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.


  1. The best thing I have found on Twitter is the many links to Catholic articles that very much worth reading. It is a whole other open door.

  2. My favorite things have been the daily quotes I get from C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. Particularly MacDonald, whose potent, Spirit-filled writings have borne me through some times of challenge.

  3. "It's only for people who think they're important."

    I have felt this way about most of social media for the last few years, yet I participate. I am a "wannabe Luddite" in many regards.

    I had to take a break from the Twitterverse for a spell. Just 2 months but a needed break. If one isn't careful (and I am seldom careful, so yeah...)the chattering noise of this particular iteration of social media can be quite unsettling. I appreciate the links to articles and news stories I can find there. I suppose it's a bit like an RSS feed on steroids for me.

    I have lately chronicled my own journey through certain strains of Anglicanism, Conditionalism and the Prayer Book on my Twitter feed, sharing a link to what I'm reading/listening to with others. I've found the Twitter interaction was at first helpful. Now I'm a bit indifferent to it so I've been more sporadic on linking the BoCP readings.

  4. The thing about twitter is curating who you're following and interacting.

    You can have a terrible experience or a thought-provoking experience; you can suddenly find yourself in an incredibly meaningful conversation, or caught up in a meaningless exchange of puns.

    On the other hand, the noise can become deafening, and I'm not sure whether its worth allowing so much space to all those voices.

  5. Warwick: That's exactly the approach to Twitter that's recommended, I know, I know. That's why it exists. And it's the approach that's most likely to yield coherent exchange.

    But approaching it as formless chaos is actually rather more entertaining.