Twitter Is Not Real

Don’t get me wrong.  I really enjoy using Twitter, and the past two years of “tweeting” has done a lot of good for my soul.  But still, Twitter is not real.

It is not real for the simple reason that people are very selective on what they choose to tweet, and how many of the people you follow are willing to tweet their real lives?  When someone just got in an argument with their spouse and asked for forgiveness, who tweets about their need for forgiveness and prayer for repentance?  Christians, especially pastors, are prone to tweet about the successes or fruit from their labors, but who tweets about seasons of struggle, emptiness, or barrenness in their soul? Let’s face it.  Twitter resembles more of a collection of high school yearbook quotes than the book of Psalms.

The beauty of the Psalms is that it is uncensored reality from the lives of God’s people.  There are shouts of praise next to laments of “how long, O Lord?”  There are moments of seeking the face of God and extolling his infinite worth (you are my portion, whom do I have but you) and there are moments where it seems God has abandoned them in despair.  The full range of emotion and experience is expressed in the Psalms, but on Twitter, you get the veneer of virgin skies unfamiliar with the storms of life.

So my caution to all my friends on Twitter, be careful.  Don’t believe what the updates are telling you all the time.  It’s not real.  There are thousands if not millions of updates that go unannounced that, were we to know them, would change the “face” of Twitter.  If King David were tweeting today, my hunch is that many people would unfollow him because many of his updates wouldn’t sound good enough to be retweeted.  But that’s the difference between Twitter and the real world.  God saw David’s heartfelt confessions good enough to be recorded in Scripture and has resonated with saints throughout the generations.  So while your last Twitter update may resonate for the next minute, it is good to reminded that reality is not grounded in momentary novelty.

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12 Comments on “Twitter Is Not Real”

  1. Alan Cross Says:

    You’re right, Timmy. I follow some big name pastors on Twitter – especially guys in the SBC – and apparently, they never have a down moment. Church perfect. Family perfect. Life perfect. Everything growing bigger everyday with no setbacks. For a guy like me who leads a medium-sized church with ups and downs, 4 kids, and many challenges, I am not encouraged by what I often read. I mean, I’m glad their life is perfect, but it all feels disconnected. The problem is, when you tweet honestly, people look down on you because they don’t think that other pastors have tough times. Who wants to hear negative things? So, proclaiming dependence on God is likely the best that Twitter can provide and that is a pretty good thing.

  2. Jared Wilson Says:

    I feel ya. But I think some of this conversation needs to include what exactly Twitter is for.

    I’m all for being real. But most of the negative things I encounter or feel aren’t things that ought to be shared with the wide world. I think this is okay so long as I am sharing them with people close to me.

    To apply it to “church discouragement,” I understand how one could be seeing all the “My church is great” stuff on Twitter/Facebook and then get discouraged, but I don’t think the answer is pastors complaining about their churches on Twitter. All pastors — who are really pastoring and not just sort of CEO’ing from their office — routinely run into brokenness and conflicts and setbacks in their communities. But I don’t think broadcasting these in a public forum is the right thing to do.

    When I talk about how awesome my church is on Twitter, it’s not because I never encounter problems in my church. It’s because most of the time these problems are nobody’s business but mine and the people involved. I would do much damage to the people in my community if I started turning all their baggage into tweet material.

  3. […] @timmybrister just posted on his blog a helpful reminder about the dangers of Twitter entitled Twitter Is Not Real. His post reminded me: don’t judge a twit by his tweet. King David might have been the least […]

  4. Shawn Bergen Says:

    Moral of the story: Don’t judge a twit by his twitter.

  5. RussR. Says:

    (First time caller, long time lister) Good word, Timmy. I would echo what Alan said. I would love to see “big names” I follow tweet with more transparency. It would be more encouraging to a small-fry like me than witty, pithy statements or constant Osteenesque exuberance. But I don’t think folks can get away from the narcissistic appeal of the Twitters. That said, I truly appreciate guys like you who consistently use the platform to point attention to God’s sufficiency in our inadequacies.

  6. Alan Cross Says:

    Jared, you are right about that. We just went through a MAJOR issue in our church for 6 months that consumed hours and days of my time, energy, and emotions. I wasn’t about to blog/tweet about anything, including how I felt about it because of the sensitive nature of it. Now that it is out in the open and resolved, I can say that our church leadership had a difficult challenge. Does that make me fake? No. But, like Timmy is saying (and like what you are saying as well), it does mean that we need to realize that far more is going on than what we see and we need to not compare the intimate knowledge of ourselves with the public persona of others.

    I don’t know if you can share a lot of not-so-great stuff on Twitter/Facebook without looking like a big whiner. At least that’s what I feel like I am doing when I get too honest. So, there is a balance, but I think that honesty is found in giving glory to God and expressing dependence on Him at all times.

  7. Jared Wilson Says:

    Alan, yup. I can’t even tweet things like “counseling session with a dude who whatever.” I don’t pastor a megachurch, so anybody here who reads my tweets would know exactly who I’m talking about. I even balk about witnessing opportunities b/c this is such a small community, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the person I just witnessed to would look me up online and see that I tweeted about them. What would they think about that? Would they be okay with it? Or would it make them think I’m publicizing/exploiting our exchange? Stuff to think about.

    Also, in general, I don’t have much to complain about. The stuff that seriously troubles me or that I struggle with isn’t for public consumption (usually). The stuff that’s not, I find self-indulgent to tweet.

    As you said, I think balance is key.

    Let’s all tweet with a limp. 🙂

    But let’s also take Philippians 2:14 seriously.

  8. Steve Says:

    I don’t think of Twitter as a place to journal the details of my life. For me it is more about entertainment than a source for deep information.

  9. JT Caldwell Says:

    How about: Twitter is partially real.

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