Find someone who uses it well and ask them for some pointers. Once we understand the tool, then we can do a better job of choosing what works best for each task. Pinterested? Yes, thank you, I am.


Day 11: Overload, Oversimplification, and Organizing

I knew it was going to happen.  11 days into this experiment and I have become overloaded. I can't keep up. This feeling of having too much to see and do and keep track of has led to a demotivation which has ultimately led me to revert back to a simplistic way of seeing social media as a pure time waster. 

I know, however, that there is more to it.  I totally understand that community takes time and energy to develop and maintain.  Staying on top of issues in my professional field takes proactive searching and reading. The question is--do I have the time and energy to keep up?  The answer is--I need to prioritize.

Ok. I'll be honest. The real problem was that I went back to work today. I have this fabulous job where I get every 4th January off to conduct research (or something that at least sounds kind of academic). But January is done.  It is now nothing more than good tweet memories and exciting livechat experiences. It was fun, but now I have to figure out how to have a job, blog, tweet, Facebook, pin, stack, poke, AND play temple run--oh, yeah--and cook dinner.  What stays and what goes?  What does it really take to stay on top of friendships AND professional reading using my new social media tools?

I am in the midst of developing a morning and afternoon routine.  I glance through Tweetdeck & Facebook each morning, tweeting or connecting with friends.  Then in the afternoon, I go through Tweetdeck again, stopping to link to interesting blogs or commenting on professional topics. I am hoping this schedule wil at least help me keep up with the network I have worked so hard to develop.

My biggest problem is the blog.  A good blog takes a while to research, then another chunk of time to write. Here are some really good ideas from Bridgett at Perideau Designs that I am going to try out.  The best idea is a "blog log" where you can keep track of things to blog about in the future, as well as a place to keep track of helpful links that can be used in those blogs to make them more interesting and credible.

If you are following along with me on a social media journey to competence, let me be the voice of encouragement.  We can do it.  It might be time to pare down and reprioritize, but I am more convinced than ever that social media can minister to people in a way that those social media critics and spectators just can't understand until they see it happen for themselves.


Day 10: Social Media & the Sabbath

Yesterday was Sunday. I woke up, got out of bed, made my little cappuccino with my new little coffee machine and sat down to check Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, my RSS feeds, and my blog. Then it dawned on me.  It’s Sunday.  Although I am getting my social media life in order so it doesn’t take so much time in the morning, it still resembles work. And, I must embarrassingly say, it often cuts into time that used to be reserved for my quiet time with God. So what do I do with Sunday? My Sabbath? Is it good to take a regular beak from social media? Is that what honors God?  Or maybe honoring God is more about doing some focused connecting to people who are important in my life, using social media. 

Clearly, taking a technology break is a good idea.  We can’t have balance unless we understand how imbalanced our lives are.  That usually requires taking a step back and prayerfully observing and considering the little choices we make every day that either draw us closer or push us further from “loving God with our whole hearts”.  Fasts can highlight what those choices are. Fasts can reacquaint and remind us of the goals we say we have for the technology in our lives.

But there is another way of thinking about this.  In the discussion we had at #chsom about Lent and Social Media, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that giving up social media for Lent was exactly opposite of what we should do.  Instead, we should be using social media to inspire and remind people of everything Lent stands for.  According to one participant “Tweeting is a discipline” and if we use it wisely, we can reach people’s hearts in an intimate and purposeful way.  This perspective seems so opposite what most people think of as Twitter and, to be honest, it feels a little naïve.  That being said, however, first thing Sunday morning, when I hopped on Twitter, there was 5 messages to “all those pastors out there”, each one encouraging and uplifting.; things like “have a great sermon today” or “enjoy this Sunday God made just for you” or “praying for the connections you will make today”. I can’t tell you how inspiring the sweet tweets were and how much I felt like I was part of the body of Christ.

So, the question still remains---what do we do with social media and Sabbath? The answer is…I'm still not sure.  What I do know is that it is a lot more complicated than simply turning the Tweet off for the day.


Day 9: Reading & Organizing

As I am finessing my tweet pals and my keywords, I am finding some blogs and websites that are pretty interesting.  One was from an author whose book I just finished (and really liked). Another was an institute that is doing research in my area of study.  A third was a site with puppy videos. So what do I do with all of this “stuff”?  I could bookmark them all on my Firefox, but that makes the everyday surfing I do even more complicated (and besides, I can’t usually remember what half those sites are after I bookmark them).

