Only looking in – Twitter, T-mobile, the BBC and the Olympics

View from the Castellamare across Bracelet Bay, The Gower (also shows a large gin and tonic!)

The chalet bungalow we holidayed in, on the edge of a cliff near Mumbles, provided my smart-phone with very poor and sporadic connections. For example to post this photo to my friends and family to say we’d started our holiday, I was ‘forced’ to visit the nearest restaurant (from which the view was taken) and sit on it’s wall look at that view!

This may of course suggest that T-mobile need more ‘goomballs’ on The Gower, but it also heralded a period of digital silence in the family.

Intermittently my phone (kept on for text communication with wandering teenager) would download chunks of the latest Tweets from my Twitter friends, so I tried to interact as normal. But no, at that point the phone constantly refused to do anything further, having decided it didn’t have enough ‘goomballs’ after all.

So I was left watching the tweets roll past, unable to download links, frustrated at being left out of the conversation; the digital equivalent of a silent movie! Facebook was even worse – I couldn’t get that to work at all! And thus, I was probably more on holiday than I might otherwise have been ūüėČ

However, the second week of our holiday coincided with the start of the Olympics. Watching lots of the BBC coverage (partly as the weather turned rather ‘Welsh’) it became obvious that first week how much the BBC presenters were relying on Twitter for their ‘storyline’. Pre-event, there was engagement with the watching public about the mechanics of a particular sport (by Matthew Pinsent for example), and post event analysis and response from public figures (regurgitated on screen and by Gary Lineker, for example.)

It initially seemed good to see the encouragement offered by fellow Olympians and others for Team GBs efforts, and their own sense of community was obvious, even if some made ill-advised comments on proceedings (like about the Badminton fiasco.) But it didn’t seem to include tweets from the general public, except by those with a relationship to the competitor, which sometimes seemed too personal and possibly shouldn’t have been published.

But, despite on one occasion being alerted to major excitement (Wiggo’s impending awesomeness) by the real-time tweets of Dave Walker and Emma Goldby when the T-mobile ‘goomballs’ were working, I couldn’t even say thank you for the tip-off as I couldn’t engage in two-way conversation. Neither could I download the much vaunted Olympic app from the BBC, or even the headlines from the normal BBCNews app. All utterly frustrating.

Yet, I continued to read, and on occasion read out loud to the family, the tweets of friends and their retweets of the famous, enjoying the humour and apposite appraisal of events, as the Twitter feed rolled past.

But when I returned home, downloaded the (excellent) Olympic app, I’d sort of got out of the habit of engaging with my Twitter community and didn’t really bother during the second week of the Olympics, though I still watched the feed scroll past. Even the BBC lost interest in Twitter, as I saw almost no Tweets recycled for the public interest, and the presenters seemed more comfortable with Team GB creating it’s own storyline of medals!

So, what did I reflect on all this digital ‘voyeurism’ as I mis-termed it?

1) I rely on digital news far more than ever before, and don’t really want to wait for set ‘news broadcasts’ on the TV, but instead have got used to having news ‘on demand’. I also rely on people I trust (my Twitter community) to create my ‘news feed’ for me, which means I’m probably almost too selective, since I’ve self-selected my Twitter friends!

The ancient monument at Parc le Breos near The Gower Heritage Centre – not much signal here, unsurprisingly!

2) Digital media is a bit rubbish in rural, hilly and wooded areas (we tried several other locations whilst wandering The Gower, none were great.) meaning that these communities are presumably being left ‘digitally backward’. If their domestic internet supply is equally tricky, those of us who are social media aware need to remember when we work in and with such communities that more traditional forms of communication are of paramount importance.

3) Twitter is habit forming, but it is possible to slip out of the community and quietly stop engaging without the community really noticing (at least I don’t think that many did, even when I¬†consciously¬†made myself start to re-engage this week). Disengaging to spend more time with the family is probably a good thing, but to then ‘secretly’ watch Twitter, only looking in from the sidelines, seems on reflection to have been rather odd and unhealthy, despite the Olympic sized contributory cause.

4) Why did the BBC dis-engage with Twitter themselves, when I am quite sure they (presenters and producers alike) were watching the Olympic and Team GB Twitter feed scroll post them far more than I was!?

So I’m left wondering, what was your digital experience of the Olympics, and how do you cope when forced to take a digital holiday? Do we know why the BBC dropped the idea of repeating Tweets?

[‘goomballs’ is a well-used family word taken from the 2000AD ‘graphic novels’ and specifically the ACE Trucking Company, and therefore pre-dating the ‘urban dictionary’ definition of the word!


Wanting to trust the local press – a question to take to #cnmac11

I’m being followed.

For someone who seems to spend rather a lot of time on Twitter, and is a member of the Twurch of England¬†(who have a cool new website), this obviously shouldn’t bother me. It doesn’t.¬†Well, normally it doesn’t. So, why should my most recent follower on Twitter be worrying me, everso slightly?

You see, it’s not so much who he is, or what he does, but what he did. That is what has just niggled at my normally quite open social media¬†conscience.

