Monday, April 2, 2012

Not so social

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would no doubt pen, “To post or not to post, that is the question.”

There seems to be a real difference of opinion as to how Christians, pastors, churches and Christian leaders are to employ the social media juggernaut.  Everyone seems to have a strong judgment on the question; very few silently sit on the sideline.  No matter what your opinion, Nikon recently provided an extremely valuable lesson for everyone about social media.

Nikon has over 1.2 million Facebook fans and normally gets between 100-to-500 comments per update.  However, it only took 57 arrogant and insensitive words for Nikon to blatantly tell the world that their equipment, not the photographer’s skill, was necessary for truly good photography.  The colossal blunder moved across the internet at the speed of light, enraging thousands (dare I say hundreds of thousands) of fans.  The 4,000 plus people that took time to respond were pointed and harsh in their criticism, many suggesting they were going to sell their Nikon gear and switch to Canon.  In light of their arrogance, the quick apology issued by Nikon sounded hollow and insincere.

While I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus was not referring to social media, His words ring truer today than ever.  In Luke 12 Jesus says, “Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops”[i]

While everyone deserves grace and forgiveness, the Nikon debacle is just another in a long string of social media gaffs.  Christians, churches and pastors are not immune to these same issues, committing public “hamartia – missing the mark” with their status, blogs, posts, tweets.  Here are 4 important lessons to consider:

Lesson 1: Listen Wisely – You may be tempted to be guided about social media by someone younger.  While they are comfortable with technology and social media, without wisdom this is a recipe for disaster.  I love working with young leaders, but as the description says, they are young and have not acquired wisdom or discernment.  There may be a tendency to react and post quickly as opposed to wisely.  Again in Luke 12, Jesus talks about the master who puts a faithful and wise manager in charge[ii].  Part of wise leadership is to listen appropriately.  And with a world-wide audience via the internet, we need to carefully consider who we listen to when speaking from so lofty a pulpit.
Lesson 2: Expect Problems – Just as news about Jesus traveled quickly[iii], digital and social media moves fast, not constrained by geographic boundaries.  I wish this was not true, but bad news always travels louder and faster than good news, igniting electronic firestorms.  Personal and organizational social media mistakes are coming your way like a freight train.  Just think about the rapid-fire response you get for something as innocuous as a typo; then magnify it times ten if there is even a hint of arrogance, pride or sarcasm.  While some may hide and not participate in any social media outlets, I don’t see Jesus hiding from “the crowds”[iv].  Just like any public building has a fire escape route, you need to pray and think through how you will response in advance, not when your phone is vibrating feverously from emails, instant messages and phone calls.

Lesson 3: Move Forward – Did you jump off the high-dive into the deep end of the social media pool or did you step into the shallow end?  I’m all about aggressively leveraging technology, but there is a danger with the “fire, ready, aim” approach.  Even if you’ve not had a catastrophic event yet, it’s never too late to pause, evaluate and adjust what you are doing.  While social media can be a force for good or evil, we need to “count the cost” and plan accordingly.  Luke 14:28 – “If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it?” 

Lesson 4: Humility and Sincerity – When Nikon apologized saying it ‘wasn’t their aim’ to insult anyone, their fans were only infuriated all the more.  The original post and update were clearly insulting and full of conceit.  The correct approach is to freely admit the mistake – period.  Instead, Nikon stayed arrogant, aloof and faceless.  To many their apology was hollow and meaningless. Don’t commit the same arrogant sin!  We jump all over David and Bathsheba for not immediately admitting their affair and murder[v], yet we do exactly the same thing when we try to explain away our failures.

Though these events caused real problems for Nikon, and they seem to have recovered, significant damage has been done to their reputation.  All future posts are surrounded by the fog of past failures.   Social media really is all about fast, instant news…but at what price speed?  As Davy Crockett said, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  Speed does not excuse lack of planning or oversight followed by thinly veiled attempts at an apology.  If the first step of repentance with God starts with admitting our wrong without excuse, so should our social media sins.

[i] Luke 12:2-3[ii] Luke 12:42[iii] Mark 1:28[iv] Matthew 9:36[v] 2 Samuel 12:5-6

1 comment:

  1. Who hasn't had a "whoops" as the wrong thing comes flying out of our mouths. The more offended or hurt you are, the more cause for pause.