Faith and Social MediaWednesday, April 06, 2011
A couple weeks ago, I posted this on twitter:
I wanted to share a question I received about it here along with my answer (I am sharing it with permission of the sender).
I'm quite curious to hear more of your thoughts regarding your tweet today about faith and spirituality. This is an ongoing dialogue that I've been having with a handful of people for a year or more now, as I've been working within the wedding industry and developing skills to launch a business of my own. There seems to be such a fine balance between authentically incorporating tweets, blog posts, etc that pertain to faith/spirituality and, by extension, worldviews without it turning into or even being perceived as a marketing ploy. It is an emotionally-charged and often divisive topic, and people are attracted to people like them or those they can relate to in some way. The more social media and personalization of brands (and shifting away from impersonal, faceless companies) becomes the way of life, the more it seems like this will become an issue. When someone says "I believe XYZ" it very much relates to how they view the world and the realities in it...which then inevitably leads to conflicting beliefs. In my opinion, there will always be people that use anything they can to exploit for marketing purposes, but how do you believe faith/spirituality to be a part of an authentic social media presence?
Grateful for a response, when you have a moment!
Thanks for the thoughtful email. I agree that faith/spirituality is an emotionally charged topic. I personally have no problem with people sharing their faith in social media as part of who they are. If people are offended by someone saying "I believe xyz", they have the option to unfollow or not read that person's blog posts. The beauty of social media is that it is completely opt-in. If you don't agree with someone or if they are rubbing you the wrong way, you can choose to not listen and/or engage with them.
What I personally find offensive is when people say "you should buy from me because I believe xyz." People should buy from you because you sell a quality product or service. If you believe that you are created in the image of or that you can harness the power of a creative god (or goddess, universe, lifeforce, inner spiritual being, etc) then your work should reflect that on its own. For me, faith is a sacred thing. My own faith shapes how I see the world and how I am trying (sometimes failing along the way) to live my life. For anyone to exploit something that is supposed to be so deeply sacred to them just to make a sale is, in my view, gross and manipulative. Again, in these cases, I can choose to opt-out of their conversations and try to tune them out (the retweets sometimes thwart this, but for the most part, you can tune them out).
What further offends me though, is when people sell a faith experience disguised as a business experience. Over the past couple of years we have seen more of this in the wedding industry. People will sell a workshop or class that attendees will be told is on the topics of business and marketing and then the class will include group prayers, channeling energy, and other sorts of spiritual practices that attendees didn't know would be part of the program. For people to push their beliefs on others this way is offensive and manipulative.
I personally have two twitter accounts - one for business and one that is more personally focused. I am personal and share my authentic opinions on my Think Splendid account, but I also recognize that people following me there may be tuning in for my perspective on the industry and not care about my passion for how faith and politics affect social justice. So my opinions on those are saved primarily for my personal account which I do not cross-post to Think Splendid. Some may see this solution as segmenting who I am, but I don't. I see it as being respectful of others and their reasons for choosing to listen to me. I also don't view it as "hiding" my faith or opinions. Many people in the industry who have met me in person know my beliefs and know that they don't always fit neatly into the conversations that 140 characters allow.
I do believe that people can combine faith and business into one social media presence and have it be authentic. I do think though that people need to be respectful of the fact that for any good its done, religion has also been used to hurt people deeply and many people bring those experiences to the table with them. I'd personally rather not turn those people off from my business right out of the gate because of deeply personal topics, especially given the lack of context social media can provide.