oqbNkvcThis week’s question is about a pastor’s social media and also about the need to re-calibrate systems after we’ve been at this awhile. Here’s a pastor who is taking a new look at how to manage her social media presence:

Dear Matriarchs:
Let me stipulate that I don’t like Facebook, I don’t like how it operates, and I resent feeling like I can’t opt out because it’s a reality of my world right now. 

Be that as it may, here’s my situation. For a person who doesn’t like Facebook, I have two profiles. Long, long ago (14 years ago), I had a profile in seminary. When I became a pastor, I started a separate one because the war to create “lists” didn’t yet exist. Now I have two functioning profiles, both with 100s of “friends”. One is under my name and has many connections from seminary, college, high school, and is where I am linked in many professional groups. I am active in groups through this profile, but rarely post updates on my own page. I do feel marginally freer to post political viewpoints here, though I know nothing on the Internet is actually secret.

On my Pastor So-and-so page, I am friends with church members. I belong to some local groups. If I’m going to post an update or something, I usually put it here. This profile is linked to our church FB page, so I use it for editing and posting there. 

I have come to a point where I don’t like the bifurcation. I have received advice from a trusted matriarch to merge my pages, but I honestly don’t know where to start or how to do this. When I think about it, it seems overwhelming and impossible. 

Side note, I don’t want to lose the “history” of my original profile, even if I managed to converge everything in the “pastor” profile. 

And I am sure that I have a few people who may not want to have “pastor so and so” appear in their mentions.

The actual moral quandary of my life is how to get out of Facebook, but that’s not an option right now.

So accepting that I have compromised ethics, how do I live a less bifurcated social media life? Should I merge? If so, where do I start? 

I would understand if all you can offer is thoughts and prayers at this point.

Most definitely, dear sister, you have our thoughts and prayers. We also have some advice and encouragement for you.

Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath

Dear Bifurcated, this could be seen as an ethical/pastoral issue or a simple IT fix. Or maybe it’s both. About twenty years ago I was on a retreat with our youth group and got into a conversation with one of the adult leaders. He made a comment to the effect that when I wasn’t wearing “my collar” I was free to do things that people might not expect a pastor to do. I responded by saying that I am wearing my collar even when you can’t see it. Clergy don’t often get the chance to be off duty. Of course there are times when I am in a “safe” place where I feel confident to be my most bawdy self, but it is very easy to keep that self under control when it comes to public media. Every time I hit send or post or enter I assume that what I have said, is public. Given that assumption, I self-edit on Facebook. I know folks who have lived the bifurcated life, but many of them end up where you are now. Personally, I’d worry that I posted some crazy thing on the wrong account. Good luck with this dilemma! I am convinced that we can authentically be ourselves in public while still minding our manners.

Martha Spong

Dear BiF, I share your frustration with the virtual water cooler we cannot avoid. My strategy on Facebook is to have one profile and leverage lists and judicious “unfollows” to manage my social media relationships. My advice to you would be to keep the profile with the history you want to save and invite people who are friends in your other world to friend you there. Consider creating a list for people in your congregation in case you want to post something just for them or explicitly not for them. I also maintain a list of everyone from all the churches I have served, which means I can opt out of sharing things with them, but I have used it only rarely. I also have a restricted list (a category Facebook invented) that includes people who are strictly social media “friends,” which is to say we have mutual connections, but we have never met in person. They see only my public posts, which is less about politics and more about some privacy for my family photos. While it’s true that someone with nothing better to do could scroll down the relative infinity of either timeline to find something to hold against you, my guess is you would know how to raise one eyebrow and let that person or anyone listening to them know how silly such an exercise is.

Thank you, Matriarchs, for these good ideas about how to clean up our Facebook presence.

How about you, dear reader? What have you done to facilitate your Facebook presence? What advice do you have about making social media a better experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you ready to re-calibrate something in your ministry? Send your scenario to AsktheMatriarch (at) gmail (dot) com and let us help you with a clean up or a do-over.

Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor living in Austin, TX. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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2 thoughts on “Ask the Matriarch: Her Bifurcated Facebook Presence

  1. I also have two pages for almost the exact same reasons (started one 10 years ago in seminary.) I will not merge them. I am freer to post on my “private” one and I have to be very public and available on my church one (linked to the church page.) I don’t feel an ethical twinge at all. We deserve the right to have personal friends and let them share freely with us without fear of church ladies judging.


  2. Before you close your FB page, FB offers a way to download all of your data – photos, videos, posts, I’d suggest doing that so you have those photos you don’t want to lose.


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