Relationships Undermined by Twitter

Australian politician Ed Husic has signed off Twitter because it is “an accelerant for hyper-partisanship”. Relationships are undermined when you only speak to people in bursts of 140 characters. The Twitter mindset is anathema to consensus building. Can Christians value relationships more than they value cultural practices like Twitter?

Thinking about Twitter, reflect on what practices work against the  relationships that Christ wants us to have with one another.

What does Twitter achieve?

1.  It saves time

Twitter is made for purpose in a world that is information rich and time poor. Sharing information in short, sharp bursts takes very little time to prepare or to take in. With only 140 characters to work with Twittees (is that the word?) can push out information fast. Even a slow reader can take less than a minute to read a Twitter post.

2.  Talking is more important than listening and relationships

A whole new collection of relationships are possible with the ability to deliver and receive information so quickly . Twitter users don’t need to actually know who is at the other end of the “relationship”. The important thing is to get out ones own message. Some people have millions of Twitter followers. Somehow I don’t think they are reading all those replies to their tweets.

3.  Oversimplifies issues

I don’t know too may great ideas that can be conveyed in 140 or less characters. Twitter encourages a lack of subtlety and attention to detail. Hyperbole thrives in the world of sharp and strongly worded tweets.

4.  Encourages aggression and divisiveness

Of course many Twitter users are respectful of their audience and take care not to offend. Yet there are some very well known examples of Twitter users who do not care the least for how readers will experience their tweet. In fact it is the more aggressive and confrontational tweets that get noticed and get responses.

Relationships need the opposite of Twitter

1.  They take the time that is needed

2.  The opinions of others are valued more highly than ones own views

3.  People in relationships understand that issues are complicated

4.  Quality relationships scale down tension and value collaboration

Break with the culture – support relationships

When Ed Husic indicated that he was withdrawing from Twitter people called to ask if he was OK. He was told how foolish he was in withdrawing from such an important tool of communication. To his credit Mr Husic said that the down side of Twitter was worse than any upside. Describing Twitter as a “bully pulpit” and a medium that fuels “outrage and argument” he quit.

Can Christians who value relationships within the family of Jesus be as brave as Mr Husic? Can we abandon the dominant practices of our culture when they do not serve to build up the body of Christ. Or do we fret that if we do not use the ways of the world then we will not get our message out?

I am not talking about Twitter here. There are many culturally accepted practices in the church that hold too many Christians in their thrall. They do so even when they oppose Christian values and character. Yet many Christians continue with them because they think they will lose influence, power and connections if they abandon them.

Far too many Christians embrace the aggressive practices of contemporary politics. They belittle, attack, lie and manipulate because that is the way to get things done. The way that the world works has infected the church.

Do you have the courage to break with the culture? If you understand that taking a political approach to church problems is at odds with the gospel – are you brave enough to leave that approach behind? If you do then people will wonder if you are OK. Some will say that you are a fool. Others will assure you that your enemies will step in and fill  the vacuum that you have left behind.

Resurrection requires a death. New life comes after an ending. Christ’s hope, and the discipleship to which we are called, needs us to take up a cross. The cross that the church needs to take up now is the abandonment of the way in which the world deals with difference and to carry – in risk and suffering – the cross of Christ’s way.

 

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Author: Terence

I am a Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia. My current ministries focus on consultancy and teaching about consensus based decision-making, mediation, governance training and professional supervision for Ministers. I am co-author of the book “The Church Guide For Making Decisions Together”. I live on the beautiful Far South Coast of NSW from where I undertake ministry across the globe. Contact me at terence@makingchurchdecisions.com

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