Dear St. Paul’s family,
We live in a world where we often get news of friends and family through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. We also live in a culture that exerts pressure to share news and information immediately. When something terrible or wonderful happens, it is very tempting to share it right away on our social media pages. Once it is out there, the whole world knows it. When it is our own news, we have every right to share it, but when it is somebody else’s, there’s a need to be more cautious, and as members of a Christian community we are called to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around ourselves.
Recently on Facebook I saw a graphic that suggested an approach to responding to someone’s grief. The essential message was that our responses should always be directed towards the person most affected rather than ourselves. For example, if a friend is diagnosed with a serious illness, it is appropriate to respond by saying “I am so sorry that you are going through this.” It’s not appropriate to continue, “Whenever I hear about this disease I get really scared that I might have it too.” That response puts the focus on your own feelings rather than the feelings of the person most affected, with the result that they might now feel a responsibility to help you feel better, and that would add to the burden they are already carrying.
Another consideration is, whose news is it? Before you post a public announcement of a death or illness, allow the people most affected to share it themselves. They may not be ready for the world to know.
We will endeavor to follow these guidelines when posting news on the Cathedral’s social media accounts. We will check with the family before announcing the death of a parishioner online and we will respect privacy laws concerning health issues. I hope you will follow suit in your personal postings.
Finally, I want to offer a suggestion for how to respond if you are troubled about a decision or direction in the life of the St. Paul’s community. Rather than posting your concern publicly on Facebook, consider taking it up directly with the person responsible, through email, private message, or (best of all) in person. You may find that a face-to-face conversation will resolve your concerns and strengthen your relationship.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you in your walk as a follower of Jesus and a member of our cathedral family.
Your sister in Christ,

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2 thoughts on “Dean Letter: Social Media Behavior”

  1. Good practical (and caring) advice, Penny!
    A dear friend whose husband spent the last year of his life with stage 4 liver cancer told me that time and again at of the few friends who visited after his diagnosis, they frequently (1) gave him advice on the latest treatments, (2) told a story about someone they knew (or had heard of) who had the same disease, or (3) subtly (or not so subtly) probed for what he might have "done wrong" (diet, exercise, substances, etc.) that might have caused the disease. My friend did not find any of those conversations helpful.


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