I’ve been at the Salisbury Diocese Clergy Conference all week. And I’ve had the same conversation face to face a couple of dozen times. ….
The conference. Me, newbie Rector, and some 300 odd of my new colleagues. No pressure. I’ve been following @DioSalisbury for a while, as well as a number of other Sarum tweeps, so I knew I would find friends. Added to which, I knew the hashtag for the conference, #grh14, so I merrily tweeted my way through it. Because of the way the Comms worked, my ugly mug appeared on the screens fairly frequently each morning, as a selection of conference tweets was displayed for the edification of all. Some of them made it to the daily news sheet too.
I was taken aback at my first breakfast. A colleague picked up the sheet and said something along the lines of “who are these stupid twits who tweet?” Being of a bolshie disposition, I politely said “I’m one of them’. I wasn’t expecting the rant about how pointless it all was, and didn’t really get a word in edgeways, although I think his friend was so embarrassed that he actually asked me some questions….
By the end of the conference I was “woman who tweets” (along with several other lovely tweeps….)
“why tweet?” “Who are you trying to talk to?” “how does it work?” and most common of all “why is there so much pointless stuff on twitter, who cares what you had for breakfast?” All the basic questions that I forget are normal.
The last is actually the easiest to answer. It’s twitter small talk. I don’t always reply to a tweep who regularly starts the day with #execellentcoffee”, but I am always pleased to see the tweet. Swapping mugs of tea, toast, and bacon butties virtually is a little squeeze of community glue. It’s the stuff that we do face to face, by the coffee machine, at the bus stop….
So as the conversation progresses, people understand twitter is a channel, not an end in itself. But they still asked “why tweet the conference? We’re all here”. Well, actually “we” weren’t all there, there were around 50 Sarum clergy who couldn’t attend. but more than that, by tweeting the conference, more people could hear about it, comment, ask questions. I’ve just counted interactions with 30 different people about #grh14 who were nothing to do with it at all. And that excludes the tennis tweets that I exchanged while Murray was playing.
Twitter is a means of making friends, a way of explaining what Christianity and church are all about, all with a dose of cake, tea, coffee and gin.
“Do I have to tweet too?” No, not if you don’t want to. It works for some!
“But what about face to face, real interaction?” was a common protest. Two things, minor thing first …twitter is one form of real interaction. I’ve had some profound exchanges on twitter, and I value them all. But secondly and importantly Twitter doesn’t replace face to face interaction. Lunch with one top tweep on the way to conference, with laughter and hugs and tears, meeting another top tweep for the first time face to face in the bar…it all matters. Because Social Media is, above all, social. Society matters, presence matters. People matter.