My mind has changed about the value of Twitter over this past year. I have to say that Twitter has been a blessing to my learning in very significant ways. Granted, much depends who you follow in determining whether what you are learning may be worthwhile. But I have found much value in connecting with authors and organizations, friends, leading thinkers of the day, as well as new people who I learn of through their connections and retweets. Think of it this way – those of you still reading this post and who have read the Nurturing Faith blog in the past may find things that are of use in this blog – that is why you read it. In a sense you are following my mind and what I am thinking about, what I am discovering, what I am pondering, and understanding what I believe. Twitter allows us to follow the stream of consciousness of others that we want to connect with and learn from on a daily basis. In that sense, it is not at all unlike those disciples who followed Jesus and learned from him daily – we choose who we want to follow and be influenced by.
With Twitter I am able to learn of new things as they come out – new articles, books, ideas that are being formed, events happening in the world, discussions that are going on, ideas that are gaining steam. I don’t have to wait until a book is published by one of my favorite authors or until a blog post appears. It is very egalitarian in that I can connect with anyone who shares a particular interest, with people that in the past I might have been hesitant or intimidated to do so in person. Everyone is learning together. There is also the instant communication aspect – on a recent retweet this thought was expressed by a Twitter user from Egypt as they reflected on the power and use of social media in the uprising: “isteconnects: power of SM: “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world” – Cairo activist #edchat”. Twitter was used as not only an instant way for the participants to connect, but to share out to the world, through individuals such as Andy Carvin of NPR (see below), the raw content and updates of what was happening on a moment to moment basis. It increased my compassion level and prayers for those in this situation.
One of the things that I find to be true about Twitter is that is can be more authentic than other forms of communication like books or articles. By reading someone’s tweets, you can see their heart come through in ways that are not quite as clear in more formal venues such as books or articles. You can understand a bit more of what makes them tick, what they value, what excites or upsets them. Some of this authenticity can get edited out of more formal publishing or the author is more reserved due to the perceived permanence of the printed word. Yes, tweeters should be aware that tweets also have a permanence and can be read later by an interested party. Twitter can also certainly be a channel for self-promotion, but if this is overdone, readers can quickly tire of it and a person can lose respect and credibility.
Twitter definitely is not meant to be a vehicle to be used instead of face to face interactions – while it helps to connect across distances and allows us to form/maintain relationships, we can’t experience the fullness of the actual “presence” of others. Like other technology tools, it has its place and must be used wisely. In the bigger picture, it has been an amazing spur to my learning and curiosity. When I am learning and reflecting back to the source of truth, I believe I am experiencing just a bit more of who God has created me to be as his imagebearer and sensemaker in his world.