Twitter had to grow on me. Back in 2007, I hesitantly joined the social media sapling that had caused so much of a buzz among my workmates. I’d just ditched MySpace because it sucked away time and gave very little back, and my Facebook account rarely saw much love. (It still doesn’t.)
Back then, I found about 50 people to follow (mostly people I knew in “real life”), and the trickle of updates didn’t really get me excited. These were the days before smartphone critical mass. So, pics of lunch were few and far between. And accounts had yet to be made for pets, cartoon characters, and Death Star Public Relations.
But a strange thing happened on my way to leaving this new social media darling. I started to meet people. As vapid as some digital interactions can seem, Twitter has done quite a bit for giving me a window into members of my tribe and Christians all over the world. True, there are arguments, but it’s also a place to find connection. That’s mainly because of people like Ed.
Ed Stetzer, stat man and church planter extraordinaire, gives a good example of how social media can provide real encouragement (I don’t just say that because he follows me back, though that helps). Despite his busy schedule and 120,000 followers, Stetzer uses Twitter in a unique way:
“When I am on a long drive, I will sometimes tweet out an offer.
“Basically, I say, ‘Hey, if you are a small church pastor (or church planter, college leader, student, or whatever else in that tweet), and you need some advice, encouragement, and prayer, send me a Direct Message.’
“Then, though I normally don't read Direct Messages, I monitor them and call in the order received.”
It’s this touch of the “old fashioned” that makes his Twitter approach something unique. And he’s been amazed by how encouraged people are by his calls:
In a recent post on BibleStudyTools.com, Pastor Ron Edmondson thinks that social media can be useful for such encouragement. But, far too often, Christians are simply mean to others. It’s too easy for us to attack each other, and these attacks are spilling out into everyday life:
“It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. We are quick to blast a company that we feel has wronged us. We criticize people — right on their Facebook page. We load the comments of a blog post with crushing blows.
“Surely you’ve seen it. The web has made it much easier to be a critic.
“But, it’s also in public. I’ve seen Christians I know act like jerks in a restaurant or grocery store. I consistently hear of bosses who serve smiling on Sunday but are mean to employees during the week.
“It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.”
What are your thoughts? Has social media helped you find encouragement? Has it made Christians ruder?
John UpChurch is the senior editor of BibleStudyTools.com and Jesus.org. You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).