I find some people tend to think of digital media as an advertising tool, but it’s shaping the way we connect to each other too. I’ve been thinking about online connections this week, and how they allow us to connect, share, support and encourage one another.
I ran my first 5K in a long time this last weekend, and when I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, there was lots of encouragement before and celebration after when I did well. That felt great! The messages came not only from people I see face-to-face around town, and long-time friends from afar, but also from some folks whom I’ve only “met” through online networking.
Today, I’m thinking about my friend Adam and his wife. Adam and I have never met face-to-face, but we share a number of interests and some friends in common. A couple of months ago, I joined in with many others in celebrating and congratulating when Adam shared online that they were pregnant for the first time, and with twins! Today, I’m joining with many all around the country offering our prayers and support to Adam and his wife as the boys were born way too early and died this morning.
I’m a little amazed at how much sorrow and sadness I feel for their loss, even when we’ve never met– not the same sort of sadness-from-a-long-distance I might feel for someone I don’t know and heard about on the news, but the sadness of something awful happening to a friend. I know there are people who will just not be able to “get” how Adam can be my friend when we’ve never met in person, but my experience (and that of many others) says that it not only happens, but it’s happening much more frequently and easily.
Digital media is changing the way we connect and communicate. It will never take the place of face-to-face engagement, but it certainly lets us be in one another’s lives in some positive ways (and of course, sometimes in negative ways).
Pastors & church folks might want to read this adapted excerpt from Carol Howard Merritt’s book Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation where she reflects on these changes in virtual community for churches.
In the comments, I’d love to hear about how social media or email has helped you find support, encouragement, comfort, or community. How is your organization or community using these medias to build community?
When you use digital media to promote an event or group, don’t forget to provide a way for readers to connect.
It’s a good practice to skew your communications efforts toward newcomers or “outsiders”, inviting wider participation. Explain the event or group in a brief, easy-to-understand way, without assuming that “everyone” knows what that event/group is all about. And always, always, provide some way to connect. Telling readers how to connect is a call to action and an invitation to participation.
That can be as simple as: “To join the choir, simply show up at the Thursday, 7 pm rehearsal.” It can be an email address, as in: “To volunteer, email Suzy” (embed Suzy’s email address as a link when possible to avoid spam for her). Since you’re using digital media, the preference would be to let people respond by digital media (ie. an email or on social media like Facebook) instead of having them make a phone call.
Do you make an invitation to connect a part of your promotions? What’s been most effective for you?