In what was I’m sure a first this morning, we asked our congregation not to post details of a personal testimony on social networks. No Facebook, twitter or youtube, please. It’s a first because I’m sure we’ve never had a need to even think about asking before.
We had invited a guest speaker, and he was sharing his personal story. Because of his public work, he had asked that we not invite any media to the services. Of course, they found out about it anyway.
A newspaper reporter was in the congregation on Saturday night. It took about 2 hours for his story to appear online, and then in the paper the next morning. The story shared a detail that the speaker had specifically asked not be mentioned in the media. That detail was a major part of the story.
One could argue that if he said it from the pulpit, it’s fair game. Talking to a crowd of about 1500 that night, and thousands more the next day, anything said to that number of people is out. There is no containing it, even without electronic social media. But to make it a principle element of a news story? Poor taste. Of course it went out online, and now multiple news sources have picked it up. It’s a small story, probably not going to get national attention, but it was still something personal.
This morning we made a point to ask our people not to share details of his story. No video taping and no social media. I can understand why we were asked to do this. The details of his story were very personal, and he endures a higher level of scrutiny than most people.
But, we live in a social world. There is not much that remains private when said in public anymore. Previously, you had to be unlucky enough to have a reporter around for something shared in confidence to leak out. But today millions of people can simply snag their smart phones and publish quotes at will on any number of networks, accessed by millions. Even though we asked, and most people showed discretion and refrained from posting, it took me about 3 seconds to find a quote I know the speaker would not want out in public. It’s nothing like what it could have been if we had not agreed to ask for restraint from those in attendance, but it’s out there.
The only way to keep something you don’t want quoted from leaking out to the social world we live in is to not say it. The world is turning transparent. People who live in glass houses… should buy drapes. Don’t say something to a group if you don’t want it repeated. The world is social now, and everything is fodder for that. There is no going back.