Vanity, 140 characters at a time.

Two (possibly contradictory) thoughts regarding social media (and Twitter in particular):

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I was all set to blast him.

I spent a few minutes crafting what I knew was the perfect, 140-character jeremiad against a political party leader. It was rueful. It was accusatory. It would surely be seen and echoed by others, gaining “likes” and “retweets.”

As my thumb hovered over the “send” button, I imagined this person somehow picking this tweet out amidst the thousands of social media comments he was surely receiving, reading it, and being struck by its truth and resonance.

And then I thought, “Wait–what if he does read this? What if this is the only interaction I’ll ever have with the man? Is this the impression I want to leave?”

I wrestled for a second…then deleted my perfectly-sharpened rhetorical barb.

Go ahead and laugh. I agree, it’s a patently ridiculous thought that my comment would be the one needle in the digital haystack that would actually scratch its intended target. But let’s bring it back down to earth a bit.

Rather than a major political figure, how about the random person on Twitter whom I have the chance to interact with sometime? In that one interaction, how would I want to be perceived? And would they be able to tell what I value?

If you knew that your only interaction with a person would be via 140-character messages, what would you say? More importantly, what wouldn’t you say?

The person you’re @-tweeting to, even if they’re a celebrity or political power player, is a real person with a living soul. Not just a face or a name or a persona.  A real person. (I know, I know, I’ve talked about this before.)

I guess I’m bringing up all this to say, sometimes I can be too much of a keyboard-cowboy. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m nobody from nowhere, and that Jesus is the only person who matters. Sometimes I need to be thumped in the head by the fact that every careless word I speak (or type) matters to God (Matt. 12:33-37). If I remembered that every time I pulled up Twitter, it would motivate me to represent Him better in that medium.

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On the other hand: If I’m not using social media for specifically spiritual purposes, am I guilty of sin?

A Twitter-buddy of mine posted a brave question the other day: “Based on the majority of my social media content, what do you think I value most?” From what I could tell, some of the answers he received disappointed him a little. I have to give him props for even asking the question. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the answers I’d get, especially lately.

That question may be useful as a litmus test for checking for secret idolatries–the tendency we sinful creatures have to value things far more than they are due and make them more important in our lives than they should be (what the sages call “disordered passions”).

But I think the answers we get to that question may be a little misleading, as well, due to the nature of social media itself, and how we use it.  Often, I use social media to connect to people who enjoy the things I enjoy, and get excited about the same aspects of art and culture that I do. So it wouldn’t be outlandish to notice a large part of my interactions on social media are about just that: movies, music, TV, sports, politics, books.

However, what you see on Twitter or even on this blog isn’t the totality of my energies and thoughts. It may give indications, sure, and I should take those clues  seriously. But there’s more going on than what we see on-screen, even when it comes to ourselves.

All this to say: If your whole life (both online and offline) is consumed with temporary things, then pay attention. Re-adjust. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and get your head on straight.

But if you tweet or post about Steve Rogers, Barry Allen, and Jake Arietta because the only people you know who would be interested in discussing these heroic figures are friends on the internet? Well, I don’t think that’s an indication that your heart’s grown cold to the things of Christ.

But what do I know. Maybe I’m another frog in the pot with you.

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Like I said–possibly contradictory. This is the push-pull that I feel when it comes to this issue. I want to represent Jesus well with my words and actions. But I enjoy this life He’s given me, with all its temporary pleasures and unimportant joys. Baseball and comic books and board games and karaoke with friends–these are all gifts from God. I am thankful to Him for them. And on social media, I geek out about all these silly things. I don’t think that’s wrong, as long as these unimportant things don’t crowd out the Main Thing in my life.

Ironically, last night, after I finished the first draft of this post, my wife suggested that we both take a step back from media involvement for a bit, to focus some extra energy on spiritual things. For her, that’s mainly TV. For me, it’s social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter).  She’s right. It would be good to take a break. Regroup. Focus on weighty things.

 

I will try to get back to regular Monday – Wednesday – Friday blog posting, next week. I just won’t be as visible on other platforms for a little while.

Have a good weekend, friends. Jesus is Lord. Give Him the glory due His name.

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