Relationship by Twitter: Going Deep in 140 Characters or Less

By September 21, 2009 culture, language No Comments

Sometime last year, my hubby and I were out with friends at dinner. As we wrapped up the evening and waited to pay for the meal, our friend checked his phone and quickly replied to a text message, remaining partially checked-in to our table conversation. To jolt his attention, I decided to ask him if he Twittered. After a several-second delay, he responded with an almost annoyed, “What?” as if I had just spoken another language.

Obviously, he doesn’t Twitter. And yes, I was speaking the new language of Twitterland. My friend had not yet heard of this new-fangled thing, and he wasn’t sure what I was even asking him. His response has brought me ongoing amusement every time I think about Tweeting on Twitter with my Peeps (how I love the creative new vocabulary!).

Tweeting certainly has entertainment value if not any other, but I am not likely to join the wave just yet. I am on Facebook, but I rarely check it, and I’ve yet to enter a status because then it would stare at me disapprovingly with its out-of-date information when I dropped by. I am capable of texting but rarely think of sending messages that way. Then there are the more than 100-plus other social networking sites listed on Wikipedia.

How do we keep up? Which do we adopt? Which do we opt out of? What value do these add to our lives?

In the September issue of Revive, Del Fehsenfield’s article mentions a recent Barna study that found “most Americans now manage thirty different social networks—different spheres of relationship.” These spheres consist of those people we know from work, children’s schools and sporting events, volunteer work, church, hobbies, neighbors, and so on. All this connectedness produces people who are socially known but not known well by anyone.

Fehsenfield stresses that this sort of broad-and-thin relationship strategy produces people who are only known in five percent increments. For example, the people I work with know the professional me; the people I go to church with know the spiritual me; the people I socialize with know the relational me—but none of these circles overlap. This disintegrated lifestyle allows me to compartmentalize myself, to hide the nasty pieces of my personality I want to ignore and pretend aren’t there.

Broad-and-thin relationships keep my façade in tact and my masks in place . . . but to what end?

The Christian life is to be a life lived in community where each person can be known fully—yet loved and accepted fully, just as God accepts us in Christ Jesus (“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1).

Do these new tools allow us to know and be known well, to the point of having no condemnation for others even in light of our failings and failures?

Social networking tools are neutral; they are not evil per se. Just like any other amusement or distraction, it is my responsibility to use it well and in this case, for the building of community, to draw my circle closer, to know others better and be known better myself.

When I think about being known only in five percent increments, my heart aches. And if I only know about five percent of what makes my loved ones tick, I have missed out on the deepest, truest part. Even my husband, whom I know better than anyone else, constantly surprises me with his insights, his dreams and fears, his wonderings about life. There is so much more to people than the five percent we see on the surface.

I want to follow the wisdom of Proverbs 20:5:

Counsel in the heart of man is like water in a deep well, but a man of understanding draws it out.

We are like deep wells, holding all sorts of interesting and surprising treasures to be found—if only we take the time to draw it out.

Twitter and the like may help us know the day-to-day happenings and provide a platform upon which to have deeper conversations in other ways. But I doubt we could draw much deeper than the first five percent of the well in only 140 characters or less. You all know this gal can’t, as I’m not capable of being pithy with any regularity. Perhaps I could be trained? Would that be Twitterized or Tweeterized or Tweet-compliant?

Whatever the means, let’s go deeper than five percent. There’s a whole mysterious heart in each of us—waiting to be drawn out and known.

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