The solution to organizing all of the digital “stuff” I am accumulating? It is described as “the world’s leading social bookmarking service”. The greatest benefit to delicious is that it stores all my “oh, that is cool” places all in one spot.  It also organizes them.  For instance, I have collected a number of potential resources for a class I teach in Computer Mediated Communication.  I also get frequent requests after I speak somewhere for a list of good resources.  Not a problem.  The other benefit to a site like delicious is that it is social.  So if I want to share my class resources with my students or writing resources with interested audiences, all I need to do is send them my delicious link and they can peruse through my collection.

The other benefit that I haven’t quite figured out yet has to do with sharing organizational patterns.  For instance, if my tags are “public” and I tag a site on puppies, I might put it in the file I label “communication strategies”. Other people who tag the same thing can see how I organized the site and may get a whole new perspective on puppy love.  They might also see that I am a like-minded communication person and we can build some sort of virtual relationship.  I also think it is like the geeky habit of looking through other people’s bibliographies for good ideas of what to read.  This time, though, I can take a stealthy perusal through someone’s “collections” or “stacks” to see if there is something new to see. And it’s a lot more fun than looking at boring APA citations.  For instance, I looked under “the evolution of the modern bathroom” and found fun pictures, blog excerpts, and videos of bathrooms throughout history.  I also do a search into social media and church and find the top sites that have been tagged by other delicious users.  I also get a good feeling for what keywords I should be using in my blog posts.

Well, the whole thing is kind of fun—in a weird, geeky, organizing way.  As my social media use is increasingly cluttering my thinking and my workspace, it is so very important to find tools that will help simplify and structure my experiences. and TweetDeck and just 2 of the best things I have found.


Day 8: Holding my breath & jumping into a Live Chat

Tuesday night I engaged in my first real time social media event—well the first event I didn’t cower in the corner, hoping I wouldn’t hit the wrong button or have someone yell at me for being stupid. No, this was different.  I am determined to experiment and make mistakes during this 30-day challenge so at 9:00EST on Tuesday I joined the discussion of social media in the church with the #chsom group.

The moderator began with a request for introductions. She seemed nice, so I said “hello”—well, not just hello, but “hello” in a spunky, yet sophisticated way.  Before I could start breathing again, 3 different people welcomed me! I must have done that first part right!

The discussion began and, even though I had a hard time keeping up with some of the conversation and didn’t quite understand some of the abbreviations (IRL took me a few minutes), I started learning things.  I learned how to talk fast in 140 characters.  I learned how to retweet. I learned how use # and @.  Sure, I learned a little about social media and lent, but mostly I became more fluent and confident in the language of the Twitter man. Experimenting can pay off.

I think the best part of hopping into a real-time Tweet chat is that I feel like I know some people.  I got to see some personalities and I am feeling more like I am part of the #chsom club. The weird thing is, that as I lay in bed that night, I thought in tweets. My dreams were filled with conversations—all in 140 characters or less. I woke up with ideas for at least 2 or 3 good tweets to put out there.  As I got out of bed, I couldn’t wait to check my tweetdeck to see what my new friends were doing. 

If you are reading these blogs, I would challenge you to go for it.  Hop in and see what it’s like.  No matter what, you will be smarter than when you started.


Day 7: One Word: TweetDeck


I thought I was in love with Mr. Hashtag. But I have moved on. Sorry #.  My new very best friend is now TweetDeck. Let me share my story.

I have been adding people to follow on Twitter like a crazy woman. I’ve got inspirational preachers who can massage 140 characters like Michelangelo with a tweet brush. I have Ashton Kutcher who shares lovely photos of his life that I love looking at, feeling like I am his close, personal friend. I have social media experts who share blogs and articles of things I tell myself “oh, shoot, I should have written that”. I even have real life friends who I tweet stupid messages to, even though they work in the office 2 doors down.

I’ll be honest. I’m going a little nuts--oh, nuts in a good way. I’m getting kind of hooked on the tweet.  But the problem is I have all these random tweets popping up and it was getting increasingly hard to keep track. Hello TweetDeck.  TweetDeck is “a personal browser for staying in touch”.  More than that, it organizes my tweets.  For instance, I have set up columns for each type of tweet (professional, friends, inspirational)—(FYI, Ashton K. is under “friends”). TweetDeck also helps me track when anyone mentions me or retweets me (I can’t believe I just said that). And the best thing of all, I have it set so that it actually “tweets” like a bird whenever a new tweet comes in.  Today, I listened to chirps all afternoon—best day EVER!!!!!! 

 Clearly, my next challenge is to figure out how to get things done (like my job)  in between tweets. But until I figure that out, I will enjoy my lovely twitterparadise. Thank you TweetDeck. Thank you TweetDeck bird chirps. And thank you Ashton Kutcher.