I am going to pull the plug on Twitter and Facebook. I am not going to delete my account on either one, but I am going to stop updating them.
I wrote my first “tweet” on January 28, 2008… and then did not tweet again for more than a year. This May I started tweeting with some consistency. I also began using Facebook when I realized that I could use TweetDeck to update Facebook and Twitter at the same time. To be fair, there have been many things I have enjoyed about using Twitter and Facebook. I have a connection with many people I might not otherwise know. I have also been able to keep up to date on what is happening in the lives of some friends I don’t see as often as I would like to. What felt like the most sophisticated moment in my tweeting life was when I set up a meeting for coffee with a friend while in Tulsa.
Occasionally I would read a tweet that was too sarcastic for my liking, or expressed a total lack of understanding of a position it was uncharitably attacking. However, for the most part I was a convert to the world of tweets and twitpics and ReTweets (though it took me awhile to figure out what RT meant). I know that I was a convert because those words stopped sounding silly to me. I didn’t bat an eye when Derek Webb referred to his followers as “Tweeples” or when someone else referred an in person meeting of “tweeters” as a “Tweet-up.”
But a few nights ago, as I was trying to go to sleep, my mind was bouncing back and forth from one thing to another. I’m not sure exactly how or why, but I began thinking about the frustration I felt the week before in trying to get back into the rhythm of reading and studying after a week of vacation. Throughout the week I felt distracted and struggled to concentrate. (I also during the day almost always had TweetDeck running on my desktop.) Twitter and Facebook began to look like things that were not valuable, or at least neutral tools. They began to look like unhealthy distractions that had contributed to my lack of focus. As I fell asleep, I came to the conclusion that I needed to pull the plug on Twitter and Facebook. Here are a few reasons why:
First, my ability to concentrate for extended periods of time seemed to decrease the more actively I used Twitter and Facebook. This is what bothers me the most and is the main reason I am pulling the plug. Obviously this is a problem for someone who is working on a Ph.D. However, I hope it would bother me if I were still the pastor of a local church. I am convinced that the ability to carefully read and think about the argument of a well written book (like the Bible!) is an important, though underrated, virtue that is worth cultivating. I feel that I have been awakened to the ways that my consumption of technology really is shaping the way my mind works.
Second, in my personal experience, I have not often seen Twitter or Facebook used in ways that advance discussions about the most important or most controversial issues that are facing the church. Instead, I sometimes felt that people were using these media to take cheap shots at their opponents and to set up straw men. These are not conversations that I find it helpful to be a part of.
Third, while I have on many occasions enjoyed being able to read an update from someone I have not spoken to in a while (it is great to see wedding pictures, or a picture of an old friend’s first child), I have not found Twitter or Facebook to be media that lead to forming or sustaining meaningful relationships. In fact at times I have felt that Twitter and Facebook allow me to have the illusion that I am keeping in touch with someone, when in fact I am really just eavesdropping (with their permission) on the highlights of their lives. In other words, I may not feel as strong of a need to actually call up my old friend and find out what has been going on with them, because I feel like I already know. But the things they might most need to talk about could very well be things that they would not write updates about on Facebook.
Here is a quick example that illustrates what I am trying to get at: People write updates and often post pictures when they get married or have a child. However, they hardly ever do the same thing when they get divorced or have a miscarriage. I think Facebook and Twitter can actually lead us to invest less in some friendships. As a result, we fail to support each other when we need it most. It can even be, perhaps unintentionally, a way of insulating ourselves from the pain and suffering in one another’s lives.
Fourth, during the time that I was active in using Twitter and Facebook I was less active and consistent in blogging. I rarely felt like I had something important to tweet about, but I often did it because I hadn’t updated in awhile. For me, blogging cultivates the kind of disciplined focus on one topic that is beneficial to me personally and which I hope has a beneficial contribution to make to those surfing the internet.
So there it is, that is why I am pulling the plug on Twitter and Facebook. I hope that I will be able to blog more regularly as a result. And I hope that you will continue participating in the conversation by commenting here.
Finally, I would like to clarify that I am not writing this to make you feel guilty or like you need to defend your use of Twitter and/or Facebook. I am sure that there are many positives which I have not thought of or experienced. I am sure there are valid reasons to use these media. Yet, as I have written this post the phrase in 1 Corinthians 10 has been repeating itself in my mind: “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” I am open to the possibility that I will become convinced that the positives do outweigh the negatives, and that as a result I will plug back in. But for now, for me, Twitter and Facebook may be lawful, but they are not beneficial.