Let’s talk about Facebook. Particularly as religious leaders and/or as trans* folks.
A couple things to get out of the way:
• I do know how to use my privacy settings and to use lists. I utilize them both very thoroughly.
• I also have read and agree with the whole idea of being transparent on Facebook and not just having a “religious persona”. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Here are the current issues I am facing (and I feel like they are probably issues faced by other folks as well):
I have one personal facebook page. On this page I have friended certain family members, people from my high school (very conservative) youth group, people from my (very conservative) college, people from the church I currently work at, various friends from all over the place, youth from the church I work at, and people from my new religious life as a NAOCC deacon.
I also have an anarchist reverend page where I pretty much post questions, interesting new stories, and links to stuff I am writing on the blog. It’s a place where I can interact with people more casually.
But here’s what happens: Some folks tag me or post on my wall photos from pre-transition. I have privacy settings set up to help with that, but it’s still annoying. Other folks post links to articles I might find interesting about trans* issues. I am mostly out, but I don’t necessarily want the youth I work with to be concerned with my trans* identity.
Many of the people I am connected with from either high school or college would be horrified by both my trans* status (which, whatever) AND by my newfound Catholicism. I also don’t feel the need to get into religious or political debates on Facebook because, well, who has the time or the energy?
So what’s the issue? I feel like I can’t really use Facebook effectively. On the one hand there really is nothing I have to hide, on the other I feel like posting certain things honestly would be seen as inflammatory to people from my past. I don’t think these folks’ minds will be changed and I don’t want to argue about it. I also don’t want to be pegged even more as the “radical liberal” and have word get back to my family (who still goes to the church I grew up in) and have to have awkward religious and political conversations with them. I would like to be able to stay in touch with these folks to reminisce, see photos of their kids, and hear what they are up to.
I don’t like the idea of having a “religious” account and profile. For one I don’t want to spend more time trying to manage another account on Facebook. It also seems like I have something to hide as a religious leader. I also have two facets of my “religious life”: One, the church I work for, and two, my life as a Deacon and a church planter. These spheres don’t necessarily mix.
I also don’t like the idea of having a “page” set up. Pages make it hard to interact with folks on a more personal level. I can’t leave comments on their page, I can’t friend people, etc.
I feel like this has led to me having a presence on Facebook that feel shallow and fragmented and I hate to have any part of my life feeling that way. I feel like I can’t make my profile picture photos from my ordination because that will invite too many questions and because once you make something your profile photo than your security settings no longer work on it.
All of this is incredibly frustrating and leads to my barely using Facebook. Maybe that wouldn’t be an issue except that Facebook is a powerful tool to reach out to and interact with folks. It’s a good way for me to keep up with people from the past that I wouldn’t get to interact with otherwise and a way for me to keep the youth I work with updated on what’s happening.
I’m not sure how to navigate this (or even if it can be navigated given the limitations of Facebook’s rules, etc.).
How do you use Facebook? Are there larger questions I should be asking? How do you navigate the personal/professional split? Let’s talk about this!