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.