#Digidisciple Internetgrity

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I have over the past few years gained more than one Twitter account. One anonymous that allows me to be more open and less guarded with regard to parish life – a place where one can make a comment about the bell ringers without upsetting said campanologists. I also have a couple of just for fun accounts that assume a character or other fictional creation to amuse others. Then of course there is the Church account, currently not very active but there ready for our soon-to-be-developed web presence (see previous #digidisciple post).

All of this is good fun and part, I hope, of a well rounded integrated online life. But there is well documented danger on the fragmentation of our lives in this way.

My biggest worry about my online identity is the two Twitter accounts I have that are about life and ministry. The others are fun or for the corporate identity of the Church.

When I discovered Twitter for myself I loved the open nature of the service, the way it interacts with other accounts and the genuine community that can spring up in such an environment. Then there was an incident that caused me to do the unthinkable – I locked down my account and protected my tweets so that I could regulate followers and be sure folk could not view my tweetstream without being a follower.

The incident that caused this was in many ways insignificant but it alerted me to the dangers of being to free and open on twitter: I posted a few unguarded, but largely in jest, comments about the editor of our Parish Magazine. These found their way to a Parishioner who had a quiet word with me as they felt the comments were not the sort of thing I’d want folk in the parish to see. And to be honest they probably had a point – as they were jokey comments I was less thoughtful than I would have otherwise been – but the potential for misunderstanding was great. So for the past year or so I have maintained my protected tweet status.

A friend of mine recently commented “if I am worried what people will think about a tweet, I don’t tweet it” Wise words and having recently unprotected my tweets again, ones I will try to adhere to.

So I have a second account that is anonymous and a place where I can be less guarded about my comments or work, life and especially parish goings on.

There are a number of things that bother me about this.

Let your yes be your yes

The Bible is a book that has a lot to say about integrity. Being who you are in God and acting accordingly – not out of some sort of pious observance, but as a response from the heart to the love of God working in our body, mind and soul – a call that is meant to endow our whole lives not just the bits of it in the ‘real’ world.

We are called to be real and people of integrity in the virtual world as well as the real one.

Of course most of us know that, but I suspect we tend to think of it in terms of our morality online, which websites and services we view or subscribe to rather than how we conduct ourselves in social media.

The need I felt I had for second account, the place to be more open and honest about the realities of ministry might be seen (as I intended) as a way of being open and honest while not offending or troubling the personal relationships I have locally, might also be seen as a way of moaning or being graceless without the accountability that having an identifiable profile automatically brings.

Herein is the questions I have about having more than one twitter or other social media identity. Am I being a man of integrity by having one place where I can say things I would not want to say on an identifiable stream. Am I not just falling into the trap of being different online to how I am in the flesh. As the famous cartoon saysOnline:

“No one knows you are a dog”

I guess it comes down to being honourable about what one says in either sphere. We might be wanting to vent frustrations or difficulties that we encounter in a way that doesn’t hurt others and that in itself shows some personal integrity. But if that moaning or frustration leads to character abuse or offensive language are we still being the men and women of grace the gospel calls us to be?

As my friend said, if I feel I can’t post it on my main account why am I posting at all?

About Kneewax

geocaching missional vicar in rural England's mission fields, 5 great kids, beautiful wife, fab God, Wonderful Life. Love Jesus, kite flying & good coffee