Discovering what you believe through social media: thoughts for Extroverts

In a curious way the title of this post has come to illustrate the very point I was planning to meet.

I chose the title some weeks ago with the idea of looking at the way my personality preferences affect my use of Social Media. In particular the way that I often discover what I really believe by first saying something and then discovering through the reactions and contributions of others whether I believe it or not. My understanding has been that this relates to my personality type which according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is ENTP.

However, the other evening the a discussion broke out on twitter about procrastination particularly relating to the writing of #digidisciple posts, like this one. Some us were using our personality types as either an excuse or an explanation for our procrastination, it even became a competition. Others chimed in, debunking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

So now the post title neatly illustrates the point 🙂

Social Media can be fantastic if, like me, you discover what you believe through conversation, by exploring of ideas with other people (possibly because you have a Myers Briggs ENTP personality preference or possible because while you believe Myers Briggs to be a waste of time you have come to that conclusion by discussion with other people).

On the other hand social media can also be a very dangerous place to discover what you believe. I have had threats of law suits and had a number of nasty attacks.

Yet I still I love discovering new things about God, faith, discipleship, myself, other people and cycling. Overall I have learned far more and benefited far more than I have lost by discovering what I believe through social media.

My intention here is to encourage you to explore your understanding and discover what you believe using social media, at the same time if either of us can learn from my mistakes then maybe we will be saved some pain.

Over the years (I have been blogging at 42: My life, the universe and everything for 8 years, facebook for a few years and twitter for 2 years) there are a number of lessons that I should have learnt better than I have. I have strong opinions on a number of issues and when you combine strong opinions with a need to still seek to understand and discover then sometimes there will be big explosions.

What I don’t want to do is move you to the “safe”, boring ground where for fear of controversy you are so careful to not express a definite opinion that you end up saying nothing interesting at all. NB I am not a great example to follow on all of these (although I would like to get better).

So here are 10 thoughts (that I reserve the right to change, alter beyond recognition, add to or delete without warning as my views change):

  1. Honesty. Should be obvious. Wanting to learn is great. Using deception by misleading or dissembling or outright lying isn’t. If you are not sure, say so. If you currently believe something then say so (of course remembering that honesty does not require rudeness, spite or hate).
  2. Accountability is vital: Make sure that someone is going to hold you accountable for what you do in social media. In my opinion it is not enough to be accountable in some general way to your readers. Instead it needs to be someone who has some authority in your relationship. Someone who will tell you when you get things wrong and also comment on what you do to put things right. For me as a Methodist Minister the combination of my spouse and Superintendent Minister works well. For me accountability also has other facets such as not being anonymous and providing opportunities for feedback even by people who disagree.
  3. Follow/friend people who hold different views to you:  If you are not exposed to people and ideas different from your own then where are your ideas going to be challenged, where are you going to grow? In his post Theological Ghettos and Social Networking Robb highlighted the dangers of only connecting with similar people. To some extent my views on this are influenced by my contrary nature.
  4. Cultivate an appropriately thick skin: If you say anything on the Internet then someone is going to get angry with you at some point. Even saying only banal things will annoy some who will insult you for saying only banal things 🙂 Of course balance is important, do not let your skin get thick enough to bulldoze through other people.
  5. Listen: The old saying “You have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you speak” often gets ignored as we are too frequently temped to use 10 fingers for typing and no eyes for reading what others have said.
  6. Recognise expertise:  Both your own and others. It is ok to write of your own experiences as an expert, as you are one 🙂 but be very open to recognise the expertise of others, even (or perhaps especially) when you disagree with them.
  7. Avoid binary/polarized writing: It can be difficult but is well worth doing if you want to actually engage with people. Try to avoid broad brush strokes such as “All X are also Y”, “Z is always wrong”.
  8. Be passionate: Write with feeling about what is important. Write about what inspires you (not just about cycling although obviously everyone finds that inspiring). I prefer positive passion although I write a fair amount of passionate rants as well.
  9. Be generous:  In social media terms (links, #ff’s, RT, like, comments etc) but also in acknowledgement of ideas, contributions etc from others. If you learn from interaction then you need interaction and being generous is key to that.
  10. Keep focused: As a #digidisciple do not lose sight of Jesus. As a Christian make sure that you read/use Scripture in the light of Jesus. Make sure that your arguments reflect the example and teaching of Jesus. Recognise that at times following the example of Jesus can make you unpopular.
My greatest experiences of social media have been times when I have been challenged, when I have learned enough to revise my views and where I have engaged with new people. What I have discovered I believe through the use of Social Media has changed my priorities and got me involved in areas I had no interest or expertise in beforehand. I love this journey of discovery.

About Dave42W

A Methodist Minister serving in the Leicester North Circuit. Married to Jane for 23 years with three sons. Mad about mission, cycling, feminism, the Bible and too many other things to list.