Rules for Sanity in Social Media

Social media is an almost essential part of life and relational culture in our world today. The number of people I know who don't have a Facebook or Twitter account of some sort are amazingly small. In fact, I struggle to remember what life was like before we had Facebook to log into and reconnect with all our "friends." But social media is also a dark and dangerous place for many. Idols of self-identity, insecurity and self-promotion abound. It seems more and more like the world of social media is a world of sales, especially among pastors.

I like Facebook and I really enjoy twitter. When Twitter first went public I was in on the initial wave and was immediately able to connect and create some online conversations with church-planters and other pastors. These initial conversations were very encouraging and very profitable to me. To this day I still find Twitter and Facebook helpful and I don't feel dominated by either one. But I've had to set some boundaries and rules about who I follow and who I "friend". I thought I might share them with you to help you tame your social media (and all it's expectations, promotions and self-projections) and allow you to truly interact well with my friends. Maybe they will make your social media connections a bit healthier too.

Rules for Facebook

Facebook is for friends. I try and keep that word and the meaning of that word very real and very close. So the way I use Facebook is as if I am sharing with my friends. I've set my privacy levels very high and even created a separate author page that will allow the general public to interact with me. But Facebook still is specifically for friends. Here's my criteria that I use to assess if you will be "friended" by me or your friendship request accepted. There are a few broad exceptions, but I believe that most of these are specifically true of my Facebook friends.

  1. I've met and spent some time with you face-to-face. I know you're a real person in the real world.
  2. In a crowd, if it has been a long time since we last saw each other, I'd remember your name and who you are. That's because we are friends.
  3. I'd hang out with you. Not just because I'm pastorally obligated to, but because we're friends. That is why Facebook calls it "friends" right?
  4. I can be myself around you. No pretense. No need to project my awesomeness or attractiveness (both free of charge). I can say it straight, you can say it straight back to me. And no, I didn't run 5 miles, drink a protein shake and write three books before bathing my children this morning and sending them off to school. I'm not that awesome... but I know some people...

As I've said, Facebook is for friends. Seems obvious to me. But what about Twitter?

Rules for Twitter

Twitter is for networking and connecting. I follow mainly pastors, church planters and other leaders who have something helpful to contribute to my daily thread. These people might not be friends that I know or have ever met. But generally they seem to be helpful folks. That could end up in a free for all but I limit my twitter following a bit too. Here's my rules for Twitter.

  1. Are you following me? Can this be a conversation or is it a one-way-street to just advance your platform? I realize I violate this rule's inverse in that I don't follow back everybody who follows me but for the most part I want to be engaging with people that are conversationalist with me on Twitter.
  2. Are you tweeting helpful things or are you a "Twitter tool"? TT's are the one's who are pedantic, stir up controversy, complain, moan, whine and seem to have no self-control with their words. Out of the overflow of the heart, the keyboard tweets. 
  3. Have we met? This one is a bit different than my Facebook rule. You don't have to be a friend to join this category, but if we've met before I generally enjoy reading what you tweet about. I've actually met a handful of Twitter followers because of Twitter and have been much encouraged by the relationship with them. In some way this is what I miss about Twitter as of late.

So those are my general rules for social media and how I keep my sanity. One other pattern that I am developing is the "sabbath month." Every seventh month I've committed to drop all communication via Facebook and Twitter and allow myself to rest. It keeps me from the feeling of constantly having to promote myself to gain a following. I have all the acceptance I could ever desire in Christ. I am glad I can share my life and friendship with many of you and I am grateful that the gospel frees me from needing the approval of others to know that I am loved and accepted. So a sabbath reminds me of that regularly.

What social media rules do you have to keep you sane? Or are you going insane because your social media rules you?