Video: Theological and Ethical Implications of Social Media

The video recorded of my presentation at the Massachusetts Bay District 2010 Spring Conference recently became available. Below is a twenty-minute video of the portion of the conference that covered theological and ethical considerations for congregations in using social media. This video may help congregational leaders in discussing how to use social media in their congregation and how to develop proactive solutions that reduce the challenges of using social media. The slides that accompany the video are also below.

The issues covered in this part of the presentation include:

  • Administrative access and security.
  • Confidentiality.
  • Content moderation and addressing inappropriate content.
  • Security.
  • Relationship building, friending dilemmas, etc.
  • Creating an inclusive and welcoming space online.

Congregational video tips and samples

I’ve been inspired by Peter Bowden’s posts on the UU Growth Blog encouraging congregations to produce videos. “Not having video content in the 21st century is like not having a sign on your building,” Peter writes. “It is now standard operating procedure.”

In another post, Peter makes the point, “You don’t have to go crazy with a complex production. Instead, focus on capturing compelling stories.”

Peter has highlighted this video, from the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island, as an example of how congregation’s ministers can introduce themselves to newcomers online:

I’m not a video expert, but I notice many things that as a viewer I find appealing about this video:

  • The video is only a minute-and-a-half long. (Because the length of a video is displayed clearly in the YouTube player, it is one of the things that a viewer sees before deciding whether or not to hit the play button).
  • James and Kathy start speaking immediately; there’s no lead-in.
  • James and Kathy speak clearly, slowly, and with expression. They exude friendliness and warmth.
  • They look at the camera.
  • The video is not shaky; the camera was on a tripod or some other stable surface.

And the video has all of these wonderful qualities without being a “complex production.” It’s filmed in one single, beautiful location. There’s no image slideshow, background music, or special effects.

Now, on to the  “complex production” options, for those congregations that have the resources and need. Below are a few more congregational videos that I enjoy, and that I hope will inspire you to find an approach to video that works for your congregation!

Considering Unitarian Universalist ministerial identity online

Erik Resly, a Harvard Divinity School student, recently sent me his paper, “Who Do You Say That I Am?: Claiming and Maintaining an Online Ministerial Identity.” The paper presents some of the key issues that ministers face in using social media and explores different strategies for ministers engaging in relationship-building and self-presentation through social media. I found his paper very thought-provoking and enjoyable to read.

In a key paragraph, Erik writes:

In a world of complex interactions that take place in real-time, there is no perfect model for how to be a minister online. Individuals must learn to balance confidentiality, privacy and integrity with openness, honesty and accountability. They must navigate issues of consistency and reliability, while protecting free and creative self-expression. They must maintain security, while optimizing accessibility. In short, the act of creating and maintaining an online ministerial identity requires a series of compromises and trade-offs that are largely determined by authorial intent and the inscribed audience. As one minister alleged: “Social media use is as serious a use of thought and language as any other.

There are also moments of gentle humor in Erik’s paper. I particularly enjoyed this chart that he created based on his analysis of “twenty randomly selected ministerial profile pictures” on Facebook:

Erik has generously agreed to let me share his paper on this blog! For those of you who are religious professionals or are ministering online, I hope that you will find it offers useful questions and suggestions for furthering your work.