Say what you mean and mean what you say

Ok, so we’ve got this Facebook thing.  It’s like a giant white board/bulletin board but more organized.  People post random thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and lists.  It’s a quick form of communication that feeds our human desire for instant gratification.  It’s a great way to keep connected over long distance and sometimes even short distance.  My husband has been known to message me on Facebook when I’m on the laptop in the bedroom and he’s using the desktop in the laundry room.  I have a friend who loses her phone at least once a week.  She updates her status to read, “I’ve lost my stupid phone, again.  Somebody please call me.”  It works like a charm.  She’s even started posting updates to share with her FB friends regarding who had the honor of being the first caller.

            Social networking, I’ve determined, is here to stay.  But, keep in mind, it sometimes limits our connections.  I have another friend, who refuses to join Facebook on principle.  It’s not a big deal except when there is a group event that gets posted on a FB events page and invitations go out from someone’s “friend” list, my buddy doesn’t get an invite.  Luckily, his wife is a Facebooker, so she’s got him covered.  But, what about my grandma?  She has no desire to even touch a computer, so she’s out of the loop.  And, what about people who don’t own computers for financial reasons.  Sure, they could go to the library, but helping your friend find her phone via a Facebook call-out requires constant monitoring.  It’s just not practical.

            Facebook etiquette is another issue.  People post random thoughts.  Friends comment on those thoughts or “like” them.  Is it the profile user’s responsibility to address each comment individually?  What if the comments are a string of added information and updates?  Is it bad form to share what you know even if it’s similar to the previous persons post?  This is new territory.  Someone has to blaze the trail.  What if you inadvertently offend someone by not responding to his or her comment?  Do you own him an apology?  Should the apology be posted on her wall or in a private message?  Wow, this is complicated.

            But seriously, there is one thing to keep in mind.  Before you post, in writing, on that giant bulletin board, take a pause to think.  Are all your Facebook friends, (including your Great-aunt Sally from Texas) going to understand your intention?  Does Aunt Sally really need to know you “like” – “Everyone I know is getting married or pregnant and I’m just getting drunk”?  Also, think twice about having that argument with your ex-boyfriend, right there on his Facebook wall, where everyone (including Aunt Sally) can see.  I’ve heard it said, to always be intentional with your words.  In the case of social networking, err on the side of caution.  Once it’s out there, in print, it’s hard to forget.

Being heard

 

Topsail Island, North Carolina

Good conversation is like a day at the beach, like the gentle ebb and flow of waves against the shore.  Participation should be a back and forth motion, equal parts talking and listening.  When I find myself in a group situation where everyone is open and not only willing to share but willing to consider other views, I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Fred says good conversation makes for good community.  I find this to be absolutely true.  Have you ever been in a group where conversation is effortless?  Each person contributing usually accompanied by laughter, because when things are going well topics are light.  In these moments we feel like we belong.  That’s community.

On the other hand, think of a situation where something of importance is at stake.  What’s it like to feel like no one is listening or information is being withheld?  It creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and causes suspicion.  It’s in these situations through a breakdown of communication that community starts to crumble.  As the back and forth exchange of information becomes broken, rumor springs forth and people start to feel isolated.  Then, people take sides in an effort to belong.  It seems its human nature to seek out community.

I witnessed this breakdown of community recently when our school district announced some dramatic budget cuts.  Members of certain groups within the school system, out of fear that their program might be cut, divided into opposing sides.  False information was layered within truth and lots of finger-pointing occurred.  Thankfully, I also witnessed a voice of reason reaching out to unite our community.  A third group formed with the intent of finding accurate information and posting it publicly so individuals could form new opinions based on fact instead of emotionally driven rhetoric. 

I’ve been noticing this phenomenon recently.  With the integration of the internet to a majority of American households, it seems individuals are reaching out to find like-minded souls not to form a majority in an effort to conquer but to open up dialogue.  Take a look at Facebook, people are forming groups to offer support, to keep connected, and to expand their community.  It’s refreshing.

So, if you find yourself part of a community: in your church, in your city, in your neighborhood or on the World Wide Web, remember its survival depends on open lines of communication.  Sharing our experiences and insights draws us together, so let your voice be heard, but also be willing to listen and consider.