Authenticity, influence and social media
I’ve always loved to write. I kept journals as a teenager and young adult, journals that have sadly been destroyed – sad, because they detail the ups and downs of my faith journey and trying to discover who God was and how he was (or wasn’t) involved in the moments of my life. Every once in awhile I have come across a writing (usually poetry) that was written during that period and I am reminded of how God has used the ability to write, to master the expression of words on paper (or a screen) to help me go through life and make it through the tough times.
I’ve blogged as long as I can remember. There has been something very satisfying in writing to the ‘world’ and yet not anyone in particular – putting out there the thoughts on faith and life that stir within me.
But my writing journey really started to shift and take shape a few years ago. I was in the hospital struggling to manage. It was post trial and post my grandmother’s passing – quite the intense year. I was asked to write out an autobiography of my life as part of healing. I don’t remember much of that time actually, but I do remember the doctor in charge of my case coming in and saying, “Elizabeth, you write with style.” Those words have stuck with me – it was significant to me that a well-published professional thought a work of mine while in crisis was written with style.
And so, I began writing more. This blog has become a creative outlet to express thoughts and concerns and ideas and reflections. And I am often amazed and humbled by the life it has taken of its own. There are people around the world who follow this blog – Christians and non-Christians, survivors and others, people I know and people I will probably never meet. Every once in awhile I will get a touching message about how my writings have touched someone, encouraged someone, supported someone, or challenged someone. I think that is one of the most beautiful aspects of being an artist of some sort – to have your art impact another person. As one of my professors once said, good art is meant to be shared.
Most of my blogging has happened while the court proceedings were underway. In some ways, I am thankful for the limitations that this had for my blog – for I knew that every word I would write and “publish” could be used in court against me. Each post is published after an honest reflection of whether I could stand by my words in the public and unfriendly courts. As I see what other people post on public blogs, I am thankful for this check in place.
My life is starting to shift though. And I am wrestling with this blog. I won’t be giving up this blog, but I am wrestling with how I want to share it. I am wrestling with *what* I should be sharing. This extends beyond the blog – what do I share on facebook as my status? On facebook I am a little more free, partly due to how easy it is to publish how I’m doing or what I am thinking (thanks facebook for asking me this daily!). In January, as the house I was living in started to breakdown, I recognized the ease at which I could vent on facebook and started a discipline of punning on facebook. I learned a lot during that time – and it made me think about how I can use facebook with purpose and integrity rather than capturing the mundane aspects of my life.
I am running a youth mentorship program this summer and connecting with organizations and people – who’d have thought my job would be primarily social networking?! I’m discerning where God wants me. I’m finding myself in various leadership positions. I have been frequently told in both encouraging and criticizing contexts that I am influential.
What does it mean to be a person of influence and to engage in social media tools? What does it mean to feel called to write and to know that some who may be diving into your story for the first time may not be ready to hear? How does one be authentic in a position of leadership.
I’ve for the most part kept work and life separate. But now it is at a point where it is too confusing and quite honestly a hassle – two different email accounts, two different websites. I spend far too much time on facebook, but again, it is all networking. Now I’m debating the need for twitter, pintrest, hootsuite, etc. I need to create a document with the different logins and passwords to keep this straight.
It seems I have a few options. First one is to simply not care. Maybe it isn’t really a problem that I blog and work in a place where I have influence and connections. Maybe this is not an issue as i discern – and as others discern with/for me – where God is calling me. But, for the first time in a very very long time, I feel hesitant about sharing my journey. If my journey was healing from cancer would I feel this way? I’m not sure. But this wrestling has been long enough that I don’t think this option is for me at this time. The second option is to keep work and personal social media separate. but that is increasingly more complex and time consuming. Also, if there are things that I need to keep separate, is this sufficient reason to question whether I should be talking about those things period?
The last option is the one I have chosen to experiment with a little. Normally this blog is shared with facebook friends. Increasingly, my readership is outside of facebook. But there are people who read my blog through facebook. I will continue to blog, but my readers will have to make their own way to the blog. This may mean my readership declines drastically. That’s ok. If people want notices of new posts, they can add their email address to the blog (only I see the email address). And, at least for now, I won’t be adding my blog to facebook.
And I plan to spend time praying through how I can best share my journey - in a way that honours God and who he has made me to be.