What just happened? We were just talking!

As someone who’s been around computer technology since my teen years, I remember a day before the internet. A day before Windows. A day before digital communication.

That’s what I want you to read, “A day before digital communication.”

In the early days of digital communication, a new phenomenon was born. Some of us called it flaming – a situation when a casual conversation became emotional enflamed and blew up into something those involved didn’t intend.

How did that happen? We were just talking.

There were a lot of reasons for this, but one reason was because without nonverbal cues, some of us tend to read a conversation with an emotional tone that matches our own feelings at the moment.

It happened all the time, at first.

Good friends were suddenly estranged.

I’ve seen seeds of this returning with the advent of the coronavirus: Good people being disrespectful and short with one another in digital conversations. I feel like they don’t even know why it’s happening.

Beyond the long standing reason for flaming, there are a couple other causes in place right now.

First, whether you want to admit it or not this is a stressful time to be alive. There are a lot of worries. If you enter into a conversation with someone without the aid of nonverbal cues and you’re feeling worried and stressed, you will think they are stressed. You will suppose they are worried. You will assume they are what you are.

Second, for many this is the most they have ever communicated via digital text. Sure, they’ve texted. But now they’re communicating about things that may be a little more important than “What’s for dinner?” So when someone types that there there’s no toilet paper left at Walmart, the reader is left to ascribe an emotion to those benign characters. If he’s already stressed out, he will likely assume that the sender is stressed out and angry.

If you’re getting stressed out and angry reading this, that’s on you. I’m not that guy. At least not in this blog post. 🙂

Think back over some of the digital conversations you’ve had on social media, WhatsApp, Signal, group chats, email, and other text-based communications. Did you come across the way you intended? Were you misunderstood? Did you misunderstand someone else?

Or did you think someone was stressed out when they were simply asking a question? Did you ascribe your emotions to someone else and find difficulty in the communication as a result?

How can you avoid that next time?

Maybe take a moment and pray before you type.

Or at least think before you hit send.

That’s how the digital pioneers managed these situations.

We can probably do the same.

Spending Time Together Alone

During this time when you are Safe at Home have you felt a little stressed and wondered why? It might be that you are getting kind of tapped out, emotionally – even socially.

That’s what’s considered in this video.

Social distancing is the catch phrase, but in our homes it might feel more like social compressing – social squishing.

The wise family creates ways to spend time alone together.

Connecting During COVID-19

-for my pastor friends and church leaders

These are some ways our church is working to connect during COVID-19.

In a world where the church can’t meet together, we need to find ways to be together.

  1. Streaming Video – Crazy as this may sound, streaming worship services is probably one of those things that is very important, but not very effective. Statistics show that the internet is just too distracting – even for the most well-produced video. Engagement times seldom last though-out the entire service and often are measured in seconds. But you almost have to do them. We will limit our music to a couple of songs and provide the sermon as well. We may do these live or we will release prerecorded services on Sunday mornings. (Note: You may want to use your headphone out jack from your sound board to get better sound to your camera.)
  2. Email – This is a way to connect with older people who have computers. Younger adults don’t check their email the way older ones do.
  3. US Mail – We will use this for those without internet. We produced a document with mailing addresses on it and distributed it to the congregation, asking them to send cards.
  4. Video Clips – We are planning to make short – very short – videos to stay in touch and post them on The Pastor’s Blog, Youtube, and Facebook. They will include information like prayer requests, announcements, comments from books being read, and devotions.
  5. Small Group Leaders Contact – We’re encouraging small group leaders to personally stay in touch with their small group members in whatever ways suit them – calling on the phone, texting, sending mail, producing video clips, and videoconferencing with them.
  6. Small Group Videoconferencing – We’re using ZOOM to hold small group meetings. At first, we are only using this time to pray. As people become more comfortable with it, we may widen our use of this tool. Zoom has a free account available.
  7. Deacon and Deaconess Assistance – We let our people know that the deacons and deaconesses are available to provide hands-on, so to speak, assistance should they need it. We are also re-tasking ministry groups that have a willingness to serve others (Alliance Women, Alliance Men, Helping Hands, etc.)
  8. Elder Contact – The elders divided the congregation into groups and are working to connect personally with each household on a weekly basis.
  9. Social Media – We are working to post a few times a day on Facebook.
  10. Free Books – When a publisher, like David C Cook, gives away an ebook, we post that on social media, encouraging people to get it.
  11. Portable Audio – We deliver portable audio players to those who are shut-in. We may expand that to those who have no internet.

We aim for redundancy, as we know people don’t use all of these tools. And we know people don’t pay attention – needing to hear things repeated.

What ideas do you have? Comment below, please!