So you are one of the many Christians on twitter? Maybe we should talk.
According to a report published by the Pew Research Center, fifteen percent of adult Internet users in the United States are on Twitter, and that number is multiplied many, many times, of course, in nations around the world. Of these millions of twitter users, a great many are Christians – few of whom give much serious thought to how they use the service and the effect they are having on others through it.
The writer and speaker Jon Acuff once said that “Social media’s like a brick — you can use it to build an orphanage or throw it through somebody’s car window.” That statement graphically summarizes the good and bad that can come even from Christians’ use of twitter.
In saying this, we are not even talking about the kind of content a person tweets. Most (though sadly not all) Christians are in the habit of tweeting positive, clean and uplifting messages that are not attacks on individuals (Ephesians 4:29-31). It’s sometimes the behind the scenes – but still visible – aspects of twitter use that can be problematic.
For instance, many people – many Christians included – seem to view twitter as a giant game of “get followers.” As a result, many do not choose to follow people back who follow them because they want an impressive follower/following ratio. It’s always a bad thing if we allow our mental approach to become focused on an attitude of “get” and an unwillingness to give, and this is certainly a situation where the golden rule can be followed (Matthew 7:12).
But even more disturbing is the habit of many (and yes, many Christians) of following people back and then, a day or two later, dropping them. If the person who has followed us is not tweeting objectionable material, dropping them simply to improve our own numbers is nothing short of selfishness, and we should consider how this looks to others. If we don’t want to receive a follower’s frequent messages regarding what they had for dinner last night or whatever, twitter does have a “mute” button. If we need to we can mute followers where unfollowing is not called for.
Being a Christian on twitter is not just about numbers, though. When we receive follows from others and don’t follow back, or follow back then drop them, we lose one of the great ways social media can be used for good by depriving the person of ever reaching out to us through Direct Messages. In our own @tacticalbelief and @livingbelief twitter accounts we receive many DMs every week from people asking for guidance, encouragement, prayer, or just basic information about Christianity. Not following back or dropping followers unnecessarily limits engagement with others whom we might help and denies them the opportunity to receive “an answer regarding the hope we have” (1 Peter 3:15) – in an area of our lives where we might be most likely to be asked.
There are many other ways that we should perhaps consider how, as Christians, we come across to others on twitter, and how we either serve them or perhaps cause them to stumble through our twitter behavior. But basically, being a Christian on twitter can be boiled down to three simple things.
First, we need to realize how conspicuous we are as Christians on twitter and how hypocritical it can appear to others if we label ourselves as “Christian” or quote Bible verses in our twitter bios, but are knowingly following porn or treating people selfishly in our social media practices.
Second, we need to resist any temptation to “flame” or ridicule others by always being desirous to “tweet others the way we would want to be tweeted.”
And, finally, we need to remember – as one preacher so aptly once put it (in a tweet): “Your words will tell others what you think. Your actions will tell them what you believe.” That is just as true on twitter – or on any other social media – as it is in other areas of life.