Yes, there are people using social media to share their little sighs and their daily candy consumption, just like, before private telephones, folks used to hang out on the party line and gossip and listen in to their neighbor’s business. But if we can learn about how many candy bars a person consumed in a day, we can also learn about other things. Social learning is a life-long educator’s dream: environments where people learn and teach together, sharing resources, ideas, stories, questions, and wisdom. Furthermore, social learning depends upon self-motivated learners and teachers and learning occurs in little bits, information at an absorbable rate when we’re most ready to learn, generous sharing and working together, independent of the limitations of one community or leader, and always running.
Microlearning is one way of learning via social media communities, which is wonderful, since, like gossip, it is the kind of learning we do easily and naturally. Religious educators and faith development leaders who are utilizing the capacities of learning and teaching together through social media communities are utilizing one of the most effective tools for maximum faithing.
Twitter makes it easier than ever for faith development leaders to grow lifelong learning networks and to help their faith community members grow similar networks beyond congregational walls. Every physical community has limitations in terms of the numbers of people an average congregant can connect with at the same time. While many faith communities have engaged both listservs and Facebook groups to strengthen conversation and connection, those are internal to the existing faith community. Moving into an open faith network using Twitter gives us connections to many more faith communities, and the wisdom, experience, and generosity of the huge numbers of people who are spiritual or religious but not members of faith communities.
Twitter’s limits are based on SMS communication protocols, so that the maximum number of people around the world, even those without regular internet access or smart phones, can participate through text messaging capacity. While some religious leaders grumble about conveying weighty ideas in short form, what Twitter calls us to do is teach and learn in more accessible ways. Memorable, pithy teaching is retweeted, favorited, and remembered. That means people are sharing that learning, returning to it, and have a better chance of living into it.
For a conversation, question, or piece of wisdom to be useful on Twitter and form a conversation, you need to use real hashtags that help people searching for that conversation. While a convention or conference hashtag is useful, in day-to-day life the most useful hashtags are not those that brand your faith community, but those that tell people something about what is in your message, question, or conversation. You might be inviting people to a #socialjustice action, engaging folks in questions about #parenting or teaching a #proverb . Keeping the hashtag within a faith community is helpful for truly internal conversations, but one must always remember that what’s posted to Twitter is in the public square. Internal community Twitter conversations are useful, and one way they are useful is making the internal issues and dynamics of particular faith communities visible to people outside those communities, who might be considering whether to become a faith community member.
Micro faith development goes on at all hours of the day and night, because people from all over the world are engaging one another in their faith questions and teachings and finding ways to work together, inside the larger faith communities and beyond congregations and in multifaith communities. One leader or even a team cannot keep up with it all, but we can faithfully participate, do our piece to live generously and faithfully, and attend to what others are sharing. Our local faith communities have limited hours for classes, community groups, and worship times. Social media frees us from those hours and gives us a chance inside those hours to connect faithfully with folks who are beyond the congregational walls.
The biggest lesson from Twitter that I’ve learned as a religious leader is trusting the generosity of the tweeple. Together, we have a chance to learn and to bless, to worship and to work faithfully, generously, every day and every night. Twitter is a space of service, of wisdom, and, always, of teaching and learning.
This post is a reblog from an archived blog, since the material remains relevant.