OK, so he’s a local journalist, a gentleman (I hope in all senses) who until this week I’d never heard of, and who I have never knowingly met. I follow the Twitter feed of the religious correspondents of three major daily papers so it’s not like I’m allergic to the press or anything. In my ‘marketing and communications’ capacity for Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester, I’m actually more inclined to be chasing the press for coverage of something, than being worried about them chasing me.

But, you see three days before following me on Twitter this chap had phoned me up (presumably having got my number off the church office answering machine) wanting details of a funeral that he’d heard was taking place at St. Peter’s this week.

Now, as a Christian, I want to trust people. I want to be open about my faith, and I hope by being open about some of the details of my ministry may help in a small way to improve the public image of Christian ministers. In fact,¬†I’m a fairly trusting sort of girl generally – until experience tells me to be careful.

In this case my experience of what he asked me, led me to question whether I could trust him. ‘Funeral chasers’ horrify me. For me, that counts as intrusion by the local press.

Any ministry to the bereaved is normally totally personal and private unless with their permission they want something about their loved one publicised, or a very public funeral or memorial service is appropriate. (I’ve had one of each of these in the last 18 months, so I know about them too!) Why should the press wish to invade someone’s grief just because they might be ‘different’ or ‘interesting’ in some way?

Twitter, like a blog (which is presumably how this chap found my Twitter feed) is a public conversation. My Twitter conversation often revolves round my ministry, sometimes the funny side of church life, and often I (like many of the Twurch) will refer to the generality of the pressures of ministry, with references like “Three funerals this week… prayers for strength and sensitivity welcome!” (I made that one up btw.) Especially during our recent vacancy when I was responsible for many things to do with funerals and other ‘occasional offices’ I was tweeting about such things because there is a¬†collegiality¬†to the Twurch community that was incredibly supportive when operating slightly ‘solo’ and needing instant, supportive/helpful answers to sometimes daft ministry questions or statements.

It’s just I don’t want to jeopardise my ministry, nor compromise the Twitter community that contributes to how I learn and share as a minister. I also want to have integrity in both my faith and in my pastoral dealings.

Now, it’s taken me 24 hours to consider this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to trust this chap, and I’ve ‘followed’ him back. You see, I actually believe we’re sort of in related businesses – I hope we’re both trying to build community in my home town. That involves sharing news. I’m just hoping that he has the good sense to realise that ‘news’ doesn’t include the spectacle of someone’s private grief, and that he’ll trust me (and others – after all, I’m not the vicar) to share the details of those things that will help us as a community, rather than hurt it.

But it’s left me with a question which I’m going to take to the Christian New Media Conference in 10 days time is this: How much do we risk compromising our ministry by taking it into the public sphere of social media?

Twitter and Facebook – how I value both! #fb

There was me catching up on 130+ posts by other bloggers via my Google Reader, trying to skim through what everyone else wrote about Greenbelt, and life since. I was minding my only business… well other peoples really…

… only to find that my own business puts me No 5 on a list of Twittering Readers/LLMs of the Twurch of England, as compiled by the illustrious Revd Lesley! My flabber has been well and truly ghasted!

Now, for those of you who are my Facebook friends, please don’t get upset, and don’t whatever you do go away. You are the people I really know, who’ve been there through the thickest and thinnest points in my life, who’ve made me tea when I needed it, helped me cry, or stopped me crying, or cleared up the mess after my failures at parenting etc. etc. You are the community to which I feel most emotionally attached, the ones who will ring me up when I post something daft or dozy! Facebook is great for conversation’s where the back-plot of who I am and where I’ve come from is important because it’s the place that links all my pasts to my present.

And yet, I post far more on Twitter than I do on Facebook these days; well, most days anyway. That’s because Twitter is where I have been able to share the moments of joy and struggle in ministry to a community of people who I know will empathise, share, help and pray, as relevant to the moment. Some of my Facebook friends could do that too, and in some circumstances I ask them to, but they don’t want, or need to hear my latest angst about a baptism or funeral visit, and aren’t always there on Facebook the same way a lot of Twittering ministers are. This has been a huge help during our vacancy. Thank you so much.

From Twitter (as well as the blogs I follow) I also learn about new ideas for worship, liturgy, the legal issues that lie behind church weddings, and a massive amount of other things. Ask a question of the Twurch, and someone will pop up an answer it after an hour or two! This starts conversations that are beginning to lead to meeting new people and take me to new places – of which Greenbelt was just one!

Twitter is also the place I get my news feed these days. More so than either terrestrial or BBCNews24 TV. It’s where I heard about the massacre in Norway. It’s how I discovered who our new Bishop is to be (before I’d read my email from Diocese!), which I was then able to share with my many friends from the Diocese who are on Facebook via a round-up of links. Twitter also feeds me the cricket and rugby scores – so I can keep not just myself, but my family regularly updated!

So there – Twitter and Facebook I love you both! And one day I’ll get round to working out how to put your little logo’s somewhere on this blog!!