Friday, November 29, 2013

Can you endure crickets?

Several friends and colleagues have made appearances on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Foursquare over the past few years. These forays into social media platforms come from a combination of my encouragement and other various inspirations.

When I talk to busy professionals about sampling social media platforms, it's easy to get them to sign up or revive a dormant account. Like with a diet or a New Year's resolution, the relationship to a platform doesn't exist for long. Why?

New social media platform users struggle when they hear crickets.

Crickets--the insect whose image is attached to the sound of relative silence after words are shared.

Crickets--the image applied when there appears to be no reaction to words shared, signifying people are shocked beyond response, or the message isn't sufficient to illicit a response, or worse, that no one is actually paying attention or caring about the words.

Crickets--the entomological symbol that you have wasted your utterance.

I think the issue is particularly acute for pastors, who are accustomed (in theory) to a group of people listening to them on a regular basis.

As I prepare to go into a day retreat/workshop with colleagues about social media and ministry, I think the initial challenge applies across the purpose spectrum of social media. To make social media useful (even enjoyable) for the long term, come to terms with your relationship with crickets. The conventional feedback loop of face-to-face communication does not exist in social media.

You cannot always base the usefulness of social media on the response you anticipate. In time, you will receive feedback.

Ponder the "social" part of social media, meaning that the relationship drives the response to your words (even a picture can speak a thousand words--hello, Instagram). This doesn't necessarily mean that you're best friends with everyone in the social media world, but that you've become trusted in providing good content.

Good content covers a lot of things--ranging from articles shared, to responses to community and world events, to caring and/or wise responses to people seeking guidance in a public forum. However, good content and new/enhanced relationships cannot begin until you can build up your endurance to crickets.

1 comment:

  1. This: "The conventional feedback loop of face-to-face communications does not exist in social media." True and this is a reality that ranges from horrifying to no big deal among new users.

    Lately I've been asking ministers (ordained and not) to think a bit more carefully about the "crickets" they routinely encounter ITF (in the flesh) but don't perceive as such because, well, they just don't.

    Examples abound: 1) for every person who says, "great sermon," there are many more from whom we don't hear a peep; 2) we never know how many people add church events to their calendar but never show up for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the event being at church; and 3) when it comes to spiritual life, the time that lapses between hearing and action can span years.

    As ever, my point is this: the technology is a tool onto which we should not be loading expectations about human action that results from using it.