Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Twitter. I think it’s a fantastic way of connecting with people from all over the world, picking up the latest news and of allowing your thoughts to reach a wider audience. I use Twitter very regularly, as you can see if you go to the home page of this blog and look at my Twitter feed on the right hand side. I’m just trying to clarify, before I go any further, that I like Twitter.
What I don’t like is the way that people in our modern, Western society want information in quick, short bursts that don’t require them to take much time reading it. This problem isn’t something that I’m blaming on Twitter (I actually think that Twitter is so popular because of this pre-existing trend), but the 140 character limit on tweets allows me to illustrate this point. To effectively get an idea across on Twitter, you have to condense that idea into 140 characters. Sure, you can use multiple tweets to make a longer point, but these aren’t snappy or punchy, and it’s unlikely that people will retweet them, meaning that only those who follow you are ever likely to read them.
The first problem, which I think is largely a Twitter related problem, but also applies to sites like Facebook, is that views and opinions – sometimes quite strong ones – are put across without evidence, context or explanation. This means that they can be easily misunderstood; people could take great offence by drawing a meaning out of a tweet or status that you never intended it to have. As a Christian, this can be incredibly frustrating. I’ve seen both Christian and anti-Christian tweeters who are fond of the ‘140 character put-down’ (where someone writes a tweet which they think is impossible for the opponent to come back to). In my experience, I’ve found that these ‘put-downs’ are simply people stating points which take more than 140 characters to respond to.
Let me give you an example. If an atheist was to tweet me, saying “There is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. You’re wrong,” there would be many things that I would want to say in response, but 140 characters simply is not enough to do so to any degree. Thus, I might respond “Yes there is,” which would make me look like the stubborn, irrational Christian that some people assume I must be. I hope you’re starting to see the issue here.
The other problem is more widespread than Twitter, but it links to that idea that everything has to be short and punchy. I’ve been told that some of my posts are too long and that people can’t be bothered to read them to the end because of this. As a matter of fact, my posts are rarely longer than 1000 words; they’re only longer if I need more space to explain something. What I’m trying to say is that 1000 words really isn’t that long – it’s about a page and a half of A4. However, it’s obviously longer than 140 characters. Let me assure you that a post has to be this long because otherwise I cannot explain a point and I may be misunderstood. Even with a longer post, people have misunderstood what I’m trying to say because I haven’t had the space to communicate my thoughts properly.
There are many topics that need to be explained in more detail than 140 characters. There are matters of genuine importance, such as ‘is there a god?’ which have to be thought about in depth. If you don’t take the time to read around the issue and consider what all the different sides are saying, you may end up making a horrendous, eternity shattering mistake which you wouldn’t have made had you taken a little bit longer to consider what people have to say.
To conclude, I felt that I had to say this because I don’t want people to give in to the ‘Twitter Syndrome’ and have their views of life shaped by 140 character witticisms. Take the time to read properly about issues that are really of the utmost importance to your life. Twitter is great to interact with people and to be introduced to different points of view, but if you really want to understand those views, you have to go beyond the tweets and read about what people really believe.
P.S. This post is exactly 750 words long.