21 April 2012
Social Media Praxis, Iliff School of Theology
“The What-ness of Social Media in 140 Characters”
Obviously, my title is a bit mis-leading. I will not attempt to digest social media in 140 characters. If I did, it would be this: Social media, as a relational practice, is the beginning of our ability to truly relate, which is always mediated by virtual differences.
What do I mean by social media being a relational practice?
Let me answer this question by situating myself in the discourse. I am an Ethicist. I like to think about our moral imagination, moral agency and ethics; and so, when I assert the notion that social media is a relational practice, I also am suggesting that there are ethical implications here.
There has long been the question that Scholars have raised regarding the relationship between human bodies and virtual bodies. With social media, you have many bodies engaging with each other: from actual human bodies, machine bodies (like computers), and virtual bodies, like avatars and so forth. This creates a web of relating practices that indeed raises the question of the “what-ness” of social media, and especially so for today’s church.
For me, I created iRobyn. I was living in Chicago, and Twitter was all the hype. iRobyn is on Twitter as a politically queer voice, and iRobyn.com is a WordPress blog where I seek to work at the multiple intersections of religion, theology, race, queerness, sexuality, and ethics. In fact, when I have attended the American Academy of Religion, I have had conversations with people who call me iRobyn. What does this tell me about the power of creative possibilities and my own ability to create a voice, how ever virtual it is? I’ve discovered that social media is a relationship across many and multiple differences.
What might all this mean for today’s church?
What if the church embraced social media as a liturgical practice? If liturgy is the work of the people, and people of a local church began to engage with their own communities’ practices, then church might look a lot different–we might be able to live into the relational practices of our communities call to: care for the poor, feed the hungry, and so forth. Our churches might look less like a non-profit and more like a cathedral of hope, rooted in (insert here your religious practice): the call of Christ or the Divine, or what have you. What we can imagine is the ability for us all to develop a voice that lives as a social media voice.
The iRobyn voice is not necessarily the most academic voice; it is a public voice that is informed by culture, society, politics, and mediated by social media. When I blog, I write in the voice that makes most sense to me: an honestly engaged voice that is concerned about social practices that are often harming to multitude of communities. This ranges to a political voice that hopes for some political change. When I blog about theological issues or religious concerns, I write in a voice that has long-been acquainted with the practices of a local church, how ever agnostic I am these days…
What has been most helpful is that I quickly learned that for me I needed to have a multiplicity of voices. I run in circles that cut across many and multiple differences, so I needed to be able to speak to a variety of people, and sometimes my iRobyn voice merges. An example os this is when I blogged on Easter Sunday and posted an Oscar Romero quote and tied it to the murder of Trayvon Martin. It was titled: “Rise Again.” Now, I have no interest in being overly theological or affirming any sort of Resurrection of the Dead (sorry Orthodox Theologians). What was of interest to me here is to expose the intersections of theology, religion, sexuality, and race. It is in the multiple voices that iRobyn continues to exist and engage in a meaningful way.
The potential that today’s church has continues to open in multiple ways. From using social media to organize a group within a faith community or church to using Twitter to dialogue about a sermon’s content, a book study, or what have you. There seems to be no limit on what we can do with social media!