I got asked again the other day about Facebook in ministry- it's something I get asked about a surprising amount. I am sort of the Social Media Minister at our parish, updating our parish Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog. People want to know if we've had any problems with it, if we feel comfortable and safe using technology, with all its risks. They want to know how we keep our privacy protected.
When I started my Facebook account, I never dreamed that it would become a place where I would interact with my friends. I opened it as a means of contacting kids, who nowadays never read email, never answer phone calls, and don't seem to be even aware that there is such a thing as mail. It seems that if you want to contact kids, you'd better have access to Facebook. In fact, I recommend to parents that once their kids are in college, Facebook will be the best way to reach their kids, because they check it and update it constantly.
Since then, I've found friends from my 4th grade class on Facebook, and a lot of my peers and friends now are on it. I know Youth Ministers who have two Facebook identities, one that is open to their kids/parishes, and one that is for their personal friends. I can certainly understand that. As for me, having my parish members accessing my page keeps me honest- and keeps me from saying anything too outrageous on my status updates. I don't particularly want pictures of me on the internet if they're inappropriate for a kid to see, anyway.
I love the way Facebook helps me connect with people, love how soon I know about important news in the parish, how easy it is to reach out to people in important moments. When a teenager in our parish had a car accident, we knew right away. When kids' Grandparents die, we can send condolences. When someone has a birthday, we can send blessings. Ironically, our community is more inter-engaged with facebook than we ever were before.
I do see the danger in this, the grey-able boundaries. But I also know that interactions between people on Facebook are traceable, recordable. There's actually a layer of safety there that is missing in phone conversations.
And now the Pope recommends that priests start blogging and looking at social media as a means for spreading the Gospel. I agree with the Pope. How about that!!
I know that new technologies arouse suspicion in every generation. I keep thinking about Katie the housekeeper in Meet Me In St. Louis, who mistrusted the telephone. Her line "Personally, I wouldn't marry a man who proposed to me over an invention" is an echo of people's current concerns about Facebook, I think. So friend your parish, follow its Twitter Feed, and check its blog often! Be connected!