Culture Faith Life Musings

John Piper, “Why and How I Am Tweeting.”

John Piper recently began twittering under his own name, and he wrote an accompanying post on the desiringGod blog laying out his reasoning for entering the “twittersphere,” which I found insightful and a good read.  My favorite part is quoted below:

Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

140 characters. Awesome.


Culture Life Media Musings

On Twitter as a news source.

Twitter fills an interesting niche in the world of online social networking. On Twitter, individuals micro-blog in 140 character bursts, and their readers only follow the people they choose to in their own customized “feed”.

Given how easy it is to post a message on Twitter and have it be broadcast almost instantly to one’s followers, Twitter becomes a medium of content delivery that is both faster than e-mail and wider reaching than an instant message conversation. Numerous people have taken advantage of the power of Twitter; Barack Obama announced his running-mate over Twitter, for one, and thousands of people followed and identified with the daily goings-on of the Mars Phoenix Rover via an employee at JPL posting on its behalf. Twitter has been used to humanize large corporations, give a heads-up to deal-seekers, and reiterate a company’s commitment to being interactive with its users. Even news organizations have taken to twitter, from new start-ups to well established members of traditional media.


This way Twitter is being used in this last instance is both promising and potentially scary. Here’s why.


It’s wonderful to receive news as it happens. Twitter allows for news to be relayed faster than traditional media outlets are able to report. For example, a few weeks ago I heard about a plane crash on Twitter five to ten minutes before it hit the news. Twitter allow the “person on the ground” to be heard by those around the world in record time.

This is a great, great tool for citizen journalism. The problems manifest when you tradeoff speed for reliability. It’s easy for rumors and misinformation to be spread around the internet, anyway, and by providing the means for anyone to become a reporter, the standards of journalism and reporting that traditional news outlets are held to are not enforced. The pressure to “get it out first” sure doesn’t help, either. 

Last week, I received an Amber Alert via Twitter.  While Twitter is a good medium to transmit Amber Alerts, this one turned out to be a hoax.  Just yesterday, my friend Mark made this tweet:

trappermark Twitter news conflict: @cnnbrk telling me 9 dead in Turkish Air crash. At same time, @nytimes says just 20 hurt.

So not all reporting can be trusted, that’s a given.  As long as people fact-check and confirm the things they hear, there’s no problem with being presented with conflicting information.  Unfortunately, my experience tells me that most people do take what they hear at face value.  Maybe regular users of the internet are different, I don’t know.  Being able to quickly sort out fact from fiction is essential to using the web effectively as a research tool.  As the web extends deeper into every facet of our daily lives, this skill becomes more and more important in shaping how we see the world around us.

I say, bring on the citizen journalism.  Let’s just make sure we do it (and read it) responsibly.

Faith Life Musings

The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter

My friend Jon forwarded along an article from the January/February ’09 issue of Relevant Magazine that I found to be an interesting read.  You can read the full article by clicking the picture below.

Relevant Magazine | The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter

A couple of quotes that I found particularly convicting:

We desperately seek to contribute – to be significant.  Blogs give us this chance, and so does YouTube, and Twitter, and Facebook, and the rest.  Suddenly we have things to say and — more importantly — people who are listening.

But these ways of “reaching out” or “giving back” to culture are still predominantly about me.  About how I find meaning by bouncing ideas off of the wider web world.  About feeling important, validated, useful, interesting.

I’ve never really thought about it this way, but the “Social Networking Revolution” is, fundamentally, something about “me.”  In broadcasting what is going on in my life (and seeing what is going on in the lives of others), Twitter/blogging/whatever speaks to my pride, my desire to “feel important” or be respected.

Even when it comes to finding new music, a voice in the back of my head considers the satisfaction and the affirmation I receive I find something my friends haven’t heard of before.  I used to check the stats on my webpage often to see how many people visited daily, and from where.  Seeing lots of hits made me feel important, as though people somewhere looked to me for insight or information.  It was a good feeling.  

Looking to the outside world to affirm that can be very, very dangerous.  In attempting to feel connected with others, we increasingly abstract ourselves from real relationships, selfishly focusing on ourselves above all else.  We end up creating our own truths and realities.

It appears that ultimately we’re retreating further inward, to the “i” world of our personal computing universe.  Under the guise of increasing our levels of connectivity, these technologies are ultimately just tools to help us isolate, insulate and unshackel from the outmoded constraints of having to answer to anyone other that ourselves.

“Social web” applications such as Facebook or Twitter by nature open up a multitude of possibilities and capabilities for digital interaction, and I’ve incorporated a number of them into my daily routine.  It is important to balance these digital interactions out with “real” relationships, however.  There is no substitute for grabbing breakfast or coffee with a friend, looking them in the eyes, and really communicating without feeling the need to show off.

Accountability is refreshing; it’s funny how we can find ourselves silently sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, wondering why we still feel empty. 

The end of the article frames the issue well from a Christian perspective:

In times like these – when it’s easier and more alluring than ever to be or feel important –  Christians must remember that we’re not called to be viral superstars, we’re called to be living sacrifices.  We’re not instructed to make ourselves look as good as possible in front of the largest audience we can; no we are instructed to deny ourselves and humbly follow Christ.

It’s our best friends that remind us of that, anyway.


Edit:  my friend Harrison has some good commentary on this article over on his website, as well.  I recommend you go over and read what he has to say.