I have mixed feelings about my involvement with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  I read a stream of seemingly trivial messages about personal frustrations, eating preferences, vacation details or plans for the evening. This leads me to wonder if social networks encourage self-promoting narcissism and superficial thinking in some people.   Research shows that email and short posts alter the neurostructure of our brains and an August 2 New York Times article (“I tweet, therefore I am”) shows how social technology molds our personalities.  Of course, many people thrive on their steams of messages. I find that they can be intrusive and annoying.

So why don’t I dump my technological connections and retreat to traditional ways of doing things? Here’s the answer. Despite the down side of social media, the positive applications are huge. Understanding and using social technology is important for:

  • Disseminating Information quickly and broadly. A friend in China blogs to almost 1.2 million people every day.
  • Evangelism and ministry. One example: occasionally my Chinese friend drops evangelistic messages into his blogs.
  • Counseling and coaching. The Internet is changing how people helping, people building and training are done.
  • Education. On line interaction, video clips, downloads, courses, and learning projects are standard in progressive schools. And the possibilities keep expanding.
  • Prayer. Recently, a friend’s 18 month daughter fell into their swimming pool. As she was flown to a children’s hospital a Facebook alert mobilized a huge prayer effort within minutes. Is this why she’s fine now?
  • Leadership. Charlene Li new book Open Leadership: How Social Technology can Transform the Way You Lead is worth reading. Li writes, “Leadership is about relationships, and because social technologies are changing relationships, leadership also needs to change….Leadership takes on a different dimension in a connected, networked world.”  Effective leaders must engage.
  • Marketing, promotion and visibility. Ask any publisher how books are promoted today. Social media probably tops most lists. In politics social media still market President Obama.
  • Damage control. One post or U-Tube video can devastate a company or reputation within hours. A fast response is critical.

Love, hate or fear it – social technology cannot be ignored. Please click on comment to give your reaction.


  1. I am still in the process of trying to discern what’s helpful and what’s important in the process of building a practice. Can’t afford time and energy pits. Not an easy task–this article helps! Thanks


  2. I think it is important to learn to put boundaries around social technology or it can become all consuming and really detract from the benefits. This is something that I try to help my clients with. Thanks for your post Gary.


    1. What kind of a blogger am I if I keep running all the time and do not respond more quickly to posts like yours? I will reform.
      In the meantime, thanks Phil for your comments and for posting the newsletter on your site. I am grateful when this gets done.


  3. People tend to plunge into this type of “social media” (a very broad concept!) without a proper time of educating themselves. I have noticed that my younger friends have a completely different style of interacting than my generation. It seems all a little trivial and purely for the fun of it (but then why not?). To me rather a waste of time. All in all, the verdict is still out on its meaningfulness…


    1. Pia, Thanks for your comments. I agree that social media emphasize a gap between generations. But even many of my younger friends agree that much of this is trivial and a lot of the posts seem like ego boosters for the post writers and time wasters for everyone else. But I am leaning to hide the posts of people who send out the self-promotions and trivia. And I am committed to keep working on my learning curve if I am to communicate “cross-culturally” with people who communicate differently than I do. Maybe what seems meaningless to people liked you and me serves a useful purpose to others.


  4. Judi, it’s a bit odd that my first post to your forum is about posting to forums. I’m struck by your comment: ” Li writes, “Leadership is about relationships, and because social technologies are changing relationships, leadership also needs to change….Leadership takes on a different dimension in a connected, networked world.”  Effective leaders must engage.”

    Some months ago I was an outside participant in some leadership training for a large mission organization. I was impressed that the president of the organization attended the training sessions. Since I sat at his table during the meetings, I was also aware that he was tweeting or reading Facebook much of the time. How was this leader ‘engaged’ with his people?


    1. This is an interesting observation, isn’t it! Leaders are models for everyone else and I suspect this man was not a very good or sensitive role model. Back in the days when we communicated by telephone I had a policy of never taking a call when I was with a student (or anyone else) who had made an appointment. Checking messages when we are with another person sends the message that the caller or text-message sender is more important the the person that I am meeting with face to face. Sounds rude and insensitive to me. This is one of the down sides of social media – even though there are many up sides.


  5. Well said, Gary. I see much of the technology you reference very useful in part but highly addictive if one is not measured in one’s use of it. As my father would tell his sons, it comes down to balance, boys, balance…


    1. Addictive for sure. Look at Jidi Iverson-Gilbert’s post. It looks like she describes a mission leader who is addicted to his cell-phone. (Of course he also may be bored with meetings. But that’s a different story!)



    By now most of us have heard about the flight attendant who was disgusted with passenger complaints, so he grabbed the cabin microphone, answered back, grabbed a beer from the galley, opened the emergency door and slid down the slide, out of the plane (and out of his job.) That was yesterday.

    This morning he is an Internet hero with thousands of people rallying to his cause and posting comments to affirm his actions. So what do we make of that?

    I hope the airline give him his job back but I doubt that this will happen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s