Is twitter the next best marketing and networking tool, or merely another way for that annoying guy at work to brag about his mundane life?
It’s really up to you.
Dustin’s post about the iphone-skype marriage reminded me of what Os Guinness had to say at a recent conference on Francis Schaeffer. Guinness spent a fair amount of time discussing the largely unexamined aspects of technology. He argued that our uncritical acceptance of the idea that more machines make a better society has ultimately made it more difficult for us to spread the Gospel; for one thing, there is so much “background noise” in our daily lives that it is difficult to hear Truth when it is spoken. Our culture-wide addiction to newer and faster sources of knowledge has not made us more knowledgeable so much as it has made us more inattentive. Everyone speaks, and no one listens… just like in the video at the top of this post. It’s not easy to share the Gospel with people who don’t know how to listen well.
Twitter is a prime example of the problem Guinness was addressing. (If you don’t know what twitter is, there’s a pretty good summary of it here.) Depending on who you follow, twitter can be terribly “noisy” in the harmful way that Guinness warned about. There’s an awful lot of content-free self promotion (“Visit my blog!” “I need a girlfriend!” “Download my knitting podcast!”). And there are plenty of people who tweet boring details about their lives (“I like cheese!” “I’m eating an old TV dinner!”).
Narcissists abound on twitter, though as Abraham Piper said,
Conversations with narcissists-whether at the church, bar, or computer-will feel narcissistic.
It’s who you’re talking to that matters, not where.
As our ability to easily interact with more people in more places increases, it’s easy for us to get spread too thin; to have many shallow relationships instead of a few solid relationships. Twitter is dangerous in this way for some people, but it doesn’t have to be bad for everyone.
The key to avoiding selfish and inane “conversation” is to not follow the people who offer it – and to not be one of those people yourself.
Guinness had some strong critiques of modern technology, but he didn’t say that it should not be used; instead, he suggested that when we come across something new we should:
1. Discern it – what are we dealing with?
2. Assess it – is it good? Bad? Useful? Dangerous?
3. Engage it – if it’s useful, use it. If dangerous, don’t.
Twitter can be good or bad, useful or dangerous depending on how you use it. If it replaces your offline interaction with people, that’s probably bad, though not all online relationships are necessarily bad. If it encourages you to indulge your own selfish desires for self-importance, that’s also bad. If, on the other hand, your online interaction sparks good relationships and discussion offline, that can be good. It can also be a very useful source of information and a fantastic place to network; again, this depends on who you choose to follow.
What do you guys think? If you are on twitter, how do you use it? What positive and negative aspects do you see? These questions can also be applied to facebook… perhaps especially now that their new layout is trying so hard to mimic twitter. ‘