Last week’s “On Faith” noted social media proliferation has caused great concern but doesn’t necessarily mean human behavior has changed.
This notion elicited a lot of reader response; many have strong opinions about everything from Twitter to texting.
Several people said it’s not the method of communication; it’s the message. Issues like fraud, bullying, isolation and much more are likely highlighted by social media, not caused by it. That is, social media reveals many of us are so desperate for connections that we’ll extend trust regardless of whether we can see the other person.
Take Facebook. New profiles are created at a rate of five per second. As of March, there are nearly 2 billion active users worldwide, according to most recent data. Users increase at a rate of 18 percent per year.
Of that 2 billion, more than half access Facebook daily via mobile devices.
The average user spends 20 minutes on each visit, notes Infodocket.Gizmodo reports there are in excess of 300 million photo uploads to Facebook each day.
The peak traffic time is 1 to 3 p.m. across all time zones, according to Bit.ly. Thursdays and Fridays are opportune times to capitalize on “social engagement,” a key concern for marketing gurus.
And if you want to increase your “likes,” Bit.ly advises posting at 7 p.m. in your particular time zone.
Social engagement — in person, online or otherwise — is a primary goal of houses of worship.
This desire to engage inevitably comes up in the course of writing investigative magazine articles and assisting with strategic planning and innovation efforts. For many, the desire to connect is a vital concern, particularly among those faith communities that have self-identified as “in decline” and “dying.”
Questions abound: How do we attract, engage, connect? How do we retain members? So many have moved; should the church move with them? How do we attract new members? What can we do to better serve others? How we develop leaders? When is it time to get out of their way and let them lead? Is our youth ministry viable and authentic? Do we expect too much? Can we keep the doors open? How do we spur giving? Should we consider more outreach when what we need to do is build from within?
Such questions are difficult to voice and tougher to consider fully. When I listen, I often hear the speaker touch on some possible answers. But such solutions range from time-consuming to gut-wrenching and even demoralizing, so they’re tough to acknowledge.
Many readers talk to me about these issues, so I know you can relate, whether because of your personal experiences or situations you’ve witnessed.
The parallel with social media is engagement. When social media works, it fulfills basic human needs. It meets people where they are. It is incredibly diverse, efficient and direct. It’s relatively unfiltered and can get a bit messy.
Social media works for a lot of people in positive and negative ways because users seek some sort of meaning and aren’t looking to be told what they want to hear and believe.
Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.