March 24, 2010
Why I Don't Tweet...
... not that there's anything wrong with it.
Some months ago I sat down for breakfast with Ed Stetzer while we were both in Phoenix for a conference. Afterwards Ed “tweeted” about our meal together and commented that for some inexplicable reason “Skye isn’t on Twitter.” He gave me some playful grief about it on our drive to the conference, and since then others have asked why I don’t Tweet as well. So I decided it was time to finally show my cards.
First of all, I don’t believe Twitter is evil, wrong, or in any way immoral. And I’m not condemning my many friends who love to Tweet. But it’s not for me. Here are the top 10 reasons why I don’t use Twitter (not that there’s anything wrong with it).
My life really isn’t that interesting (and in most cases, neither is yours). Unless you are “The Most Interesting Man in the World” from the Dos Equis commercials, I really don’t care what you’re doing at any particular moment. Let’s be honest, most of life is mundane, ordinary, and routine. I’d rather keep the veil of mystery over my life so that outsiders can construct a far more fascinating picture of my existence with their imaginations.
I don’t like the taste of my own foot. Twitter enables otherwise intelligent people to communicate really foolish things to far too many people much too rapidly. In other words, it’s very easy to Tweet and regret. The first thought that comes to my mind is rarely the thought I want others to see. What can I say? I’m still a Christian under construction.
You cannot delete a Tweet. Last year ABC News anchor Terry Moran posted this Tweet: “Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a ‘jackass’ for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT’S presidential.” Moran deleted the Tweet almost immediately when we discovered the President’s comment was intended to be off-the-record. It was too late. Thousands of people had already copied the post. ABC News has issued apologies and statements about the mishap. Twittering can take a moment, but the regret can last a lifetime.
I don’t want to become a phantom. Lee Siegel in his book Against the Machine, discusses how we hide behind false, “phantom” identities on the internet. It’s a medium we think fosters immediacy and authenticity, but in truth it breeds shallowness. I already feel that with my time on Facebook with my so called “friends.” Twitter takes it to a degree I can’t stomach.
I respect the written word too much to mutilate it. In the church we talk a lot about “gifting”-how we feel God has enabled us to bless others. I believe my gifts are centered around communication--speaking, teaching, writing, editing. It seems that our culture has lost respect for the written word and is continuing to lose its capacity to engage in meaningful communication. Twitter is to thoughtful communication what Skittles are to fine cuisine. Each has its place, but I’ll save my appetite for the filet mignon, thank you.
I don’t need another commitment in my life. To quote Bilbo Baggins, I feel like “too little butter spread over too much bread.” I already check email, Facebook, SkyeBox, Out of Ur, voicemail, snail mail, and a number of other websites with obsessive regularity. Frankly, I don’t want another one filling my mind or time.
I’m tired of obeying marketers. I've been urged to Tweet because of its "marketing potential." No offense to those in the marketing profession, but I’d like to know when we collectively decided to make marketers the high priests of our culture? We listen to them like prophets. Every marketer seems to be singing the praises of Twitter and social media. I’m sure they have a legitimate point, but if I did everything based on its marketing potential … well, it would be a sad existence.
Ashton Kutcher. Any community in which he is the most popular person probably isn’t for me. Enough said.
I suffer from “Terminal Uniqueness.” That’s what my mother calls it. Terminal Uniqueness (T.U.) is a condition that requires one to be immediately skeptical of any popular trend and always find a way to differentiate one’s self from whatever crowd is present at the moment. It is usually fatal.
I already have a witness. In the 2004 film Shall We Dance, one character had a really insightful bit of dialogue:
We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”
We all want our lives to matter, and we believe they only matter if they are noticed by someone. I wonder if this desire for a witness isn’t what fuels a lot of blogs, Facebook, and especially Twitter. We want someone, anyone, to take notice … to care about us … to watch us and by their attention communicate, “You matter. Your life counts.”
If this is one of the hidden motivations behind Twittering, and I think it is, we’re really talking about a spiritual hunger--one that I don’t believe can be satisfied online. Perhaps the most significant reason I don’t Tweet is because I already have a witness for my life--in fact, I have two.
First is my wife. As the quote above points out, our spouse is the person who commits to notice us--the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. Amanda has certainly been that for me. She even knows the stuff I would never, ever consider Tweeting about. Any amount of time I might spend on Twitter, as tiny as it may be, would be better spent fostering this connection with my only “witness” who has committed to the whole enchilada.
Second is, of course, God. Psalm 139 says it best:
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
I believe in God’s economy there is not a single thought, feeling, or moment that is lost. There is nothing that is unseen or unrecorded. As a writer the temptation is to record everything that I believe matters in a journal. We believe that things become real when they are external … on paper, published, posted, or preached. It’s actually been a discipline for me to not journal, but to instead trust that God is indeed with me and witnessing every thought and reflection. My ideas are not lost, and my life really does matter--not because someone read it, heard it, saw it, or Tweeted it, but because God is my witness.
p.s. On the advice of a friend I did register a Twitter account (@skye_jethani) so no one could pretend to be me on the site. I did post one Tweet: "You've become a follower of Skye Jethani. Now find out why I don't Tweet (link to this post)."