On The Value of Twitter

Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at “Standing on My Head” has an interesting series he is beginning on twitter.  It is, essentially, short spiritual quotes from spiritual masters of the Christian tradition.

This got me thinking about some of the potential value of twitter, if used appropriately.

Many, nay, most people use twitter for linking, saying that they are in line at a coffee shop, and, well, mostly mundane things.  But it need not be that way.  Fr. Longenecker’s series got me thinking about how even things like Twitter – which, I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of – can be used for great spiritual good with the use of spiritual aphorisms.

First, for those who don’t know what Twitter is, it is a communication service in which you communicate thoughts, 140 characters at time.  It is, in short, meant for brief, quick, and easy communication.  Unfortunately, what is on Twitter is mostly mundane and not worth the little bit of time we would be putting into it.

Yet, what Fr. Longenecker is talking about is something that the Church can do to use it for the good of promoting the spiritual growth of others and contributing to adding a soul to the internet.

Essentially, Fr. Longenecker is using the great ancient tradition of spiritual aphorisms and using a medium that is actually quite adept at communicating these aphorisms.  Many of us have very busy days, where a million requests, activities, and actions are required of us.  Many people do not have the luxury that, for example, priests do in sitting down and doing spiritual reading.  Life makes too many demands of most people to make such time impossible.  Yet, the beauty of spiritual aphorisms is that they can be an aid in our day.  We can take these little quotes as guides for the day, as words that will strengthen us in our daily tasks, as words that will slowly challenge us to continue on our work of holiness.

Most people, too, cannot remember long, extensive quotes.  We are no longer a culture that depends on memory (though, I think this is actually a negative thing because memory and human/spiritual formation go hand in hand, but that is for another post one day).  So, unless it is short, sweet, and to the point, we have no time for it.  We scan, skim, and get on to the next bit of information.  This is not good, but we must also meet people where they are at and so can use things like Twitter to get small, substantial, and conversion-ended messages across to people to help them in their day.  Small aphorisms can be the small seed that results in an abundance of growth.  Then, as people begin to hunger for more, we point them to places, people, and books that can help them at the deeper level they desire.  If you will, Twitter is akin to the first stage of the spiritual life, and so those who are looking to start there, Twitter can be helpful.  It can even be helpful for those who are more advanced spiritually: they can take these small bits and pray with them constantly each day?  Heck, why can’t we use Twitter to aid in Lectio Divina with short scriptural passages.  Because the passage/saying is short, it becomes easy to memorize and to pray on it over and over again.  And thus we can even use Twitter as a means of aiding people to come to the deeper spiritual sense of Scripture, to help them memorize the Scripture, and to bring them to a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ through the Scriptures and the holy sayings of His saints.

Yet, at the same time, we must always be critical of things and not accept them as “new = good”.  This is not always the case.  I think Twitter can be good, but I do find a lot of Catholics, in trying to reach the culture, end up using it in the same mundane manner as the culture, thus losing opportunities of evangelization and growth.  We must use these tools, but with the Christian soul permeating through our use of them.  Otherwise we are not evangelizing, but are bringing the Gospel and watering it down with the soul of the world.  Rather, the Gospel ought to be enlivening the dead flesh of the world and bring it to a newer and more profound life.

Fr. Longenecker’s venture has got me re-evaluating the importance of Twitter.  While I do see it too easily used for the mundane, for the fast-paced world we live in, a short shot of scriptural passages and spiritual maxims can aid us to bring a soul into the busyness of our lives.  Twitter, too, can be used for the good of the Gospel, in so far as we are willing to use it as a means to ever-greater spiritual growth.

On that note, I do have a twitter feed and hope to use it more often, following the great example of Fr. Longenecker.  You can follow me on Twitter @christian_state.

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