I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be a Christian on Twitter. A quick look on Twitter and it seems that I need to be patriotic, think Obama is the Antichrist, quote dead theologians (maybe a little John Piper) or scripture that fits neatly into 140 characters.
I often worry that Twitter like most social media channels, plays on one of our worst human traits, quick emotional reactions. We read and we react (reply, favorite, retweet). We do it over and over again with little or no thought about what we’re actually doing or who we’re actually representing. You see that’s what social media is designed to prevent, that actual stopping and reflecting on what you’re saying.
Think about it for a second, centuries ago we had some of the most important discussions of our time about the founding of our nation. These were long tedious well thought out arguments that took time to craft. Can you imagine Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton actually arguing over the structure of our government via Twitter?
It seems pretty insane, right? So why is it any different when Christians are dealing with serious issues like immigration or poverty? Why is our solution to change our profile picture, add a hashtag to a tweet or worse yet retweet information that we ourselves haven’t even fact checked?
Call me a pessimist, but I think Christians on social media have presented Christianity as a shallow faith. When social media itself is built upon quick reactions and keeping up perceptions (no one looks like their Twitter profile picture in real life), we try to push and shove the story of redemption into 140 characters. Can you imagine Star Wars being told in 140 characters? (Wait… someone’s probably already done that. Let me google it.)
So can social media and Christianity coexist? By “coexist”, I mean is there a way Christianity can be conveyed and demonstrated without it being a series of quotes and images of sunrises? (Side note: Just because you tweet quotes on leadership, doesn’t make you a leader. It means that you know how to copy text from the web.)
I think it can. I think if we began to look at social media from a hyperlocal lens and asked the question “How am I advancing the Kingdom of God in my local community?”, we would find ourselves tweeting and posting differently. We would find ourselves more focused on our neighbor than the atheist 2000 miles away who we’ll never meet.
Maybe the follow up to the question above should be “What’s next?”. So once someone reads your post, what’s the next thing you want them to do? Are you leading them somewhere? Is there a point to what you’re posting? Are you posting to just post?
See, if we ask the question “What’s next?” then we have to think through an actual strategy for what we’re posting. We have to plan to have endgame. We have to start thinking with an end in mind and that’s harder than most of us want to admit.
So what is next? Where do we go from here? Are we stuck tweeting about how our worship band rocks on Sunday morning”? (Personal opinion: Unless, your worship band is fronted by Bruce Springsteen, it probably doesn’t rock.) I’d like to think we’re headed some place different. I want to believe that we’ll get to a place where we stop adding to the noise and instead start listening to people with real stories looking for redemption.