Why bother being a Christian on Social Media? What are we trying do? Who are we trying to talk to? (Yes, I do know the grammar is dodgy.) These questions, articulated or unspoken were lurking in a debate I was part of last week. They gave me pause for thought.
I started blogging and tweeting as a new curate. The blog started as a way of keeping my former congregation in touch with what I was up to – and to help them understand what kind of stuff a curate in the Church of England does. The tweeting started because I thought the time might come where any self-respecting Incumbent might be expected to have some idea about the weird and wonderful world of social media. But the reasons have changed over time.
These days, I blog to help me think, and sometimes to speak into situations I know a little bit about from a particular perspective. I tweet to stay in touch with valued friends – and to stay open to making new friends too. I read twitter streams to get a range of opinions on all sorts of issues. So am I a “Christian” blogger and tweeter? I would argue that I am, even though my tweets contain much more about coffee, cake and Strictly Come Dancing than they do about theology. I didn’t used to wander about at work yelling “I’m a Christian: Love God and love your neighbour as much as you love yourself” even though I believed then as passionately as I do now that it’s the best way to live life. My kind of Christianity is relational – I seldom broadcast “belief instructions” – through Twitter or by any other means.
Blogs and Twitter are only tools. They are useful for different kinds of communication. The result is that I have built some much valued relationships through twitter, in much the same way I would in any other place, particularly my former workplace. Sometimes relationships form over a shared task, sometimes over a coffee machine, sometimes because people are introduced by mutual friends, sometimes because people “like the look” of each other. All as true on twitter for me as face to face. My blog tends to be used to explore ideas that require more nuance than is possible on twitter. A blog has context in a way twitter doesn’t.
So who am I trying to talk to through my blog, and through twitter? Anyone who wants to read either, and if people want to answer back, so much the better. If you want to answer back with well thought through reasoned comments that help me to develop, then my day is made. And what is my underlying message? Er, well, I’m a Christian, so I’ve got a particular perspective, and I’m happy to talk about it with you. But on the whole, people live stressed, complicated, difficult lives. I’d like to offer a bit of encouragement at the difficult moments, and if that’s via daft offers of virtual coffee, that’s fine with me. Or red wine or a decent malt if it’s later in the evening. I talk to people through twitter and my blog because I am human and so are you.