Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Forty Days in the Twitterness

I have a low tolerance for twitter, one I share with my teenage children and most of their friends.  "Why would you even be on twitter," my teen son asked.  "It's only for people who think they're important."

It's always felt like chaos to me, a swirling miasma of fragmented conversations and bumpersticker-length teasers.   Spending time there feels vaguely like one of those times I'd be sitting in front of the TV as a child, late at night.  My asthma would have woken me, and in the absence of anything to do, I'd plop down in front of the tube and watch until the broadcast day ended.

And then there'd be the National Anthem.  And then static.  Just plain old noise.

Funny thing, though.  If you watch static long enough, your chest heaving for breath as your bronchioles slowly return to normal, you can see patterns in it.  There are whorls and spirals, as your mind tries to etch shape and meaning into the fuzz and pop of no-thingness.

Twitter feels like static, if you get all contemplative on it.  That means following broadly, following deeply, listening to the whole thing.  It's being in a room full of Pentecostals, all aglow with the Spirit, filling the air with an indescribable juddering chatter-din.  It's the hissing of wind through dry leaves.

It makes me feel a bit scattered, a bit torn, this shapeless thing.   It's a desert place.  It is tohu wabohu.  But even that can serve God's purposes, I remind myself.

And in this season of preparation, being b'midbar is a worthy thing.   So where others are fleeing their social media addictions and taking a break from the noise, it is into the noise that I will go.

On Ash Wednesday, I returned to my twitter account, and opened my ears, and begun to listen.   That listening begins with following, compulsively and relentlessly.   I've pored through the 140 character descriptor tags of hundreds and hundreds of tweeps, reduced to keywords and pithy descriptors.   If twitter suggests someone, I'll follow them, and then I'll follow the people who follow them, until the trickle becomes a roar.   I limit it, my following.  No empty eggs or nonpersons.  And I'm time delimiting it, because I must for my own sanity.

Will there be a signal in all of that noise?  What whispers will rise from the static?

It'll be...interesting.