Etiquette is important. And there are all manners of etiquette lessons that need to be learned in life. Which fork to use, or how to dress for certain receptions and such. Well the same is true for our interactions online, and maybe even more profoundly because our actions online will be seen and read by many. They, in essence, represent not only us, but also the church.
I would like to offer a few more useful tips from the original piece I wrote in November 2011. This of course is not an exhaustive list, and I am sure I will add to it again in the future. The following three suggestions are meant to build a strong foundation for social media etiquette and our online behaviour as church.
What to post
Do I want my boss to see it?
If the answer is no, it is best not to post it. A good practice is to assume you are at a cocktail party and your boss is next to you. He/she may not be listening to your conversation, but then again, they just might be. Treat your online postings in the same manner.
Do I want my mom to see that picture from my vacation?
Sometimes we share content that may be humorous, or we tell a story or leave a comment. But imagine if that comment or picture was seen by your mother? Do you really want to have to explain the concept of body shots to your parents?
Can you say what you write from the pulpit?
This is a good rule for clergy. Remember your parishioners are watching, reading and digesting what you post. And while you may think your privacy settings keep people from seeing certain content, it is best to not risk that content getting out and being shared.
What You Say Follows You
The Internet has a long memory.
What you write today may come up on a Google search easily accessible by present and future employers. You are leaving an impression, an impression for your readers today, but also for the future. It is common practice, even in the church, to Google a candidate for the rector’s position and go through your timeline. Imagine the new congregation you wish to lead reading your comments and discerning whether or not they would want you.
Dealing With Comments
Not everyone is going to like what you post/share.
But deleting comments is the equivalent hanging up on a person or slamming the door shut in their face. It reflects upon you and your ministry. Sure, never feed the troll or engage with someone who is spewing hateful speech. You can delete those comments. But to delete someone’s comment who doesn’t agree with you or challenges you is not only rude, but shows a lack of understanding of social media. If it is not a behaviour you would do face to face, then don’t do it online.
There is a fine line between public and private.
But if you are using your personal account for the church in any manner, then realize you have invited people into your life and your actions can have consequences. One of those consequences is that you are representing the church when you delete, censor or silence comments you don’t like.