The phone rang, as it does throughout the day in the offices of First Presbyterian Church. Lynn, our office administrator, was on the other line in the office next to me, so I picked up the phone. First Presbyterian Church, this is Steve.
A pause, then a stumbling voice: Steve....uhh, are you okay?
Odd way to start a phone conversation. I assured him I was. It was a church member on the line, one who runs a local business in town. For some reason he seemed genuinely concerned about my welfare this morning.
Yes, Bob, I'm fine, thanks! How are you?
I'm doing okay. I was just worried - I read the email.
You may be asking the same question I did: What email?
He went on to tell me that an email was circulating around the community that morning about me - that I had fallen ill, that I was in the hospital recovering from some unknown illness, and that me, my family and my church needed to be kept in everyone's prayers. This, of course, was news to me.
I've got the email right here, Bob said. Want me to forward it?
While I was waiting for the email to make its way through, I shared with Lynn the weird developing story of my mysterious hospital visit. Then the phone rang. It was from someone else calling to the church to see what was wrong with me. They had gotten the email too. News - even incorrect - spreads fast.
I heard the "ping" of my email inbox and found Bob's forwarded message. The subject line read: "Informational Update on Rev. Steve Lindsley's health and wellness." Oh boy.
I understand that Steve Linsley, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, checked into Forsyth Hospital about 7:00 AM today. When you talk with other staff members today, They may like to know this. You may need to call FPC for update. I got this off of Facebook today.
That was the initial email, which was then forwarded by its recipient to God-knows-how many people. Now Bob's phone call and the one that followed made sense - as well as the third one that came in while I was reading the email. What didn't make sense was where someone had gotten the idea that I was sick and had gone to the hospital.
I got this off of Facebook today. Who in the world would post something on Facebook about me being in the hospital? I mean, I had been there earlier that morning to visit a church member who had gone in the previous night, but....
Like a lot of Facebookers and smart-phone users, I use a little app called Foursquare to "check in" at various places. It lets folks in the social media world know where I am. Almost always I'll leave a comment explaining what I'm up to: Checking in on a church member. Visiting an old friend. But for some reason I didn't that morning when I opened Foursquare on my iphone.
So this is what appeared in my Facebook news feed for all to see:
Lesson learned: in the social media world, always leave a comment explaining what you're doing when you "check in" at a hospital. And be thankful for the kindness and concern of people who call to check on you if you don't.