Twitter is everywhere these days. People ask me often: “Why are you on Twitter?”
Twitter is not for everyone (most people who set up a free Twitter account quit within the first month) but it can be a fantastic tool that, if used appropriately, can have provide incredible benefits. (If you don’t know what Twitter is or who all the hype is about, check out this short video explanation). As I’ve mentioned here before, I like it much better than Facebook. And I truly believe that the difference between a positive Twitter experience and a negative one depends upon two things: (a) what you want out of Twitter and (b) following the right people.
It must be used in moderation. A good thing taken too far is always a bad thing. I’ve found that for me its the right balance to follow about 80 or less people (any more than that it gets overwhelming and I can’t stay in top of it all). Some follow thousands of people and I don’t know how they do it (or maybe they don’t?) And of course, it needs to be said that face to face interaction is the most essential and significant form of interaction. We have a saying at Renew that life is best lived face-to-face. That’s the priority. If viritual interaction is eclipsing human interaction its unhealthy, but if it is a catalyst to provide future human interaction its a positive. Again…moderation and wisdom are necessary.
Here are my personal reasons – and the benefits – to using Twitter (all done in Twitter-appropriate 140 characters or less).
1. It helps me pay attention to what’s going on in the world – and in my world.
Len Sweet (@lensweet) said that the secret to his tweets is to not answer “What are you doing?” but to answer “What are you thinking about?” or even better “What are you paying attention to right now?” I don’t care if you had a quarter pounder at McDonalds (and if you tell me that enough times I’ll unfollow you quickly) but I do want to know what you’re pondering. New ideas, questions, concerns, thoughts – and much of that is worth learning.
2. Networking among other organizations or movements that are worth paying attention to.
There are things that need to be paid attention to like human trafficking (@NotForSale) and church planting (@acts29 and @ecclesianetwork) and other great churches around the country. This allows me to stay in touch and be in dialog with others about ministry issues and ideas.
3. It gives me a backstage pass into the lives of leaders, authors & pastors I respect.
I want to learn from the wisdom of others. There are great thinkers out there like Dan Kimball (@dankimball), Don Miller (@donmilleris), Mike Foster (@mikefoster), Erwin McManus (@erwin mcmanus), Scot McKnight (@scotmcknight) and Leonard Sweet (@lensweet). Their tweets help push me to think new ways and try new things – as well as to appreciate the workings of the larger, broader Body of Christ.
4. It helps me stay connected to good friends who are great thinkers.
Some of my favorites are from my close pastor-friends like Todd Hiestand (@toddhiestand), Tom Ward (@tomward) and LT (@laurencetom). In fact, its through Twitter that we schedule our “tweetups.” I also stay in touch with my cousin Dave who is in seminary at Fuller (@daedulus81)
5. It provides me with up to the second news – but only when I want it.
Rather than scrolling through on the websites of USAToday, CNN, New York Times, BBC, Wall Street Journal and our local newspaper here in Lansdale (The Reporter) all of these news outlets come to me. Their headlines are listed and if I want to read more I click the link to go to the site. I can even stay up-to-date with new information and vendors with something as local as the Lansdale Farmers Market (@LansdaleFM). Its a quick way to catch up on what’s going on in the world in a very short amount of time.
6. It allows me to meet new people.
Sometimes I can throw a question out and get thoughtful responses and conversation from people I’ve never met. I also get a chance to meet other people in and around the Lansdale area that I never would have met otherwise (you could call it virtual-missional expressions, I guess…)
7. It helps me to read more broadly than I normally would.
More than anyone else the Twitter guru Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) provides significant and trivial (yet intriguing) links to things on the internet. I can learn a lot in the most random places, but my knowledge, perspective and understanding can expand when I am willing to learn things on topics (tech, travel, humor, public speaking, history, geography, etc) in places I never would venture on my own.
8. It helps me to write/communicate more succinctly & clearly.
It’s impossible to be longwinded. Twitter is unforgiving in this manner – and that’s probably a good thing. It’s a tool that forces you to get right to the point. No beating around the bush. Just say it. And becaue you only have 140 characters to say something, like in a text message, you can tweet very quickly and it doesn’t waste a lot of your time. Saying something that is very significant in a direct, clear and appropriate way is a good skill to learn. Be brief. Be blunt. Be gone.
9. It’s fun! In some ways, Twitter can be edutainment (think Jon Stewart).
I learn a bunch on Twitter, but I also thoroughly enjoy following comedians from time to time like Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) and Jim Gaffigan (@jimgaffigan) and I especially love the always edgy The Onion (@theonion) which makes me laugh out loud from time time (quite literally laugh out loud at my desk, not the LOL figurative expression). It’s provides a good breaks throughout the day.