Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
In this world of immediate communication; Twitter and Facebook on our mobile phones, information at our fingertips all the time, people demanding our attention and conversation becoming more and more quick and short (140 characters to be precise!) the temptation for us is to watch what we type. I have fallen down this month and I want to take this opportunity to publicly seek forgiveness and in doing so hope to remind myself and maybe some of you to watch what we type
I love Twitter. As a means of communication it is useful and easy. I am able to keep in touch with friends, colleagues and, let’s be honest, famous people in a non obtrusive, but equally as creepy way. I like to do this partly to keep my curiosity at bay but also for prayer. I made a promise to myself, which I try to keep, that I follow people who I want to pray for. As I scan my feed at random times in the day I’ll pray for some issues that are around for people. Do they know that I’m doing this? Probably not as I don’t tell them*.
My friend challenged me by asking why I don’t follow all the people who follow me. My reply to that is I can’t cope with my feed being inundated with updates and information because then the prayerful part of my use of Twitter will be lost. The truth is if you have too much information you can’t take in any information; filters stop working if they’re bombarded and over worked.
My issue with Twitter is that, despite my best intentions, it doesn’t lend itself as a source of prayer points and, to be honest, when you’re already holding a lot of people in prayer (and as a parish minister that’s a lot of people!) it can be overwhelming. At the point of exhaustion routine kicks in and my hand naturally clicks on my smart phones screen and I enter the Twitter sphere without thinking and download the information into my head and I’m just surfing on the data not holding them in prayer.
Without a second thought, the other day, I read an article entitled “Colo. Megachurch Pastor: Hype vs. Holy Spirit” from The Christian Post. As I read it, it struck me that, although my natural instinct is to retreat from hype, publicity, use of the sales techniques of the secular world to push Jesus on people, what if God wants to use that? Everything in me wants to reject the Jesus as consumer product and allow Him to reveal Himself in people’s lives and for us to name His presence and actions but I cannot deny the need to have contact with people in order for that to happen. For that contact we need meeting points and in a world where meeting points are becoming less and less common, we need to publicise.
This wrestling and balancing act has been a source of friendly banter between a friend and I and in that banter we have polarised the conversation; he being the big megachurch loving pastor and me the hippy, organic small community friar. Although I know that my friend is much more nuanced than the caricature that I sometimes portray him as, it is often quicker and easier to talk to him as that two dimensional figure.
Twitter, as a tool, leads me, at times, to forget the nuance of people and know people as two dimensional caricature. So what is my sin? I have used Twitter as the only source of communication with my friend… no; I have not communicated with my friend but with this persona I have seen him as through Twitter.
I sent him the article above and asked: ‘any opinions?’ For once, I genuinely wanted to know his opinion; I was not in a jokey, bantering mood, but was challenged and wanted to hear a counter argument, my friend being someone who may be able to give a measured balance. Quite rightly he recieved that tweet as another discouraging, faux mocking comment from an equally caricatured profile on Twitter. This is what happens when we only communicate through this shortened form of relationship. This is why we need to reflect on how we use communication and how it shapes us and our relationships.
My friend, for good reasons, blocked me on Twitter so that he feels he can now tweet without fear or expectation of a cutting remark from his ‘so called friend’. This means, however, that I can no longer follow his progress, his ministry and his life and have points of prayer for him and his family. This is the worst part of this situation. A major channel of relationship with him has been severed and it is harder for me to maintain communion with him (communion in the ontological sense of the word.) My sin has done that and for that I seek, most humbly, forgiveness.
I have apologised to my friend through a longer form of communication and hope that he will find the strength to forgive his foolish friend. I hope that this will teach me and remind me how important it is to watch how I use Twitter (and Facebook for that matter.) My friend explained that he doesn’t think that Twitter is the right form of communication for us. Maybe he’s right but what is our alternative? The truth is Twitter is a good tool for social relationships. True, it is not the only nor should it be the only form of connection with people but it is useful for the reminder of those people you care about.
How do you use Twitter? Have you experienced the pitfalls of this tool? How do you protect yourself from it?