Time to Talk
I deleted my Twitter account today. I had been a Twitter-er or a tweet-er or whatever the right term is for just under two months during which I produced a grand total of fifty-five tweets.
I apologize to both of my followers.
Now, the logical and entirely understandable response to this momentous “announcement” would be something like, “Um, who cares?” But that is the beauty of having a blog, you see. I can write about all kinds of things that ordinary people don’t really care about. And by writing about these things I can imagine that I am lending all kinds of ideological/cultural/theological significance to all kinds of relatively trivial matters. It’s really a win-win for me.
There are a number of reasons that I decided to take this step that will undoubtedly leave the Internet reeling and staggering into the void created by my absence on Twitter. These reasons range from the mundane to the (kind of… maybe…) significant. Beginning with the former, my brief Twitter experiment yielded the unsurprising revelation that I am entirely too wordy for this mode of communication. On a number of occasions, I would be eagerly pounding away on my keyboard, excited to share some gem that I had discovered or thought of with Internet land, and I would look down and see those mocking red words that indicate when you’ve gone over 140 characters. I would then furrow my brow, try (and usually fail) to edit my tweet down to the appropriate size, before giving up in self-righteous exasperation. It’s just so hard for one’s genius to pour forth when faced with the irritating constraints of social media!!
It’s hard to say something that matters in 140 characters. At least it’s hard for me. Others seem able to post all kinds of witty, profound and hilarious things multiple times a day. But not me. I am not a natural tweeter, it seems. Towards the end of my little Twitter experiment, the only tweets that were showing up were the automatic ones generated by WordPress when a new blog post went up. Given the fact that there are already a gazillion or so tweets being generated every day, I figured nobody would notice a few less.
On a more serious level, though, I don’t think that ours is a culture that really needs more sound-byte sized, context-free spurts of communication flying around the ether twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We are already drowning in data, hyperlinks, commentary, etc. We are already becoming less patient, more demanding, and quicker with our words than ever before. At least this is how it seems to me. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by words and opinions, comments and reactions, criticisms and salvos. Our world is awash in words, but I fear that we are losing the ability to have truly meaningful conversations—conversations that actually honour and respect the other even (or especially) when that other happens not to share our views.
Our national denomination is currently engaged in a multi-year conversation about human sexuality, biblical interpretation, and how we discern difficult issues together as a community. Some people have asked me why it’s taking us so long to “make a decision” on this. I don’t know if or how we will actually “make a decision,” but at the very least I admire the fact that we are taking the time to talk. Or at least to create a space where talking (and listening and truly hearing) could, theoretically, happen. Especially when it comes to divisive issues like this, it’s so easy to just lob bombs (or bible verses) across an apparently unbridgeable chasm at one another. It’s so easy to just trade in cheap sloganeering and quick insults rather that patiently, attentively, compassionately, and humbly choosing our words, listening, asking for clarification, trying again, attempting to nuance, and deciding in advance that the person (or people) we are speaking with are more important than the issue under discussion.
We need to take more, not less care with how, when, and where we speak.
So, in a world of quick and easy words, in an online culture that so often trades in reactionary, insulting, and careless communication, I have decided to give myself one less opportunity to screw up (gosh, that sounds profound!). I mean no judgment on Twitter devotees in making these comments (well, maybe just a little bit of judgment). I imagine there are probably ways to use Twitter responsibly and effectively. I’m evidently just not patient or resourceful enough to figure out what these ways might be. And, as it happens, I have enough other areas in my life crying out for patience and resourcefulness. I can’t afford to spread myself too thin.
I’m with you on the slow down… for me, it’s a tension… there are some things that I feel like I need to have done quickly via the ‘net… and other things that I think would be best served with longer contemplation and such…
Our denomination here in the USA is entering into a similar conversation and I wonder if there’s pressure from both sides to “Let’s get this decided and overwith so we can move on.”… and I wonder if that’s the wrong mindset… there’s a lot of people with a lot invested and rushing through something this important and critical is going to end up causing a lot of pain if it’s not done with care.
Sometimes, the pain is avoided by quick work… like removing a self-sticking bandage from a scratch… one swift move and brief pain and it’s done.
Other times, though, the pain is avoided by slow, deliberate labor… like an arthritic grandfather making the trek out to the goat shed to milk the goats in -20C weather… better to move slow, get the work done slowly, than breaking bones or spilling milk
I agree, Robert. Rushing—especially on something like this—is the wrong way to go. If ever there was a time and a place and a conversation where we ought to be countercultural, this would seem to be it.
(That’s quite a metaphor, incidentally. I grimaced as I read it 🙂 )
Every now and then I am overcome by the feeling that I “should” have a Twitter account, but manage to talk myself out of it. I appreciate this account of your experiment, because it affirms precisely what I think would be my issues with Twitter.
Keep talking yourself out of it, in my (not so) humble opinion 🙂 .
Yeah… you’re still clearing your throat at 140 characters, Ryan. You need a larger canvas for your artistry. Oops, mixed metaphor! Tim Keller is great on Twitter with pithy epigrams.
“A larger canvas for my artistry…” Yes, I like that. Sounds so much better than “doesn’t know when to stop.” 🙂
I followed Tim Keller during my two month Twitter foray. I enjoyed what he had to say, for the most part. One of the other things I found difficult about Twitter was the disconnected nature of these little spurts of text. The profound and inspiring mixed and mingled with the utterly banal and offensively trivial, all in one never-ending stream of text and links. It’s the same thing on Facebook, I know, but it felt somehow even more disjointed and incoherent on Twitter, for some reason.
Twitter Alert: sorry to break-in like this guys, but Justin Bieber was just arrested in Toronto for allegedly assaulting a preacher or something.
The fact that Justin Bieber makes the news (never mind the unspeakably awful nature of his “music”) is a sign that Western civilization is on the verge of collapse.
Agronomists are prolific users of Twitter
I’m sure Twitter has its uses—I can imagine it would be a good tool for sending out quick updates, etc in the agricultural world.
I enjoy Twitter for quick news updates, following blogs, and making new connections with people. It’s actually because of the noise –“an online culture that so often trades in reactionary, insulting, and careless communication” as you put it — that I always appreciate those voices within it that communicate faith with care and clarity. But the short form of micro-blogging isn’t for everyone, and I’ll continue to enjoy and learn from your posts here.
Yes, such voices are certainly present on Twitter, April. I, too, am glad for these voices (including yours, incidentally), even if I evidently don’t have the patience to wade through the others to find them 🙂 .
Thanks for your kind words.