Culling Twitter: Quality vs. Quantity

When I made the decision to give up Facebook for Lent this year, I never imagined that it would lead to a flurry of activity on my Twitter account. Therein lies the problem.

There is much about Twitter that I enjoy. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with very bright individuals whom I would likely never meet outside of Twitter. Many Twitter users dedicate their accounts to offering inspirational quotes or passages of Scripture; I’ve been blessed from time to time by several such posts. I once had a brief Twitter conversation with former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner – that was cool!

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said on ESPN Radio yesterday morning, “The Internet is where losers go to try and feel important.” I know of many very smart and influential people who actively use social media quite constructively, so I disagree to some extent. However, I think I understand what he was getting at. The context of his comment was a discussion about the backlash celebrities receive when they opine online on current events, such as the recent Freedom of Religion Act passed in Indiana.  In discussing the backlash, Sir Charles said that this is why he is not a user of social media. As outspoken as he tends to be at times, I’m a bit surprised by that, but I get it. My Twitter feed has exploded with bigoted comments, expletives, and a host of misinformation just on Indiana’s new law alone. Commenting on such things can be risky, for offering a comment with which an aggressive user disagrees often leads to name-calling and, at times, personal attacks. As these uber-aggressive superusers spew their poison, complete misunderstanding and tarnished reputations often result. Multiply that by political spin from users of all political spectrums on every topic imaginable, most of it twisted to disparage the opposing point of view, and Twitter becomes in large part a cesspool of aggressively communicated and potentially harmful misinformation, much of which is posted by individuals who would hardly be considered experts on the topic about which they are commenting. So while Charles Barkley may not be an expert on social media, his assessment has some degree of validity and his avoidance of it in this context seems to be a rather wise decision.

I picked up almost 300 new followers on Twitter during Lent. One doesn’t gain followers by being silent; one must engage Twitter to gain a following. Admittedly, the thrill of surpassing 400, then 500, and now almost 600 followers led to my using any means necessary to further increase my numbers, including choosing to follow almost any user that first followed me, thus contributing to what has become at times a very ugly Twitter feed. Much of my feed is filled with tweets from users advertising products, forwarding bits of misinformation, or exchanging barbs with one another; none of which I am interested in reading. As a result, items of true interest to me often are buried beneath the rubbish of the cesspool, and sometimes I am drawn into the cesspool myself. I try to be very careful about what I post, but on a few occasions I have gone back and deleted tweets that, in retrospect, helped filled the cesspool rather than contributing to a positive dialogue. Of course, engaging Twitter and building a following was not my intention when I made the decision to give up Facebook. Even as I type this, I’m rather uncomfortable with the notion of having people “follow” me. There is only One worthy of following – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Succinctly stated, Twitter has become a distraction for me. I sit here, over lunch at my desk on Maundy Thursday, bearing a burden of guilt for not having prepared for Easter as I intended. When I first began composing this post, my intent was to remedy this problem by exiting Twitter altogether. Then I scrolled through my feed. I saw Scripture. I saw prayer requests. I saw news items of interest. I saw personal friends. And, yes, I saw garbage. I realized that I was about to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Twitter, and social media in general, is just like anything else. It has it’s positive aspects, but too much is simply too much. Hence, rather than making a complete exit, I am embarking on what I have dubbed “The Big Cull”. I will shave my list of users I follow to include only those who post quality items that will contribute to what will become a very beneficial Twitter feed. I’ll lose some followers, for sure; I don’t care. The high has passed. It’s not about how many people I interact with; it’s about who I interact with and what each of them brings to the table. What I really want to do is keep the baby and dispose of the bathwater.

Although my giving up Facebook for Lent didn’t work out quite as I had planned, my eyes have been opened. My use of social media will continue, but on a much more measured basis.

And, now, let “The Big Cull” commence. May God will richly bless you this Easter season and beyond.

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