As I can never find Facebook posts again when I want them, I saved some of the thoughts that are helping trigger a presentation in Edinburgh shortly, on spiritual formation and any kind of awareness of surveillance online. I noted that the responses may be made public, if anonymised!
- What do you understand by spiritual formation?
- Would you say that social media has impacted on this at all?
- Does the fact that others are ‘observing what you are doing’ make any difference?
- This online article was helpful reading: Towards a Biblical Definition of Spiritual Formation: Romans 12:1-2
- The result of spiritual disciplines? Social media has, for me, made any self discipline (spiritual or otherwise) more of a struggle.
And talking about it online (are you including blogs as social media? I’m not sure I would…) does allow a broader community of involvement.
- When I was part of a Christian Church, we had a nice Minister/Vicar (can’t remember which brand he was) who gave a great talk to the youth about wearing masks, and growing to be like the mask. He, obviously, advocated for wearing the mask of a good Christian, “pretending” to be better than we were, and aiming to grow in to the role. It had the advantage of bearing better witness whilst also allowing you to grow.
I am not sure that I see much of that on social media, to be honest, but maybe I notice the negatives – those who are behaving in a Christian way are much less likely to be noticed.
- The bit I would comment on is the ‘people are watching’. As a curate it didn’t trouble me too much, but as a ‘responsible for parish’ Rector I am much more aware that what I say and do is under scrutiny. I’ve stopped blogging partly because of lack of time, and partly because the situations I might blog about are easily identified by those involved, their friends, relations and neighbours. We get enough local spats on social media without me inadvertently adding to them.
What do you understand by spiritual formation?
– maturing as a Christian
– it’s a journey which never ends
– it’s part of who we are rather than something we do
– includes prayer and bible study, questioning and exploring yourself and your beliefs, worshipping and listening, intentionally being with God in the every day of life
Would you say that social media has impacted on this at all?
– yes: social media has allowed the world to become smaller. This means I’ve been able to explore wider, ask further and question more than if I was limited to my church, family, friends and people I meet in every day life. Social media allowed my spiritual formation to take off.
– and no: God is the leader of my spiritual formation and He will always find a way which works.
– but yes: social media has made it so much easier than it would otherwise have been. Geography is a limiting factor to spiritual formation, especially in disability (and poverty) and social media has removed that limit.
Does the fact that others are ‘observing what you are doing’ make any difference?
– not for me though I’m sure it does for others
– God is observing me all the time and is the only one that really matters in my spiritual formation
– but….. I feel that part of my spiritual formation is to share what I believe and why and how; and I’m sure that God uses my blog and social media engagement to help others now and in the future (it lasts forever once online).
could also be do you self-observe, or using the theorist I’m using ‘self-regulate’ your behaviour?
– I am me and is become abundantly clear over the years that I can’t hide that online any more than I can in real life. I don’t pretend to be anything other than I am, warts and all, and I’ve seen that God uses it all for good.
Other responses included the definition as the ‘never-ending’ ‘journey that we are on to become mature in our faith’, which can include ‘earthquake like tremors that quickly and fundamentally shape our faith’, but also ‘the small incremental drip drip that intentionally or not changes who we are and how we express that’. It is ‘part of who we are rather than something we do’, and ‘includes prayer and bible study, questioning and exploring yourself and your beliefs, worshipping and listening, intentionally being with God in the every day of life’.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.