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Thank the Ones That Say Goodbye
How to cope with those who ghost your digital church
Have you ever eagerly awaited a response after what you thought was a great first date, only to hear... crickets? Imagine chatting about your shared love of spicy tacos, planning to hit up the best local joint next weekend, and then... radio silence. Just like that, you've been ghosted.
In today's digital age, the phenomenon of ghosting – the act of suddenly ending a relationship or communication without explanation – has become increasingly prevalent.
As a pastor of a digital church, I can attest that this behavior is becoming just as normative in religious settings as it is in romantic ones. While I think it is particularly present in digital church spaces, the 21st-century church as a whole has been afflicted by those “dating” their community.
Ghosting in the Digital Church:
Just as in the online dating realm where messages can go unanswered and profiles unmatched without warning, ghosting is an inherent facet of overseeing a digital church. The very nature of the virtual world, with its easy access and equally effortless exits, grants congregants the freedom to slip away without so much as a whisper.
To make matters worse, while it is easier than ever to leave, it is also easier than ever from the administrative side to see the exact moment when someone decides to make their departure.
@User has left the building.
In our roles as digital shepherds, our screens light up with the ebbs and flows of a virtual congregation in flux. Faces and names, once prominent and engaged, might suddenly become absent, leaving a void in their wake.
Even those whom we've come to regard as pillars of our community, ever-present and ever-involved, might unexpectedly fade away. This digital disappearance, often without context or closure, is a poignant reminder of the impermanent and sometimes elusive nature of online connections.
My concern for the audience in this space is the harm that this kind of behavior causes to the pastors of digital communities.
I don’t claim to have the perfect answer nor do I have the science to back up these ideas, but here is how I am actively working towards coping with this kind of personal hurt that the one leaving can cause.
Value the Goodbyes: Some of the ones that leave will say goodbye, whether it’s in an email or private DM. Those who take the time to say goodbye are offering a gift of closure. Cherish these moments, even if they sting. Because of their infrequency in the digital realm, these goodbyes hold significant value, offering insights and memories to reflect upon. I often screenshot and save these in a special folder to serve as a pseudo-farewell when I need one.
Self-care is Paramount: Tending to a digital flock can be emotionally draining. Prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. Engage in regular self-care routines and consider seeking the guidance of a therapist or a trusted individual to navigate and process complex feelings.
It's (Mostly) Not About You: When someone chooses to leave, it's essential to remember that their departure might not be a reflection of your efforts or abilities. In today's digital world, it's as easy to exit a digital church as it is to unsubscribe from a promotional email. To a majority of the folks who will find your digital church, your presence may be nothing more than another subscription. They could cancel you from their lives like unsubscribing from a department store’s marketing emails. Your mission is not to be another fleeting interest but to create content and community that resonate deeper than fleeting digital engagements.
Strive for Significance: Let each departure be a motivator. Aim to create a community that offers something more impactful and meaningful than the countless digital distractions that vie for people's attention.
Have you developed another coping mechanism or methodology to deal with this issue? Let the community forming here know in the comments, it could be incredibly beneficial to someone who is struggling.
World 1-8 Complete
The journey of shepherding a digital flock is filled with challenges, but it's a path worth treading. Celebrate every connection, thank those who give you closure, and for those who silently drift away, move forward with unwavering dedication. Always remember: "Well done, good and faithful servant." In the digital age, while the medium has changed, the message and mission remain the same. Embrace every moment, thank the ones who say goodbye, and always rise above the transient nature of the digital realm.
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