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Sep22TueOur media engagement should reflect our faith and values. September 22, 2020 By Lt-Colonel John P. Murray
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.—Brian Solis
Social media is mainstream. People everywhere seem to be constantly connected to their smartphones and tablets as they check local news and weather while uploading photos and videos of their latest adventures. We are a deeply interconnected world thanks to social media and I believe that’s a good thing.
The world has become smaller as we share information, learn about new people, places and cultures, and engage with those on the other side of the world in real time. Indeed, every time my wife, Brenda, returns home from one of her overseas trips as the director of world missions, I receive new Facebook “friend” requests as people want to learn more about Brenda and her family. People want to connect with their communities, but they also want to expand their sphere of interest and influence, and today, there are myriad digital platforms to help people do just that.
Founded in 2004, Facebook boasts more than 3.8 billion monthly users, with the largest followings in India and the United States. Other influential platforms include YouTube and WhatsApp, both citing two billion users, as well as Facebook Messenger and Instagram, with 1.3 billion and one billion users, respectively. And don’t forget Twitter, which enjoys strong engagement with more than 330 million users, sharing in excess of 500 million tweets every day.
The sheer volume of content—photos, videos, instant messages and stories—is staggering. Instagram, which was created in October 2010 and is owned by Facebook, reports more than 500 million uploads a day worldwide. And more than 3.5 billion people, almost half the world’s population, are daily social media users, with 91 percent accessing their accounts via smartphones.
Users spend an average of three hours every day uploading content and surfing sites. That said, I would be pleased to reduce my daily usage to just three hours, but then again, I am engaged in communications work.
The 2010 blockbuster movie, The Social Network, tells the story of Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook—today, the largest social media platform on the planet. It’s a fascinating film that unpacks the human dynamics in the establishment of the social media site, while foreshadowing the pitfalls and potential for negativity that we see today on many platforms.
Social media has had a rapid and profound impact on culture and human behaviour since the advent of the earliest applications in the early 2000s. While we celebrate connecting, sharing and engaging, the medium has also allowed people to hide behind their screens and, in doing so, feel liberated to post unkind comments, share negative or racist tweets and bully others. This is especially problematic within elementary and high school settings. Over the past several years, we have witnessed a growing trend of negative political commentary, with all sides of the political spectrum tearing down their opponents. Recently, we witnessed the viral response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The civic unrest seen across the globe in response to Floyd’s death at the hands of police was fuelled by social media—photos, videos and commentary.
But what does this all mean for you and me and The Salvation Army? Well, I believe we have a responsibility to engage and respond to ideas and opportunities, but with an added measure of grace, balance and civility. As a former leader and now good friend of mine once told me, “Always take the high road—you’ll never be sorry.” I think this is wise counsel as we consider engaging in “hot button” topics that flood our social media feeds daily. Think before you write. As Salvationists, we need to help set the standard for how we use social media, because everything we post reflects on us not only as individuals, but on the organization. Our social media engagement should reflect our faith and values.
In the coming weeks, a new digital media policy will be shared across the territory, accompanied by a series of online workshops. We’re excited about our continued digital growth and engagement with our stakeholders and look forward to connecting with officers and employees as we seek to remain current, engaged and accountable in the world of digital media. Thanks for following us. Let’s stay connected.
Lt-Colonel John P. Murray is the territorial secretary for communications.
Illustration: pressureUA/iStock Editorial via Getty Images Plus