I blogged for bigbible last month, (prior to #CNMAC12) about the importance of sharing our ever evolving Jesus story, and how using social media should make us more aware of the need to “always be ready to answer”. This month’s suggested topic is serendipity, or ‘happy-accidents’. I’ve blogged before about how Twitter makes it possible for me to network more easily, more widely, and in unexpected ways, but from last weekend and throughout this week I have been surprised by just how many new ‘Twitter’ followers I have gained since participating in #CNMAC12.
I learned a lot last Saturday, including what a ‘Twitterfall’ is. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a website, (in this case, Twitter) shown on a big screen at the front of the conference room, so anyone who tweeted using the hashtag #CNMAC12, their tweets could be seen on the screen. Once I understood this, I felt much more part of the conference. Indeed, as the conference was partially about stories, and the way Jesus used them to cross boundaries, I tweeted the following: “one hour in, and learning already… that I can cross counties and be with friends when I’m sat in my wheelchair in my front room #cnmac12” That really does highlight the potential good that social media can do. My tweet was speedily re-tweeted by Bryony, spotted by @fragmentz who tweeted back to me that my tweet had made her smile; result!!
The rest of the morning flew by as I switched between trying to follow some of the key points from the conference and participate in debate at the time. I wasn’t alone; many people debated whether they should be tweeting or following the conference! This did take a great deal of concentration and energy out of me, specially as I spent at least an hour in the early afternoon writing a paragraph for Bex about what I had learned via Twitter during the morning, and emailed it by direct message on Facebook. Bex copied and edited my comments, and added them to her slide presentation ready for the afternoon’s closing session… and then presented my comments for me as part of the closing thoughts! Some of the people I had been debating with during the morning then tweeted me to thank be for my contribution and commented that (via technology) that I had been able to take part after all. However, I have started making inquiries about care provision and funding so I can feel “the buzz” next year for myself, thus highlighting one of the limitations of this kind of networking, as largely ‘buzz’ free!
Other limitations include that I couldn’t go to the finale of #CNMAC12, the pub gathering afterwards where people caught up on sessions they had missed, and met each other in person where they had previously only met on Twitter. There was also a suggestion via tweet during the morning that ideally, contact initiated via Twitter should be followed up with face-to-face meeting (@SimonCutmore). The other problem of course is one attributed to social media in general of not being able to see people’s gestures, facial expressions and body language, surely an essential part of communication? This send, one of the debates I read on twitter was around a different kind of ‘etiquette’ and what this should involve. This centred on showing, as much as possible, the real Jesus, as opposed to a pale imitation, and dealing with each other in love and with integrity, all the while checking our motives. This surely a challenge we face offline too?
The advantages of this kind of networking seem obvious to me, that God can work through both this, and face-to-face communication, and both can be used for our good and His Glory. I have widened my circle of friends, and useful contacts, and networked with people who know people, without having the hassle of leaving my house, and all that entails. In meeting new contacts and ‘attending’ #CNMAC12 I have been introduced to new concepts and ideas, which I would like to use to help my church grow their online presence, and have already discussed my experience of #CNMAC12 with a few of them. I have also been able to help others both on and offline by illustrating the advantages of Twitter and attending the conference in this way. Yesterday, I received a card by ‘snail-mail’ from someone I have only previously ‘met’ on Facebook and got the same joy from it had it been from a friend I knew another way. Having exhausted everything I plan so say, I propose a toast (with my coffee-cup!) – in anticipation of #CNMAC13!!