Social media has made much more of our life public to a larger public. I know facebook, twitter and such leave a bunch of ministers stuck deciding how much of their life to share to whom, when, and where. Jeff Jarvis, a social media guru, argues in his new book Private Parts that “the more we share, the more we benefit from what others share.” While he doesn’t end up advocating complete and utter openness, he does argue that there is a real benefit to being open in a much more robust way than most ministers would ever consider.
When reading his last book What Would Google Do? I decided I would intentionally be more open about my core convictions, life experiences, and challenges. Jarvis articulated rather clearly how the growing openness of our lives via social media is in fact making us a more honest and gracious people. Being open went against most of the advice I have received from other ministers and in theological education about one’s status as a minister and cultivating appropriate boundaries. I am all for boundaries around integrity issues but if it leads to the creation of a minister who doesn’t have genuine convictions, political leanings, vices (like delicious cigars), attraction to all things Kevin Smith (he made Dogma, the best movie of 2011 Red State, & the coolest podcast network), s
uggestive yard games like cornhole, and over tweeting then I would rather pass. I have found that for every person who is uncomfortable knowing that their minister is a real human many more people, within my congregation and outside of it, are grateful to know my ordination didn’t undo my humanity. I am not saying Paul really meant for us to “tweet our sins one to another,” but I have also found that in sharing struggles and asking questions publicly I can be blessed in ways that would not have been possible if I kept old school ‘ministerial distance.’
Last week in the ‘Becoming a Public Scholar‘ class I am teaching with Monica Coleman we watched this video where Jarvis discusses the benefits he had in sharing info about his private parts in public (yes it is what you are thinking but not for dirty reasons). The conversation lacked consensus but it was clear the topic had some heat bound up in it. I have no idea what the correct answer is but I have decided to err on the side of over sharing because I just feel dirty trying to keep up with multiple versions of myself for multiple audiences. While I don’t have any final answers I will say that Jarvis has the most helpful way of framing the choices we have to make by differentiating between privacy and sharing. He says that our “privacy is an ethic made by the recipients of someone’s information. Publicness is an ethic governing the choices made by the creator of one’s information..Privacy is an ethic of knowing and publicness is an ethic of sharing.” Ministers are likely some of the best people to ask about an ethic of privacy since we end up being the ones people share the most difficult parts of the stories with. So what advice would you give to those thinking about their ethic of privacy? What ‘private parts’ of a minister do you think should go public and which should stay off line?
Check out this interview with Jarvis to get a feel for the book.
Also check out Jeff Jarvis’ visit to the ‘theology after google’ conference where he told us what google would do if they got hold of a church.