Might it be a good thing if clergy (or other quasi-public figures) keep two Facebook identities? What might they (we!?) have to hide? Or, is it perhaps just about boundary-setting? What do you think? Should we have one Facebook account for the public side of our life and another for the private?
Diane Carroll explores some of these thoughts in her recent reflection at the Fidelia's Sisters blog:
My Double Life on Facebook
by Diana Carroll in Fedelia's Sisters: A publication of the young clergy women project
I was a relative latecomer to the Facebook phenomenon. Many of my friends joined in college or not long after, but right up until the middle of seminary, I remained vehemently opposed to the idea. I thought that it was a senseless waste of time, and that if I joined, I would never get any work done again. Then one day, my partner gave me her password so I could look at some photos a friend had posted, and before I knew it, I had caved. I have never become a true Facebook addict, but I do rely on it more than I ever thought I would to stay in touch with friends and family—especially those who live far from me (which is just about all of them).
So when it came time for me to graduate from seminary and move to a new city to start my first church job, I found myself facing an unexpected but very common question: how would I relate to parishioners on Facebook? I knew that many of my new parishioners were in their 20s and 30s, and I soon discovered that a Facebook group for these “young adults” already existed. It didn’t take much to see that Facebook was going to become a part of my ministry whether I liked it or not, and that I’d better figure out in advance how I was going to handle it.
Navigating Facebook effectively is really all about setting boundaries. I knew from our conversations in seminary that good boundaries are vital for parish ministry, so this was my first chance to test it out. I wanted to keep using Facebook for maintaining personal relationships, but I was also very certain that I did not want parishioners trying to chat with me if I happened to be online at 2 a.m. I decided to create a separate “work” profile for myself. I imagined this profile would function much the same way as my “work” email address: I would use it to connect with parishioners and to do church business, and I would endeavor to check it only during work hours. At the same time, I would carefully protect my personal profile from work-related contacts, so that I could continue to use it freely for socializing with family and friends as I had before.