Fact: Twitter is taking over the world. I know this because last week my sister, my mother, and one of my little brothers began tweeting. My little brother I can see, because he’s pretty techy, and my sister’s stylish and trendy, so I can understand her joining as well. But you know something’s ubiquitous when your mom joins up. (Love you, Mom!)
Therefore, with almost all of my family members tweeting, I thought I would help them enter the world of Twitter wisely and purposefully by explaining some of the benefits and downfalls of Twitter. After six months of using it, I’ve learned why I should have joined up on day one, and also why I’m glad I didn’t.
REASONS TO JOIN TWITTER’S TAKEOVER
- Connection. True, it’s only a cyber-meeting, but you can make connections with people you never knew existed. I’ve met a few people with whom I’ve had back-and-forths about writing and media, and a co-worker has gotten freelance jobs. Maurilio Amorim (who I found on Twitter) recently wrote about meeting a Twitter follower in Prague. Twitter enables you to connect with people of like mind, profession, and interests.
- Learning. I used to think, “I already post a status update on Facebook. I don’t have enough to say for two places.” But the secret is, Twitter isn’t about you (mostly). From Twitter’s About page:
[Y]ou don’t have to tweet to enjoy Twitter. Whether you tweet 100 times a day or never, you still have access to the voices and information surrounding what interests you. You can contribute, or just listen in and retrieve up to the second information.
I joined Twitter for freelance video, but quickly found myself focusing more on creative writing. After seven months, I’ve compiled a list of people who consistently write and/or tweet links to articles about the writing craft. As I’ve sought to cultivate my craft of writing, these articles have been invaluable. And I’ve definitely learned a lot about media as well.
REASONS TO AVOID THE TAKEOVER
- Time. Unless you are very self-disciplined, Twitter will quickly swallow your time. I dove headlong into reading blogs and articles and found myself easily staying up till 2am. And there’s always something more to read. Someone somewhere is always posting something. You can literally spend all day reading that article and surfing this blog and perusing those pictures and hey, check out this new cool review of the latest iPad app!
- Shorter attention span.After a few months of Twitter, I had to fight to pay attention. I became accustomed to skimming down the Twitter stream, glancing at links until one caught my attention. When I finally went to read an article, I found myself skimming the paragraphs as well. If it was a particularly long article, I would either skip to the punch line or stop reading altogether.Shane Hipps wrote in the printed September/October 2010 issue of Relevant Magazine:
If you make it to the end of this article, you are an impressive and rare breed of human—an intellectual Navy SEAL, an elite mind, trained with an ability most people just don’t have anymore: the ability to sustain concentration over long periods of time. The ability to endure a mental marathon involving the unnatural act of decoding thousands of abstract meaningless squiggly shapes, which are somehow arranged to create meaning—also known as reading.
But not just any kind of reading—the kind of reading reserved only for an endangered species: a lengthy monologue of unbroken paragraphs. There are no pithy sayings, no bullet points, no status updates, no hyperlinks, no place for you to comment.
The moment I started reading the first paragraph of the article, I was tempted to stop and move on. But Shane threw down the gauntlet: “I bet you can’t finish this article.” So of course I did. And it showed me once more how Twitter has shortened my attention span. I have to consciously choose to actually read a full article and stick with it, even if my brain isn’t instantly tickled.
Technology is a valuable tool, but also a hideous mirror. Twitter isn’t bad in and of itself; it’s just a tool, like a hammer or screwdriver. The abuse of a tool comes from its user. Twitter (and the internet entire) sucks up my time because of my lack of self-discipline and reveals my tendency for laziness and inattention. These tendencies can quickly become harmful habits if unchecked.
And here’s the kicker: these habits will affect my relationship with Jesus. I don’t want to merely skim through the Bible, paying attention only when I’m interested or moving on to something else when I’m bored. I don’t want to become fidgety after just a few minutes in prayer. Our world is so full of information and activity that the very idea of stillness at the feet of Jesus terrifies us.
Enjoy the benefits of Twitter, but be aware of the effect it has on you. Decide beforehand how much time you will spend surfing the feed and reading links. Make the conscious decision to stay focused even if you’re a little bored. Doing these things will help Twitter be a wonderful addition to your life—and no more than that.
Or, as Shane said at the end of his article (yes, I made it to the end, and congrats if you made it this far): “If we learn to wake up and understand, perhaps we’ll be able to use [technology] rather than be used by them.”
Photo from IconArchive