I read an article in the New York Times about the popularity of tweets (Twitter posts/updates for those non-users) from Christians who post inspiring or supposedly meaningful phrases in 160 characters or less. The article, entitled “Twitter Dynamos, Offering Word of God’s Love” appeared in the @nytimes June 2, 2012 print copy and online in their technology section.
The tweets that have gained popularity are those that are uplifting or inspiring. Often, popular religious Twitter users, who gain massive amounts of “followers,” quote lines from the Bible that resonate with Christians or really any human who is seeking some type of fulfillment or encouragement. The idea of Twitter and personal fulfillment is quite interesting. What is it that people find rewarding from feel-good and cliche phrases that are often more empty than fulfilling?
Don’t get me wrong. There are short proverbial phrases that are valuable and various social media outlets can be good tools for communicating and networking. I use Twitter and other social media outlets to ask questions, pose thoughts, or connect (as shallow as it may be) with other thinkers and writers around the earth. Twitter is my primary source for links to news, video, information about publications, book releases, direct trade coffee, and European footballers’ contracts, strategies, and statistics. My concern is that the modern, popular expression and understanding of Christianity becomes cheapened to quotable one-liners that promote the acceptance of a therapeutic form of religion that does not represent the person of Jesus.
One other danger rests in the act of reading about Christianity and social justice initiatives and a consequent feeling like we’re somehow involved in the goodness of the world. How might we use social media outlets as a means of connectivity and resourcing while not compromising the call to be followers of Jesus, representing compassion and enacting theology? Is it possible to responsibly engage in Christian formation via Twitter? How might we most effectively shape our culture in a world of instantaneous, mass, online-social communication?