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Home > Issues > 2013 > Summer > Tweeting My Life Away

What if you took a break from blogging and tweeting?" I scanned the room, looking into faces of friends I'd known over a decade. What started as a simple retreat with seven of my closest friends began to feel more like an intervention. But that's why we were there—to spend a couple days away challenging one another to greater faithfulness and effectiveness.

When the conversation turned to me, everyone was in agreement. They each described my propensity for online arguments, how I focused so tightly on ideas that I often forgot the people connected to them. I nodded and said, "Yeah, I know I do that. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings."

One friend said, "Glenn, you want to be a pastor. But right now you're so worried about your digital influence that you forget to be present personally and locally."

That was tough to hear, but he was right.

"What can I do to turn this around?"

That's when they suggested it: a six-month fast from blogs and Twitter. They said my tweeting was only leading to a disembodied view of ideas. But ideas are attached to real people, embedded in real lives, with more context and nuance than a status update presents. My Twitter-and-blog-centric world only nudged me further in a bad direction I was already headed.

When I got home, I told my wife what my friends had suggested.

"I think I'm going to do this," I said. "I think I'm going to take six months away from social media." Her eyes welled with tears. I had been more distracted by the world of social media than I realized.

Hello, Social Media

I first entered the world of social media in 2007. I had just written a book and was doing my best to promote it. I created a Facebook account, primarily for book promotion. But as I used it, I began to appreciate its range of applications.

I could connect with friends from years past. Facebook was a window, and I could use it to see church members in their "out-of-Sundays context."

Social media played into the worst parts of me as a leader. It amplified my need to be seen and heard.

Then someone suggested I join Twitter. I was hesitant, but I gave it a try. I quickly saw its power for sharing links and following news or trending topics. It's a quick way to start dialogue or crowd-source an idea.

For me, Facebook became about sharing everyday life, and Twitter about the exchanging of ideas. Then came Instagram. I soon saw the beauty and simplicity of sharing life through pictures.

But I quickly learned that social media has a dark side, too. I became obsessive, always wanting to know what others were saying—especially in response to what I'd said! After posting something, I would repeatedly check to see who commented on my post. (Lame, I know.)

Social media was playing into the worst parts of me as a leader; it amplified my need to be seen and heard.

I began to compare myself to other leaders—which is especially easy on Twitter. I don't have to ask other pastors how big their churches are or know how many books or CDs someone has sold; I just have to check their number of Twitter followers. Yes, that's sick.

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From Issue:e-ministry, Summer 2013 | Posted: July 17, 2013

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Social media opens instant opportunities for ministry.

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Kim Stilson

September 18, 2013  5:52pm

Thanks so much for your insight! I recently fasted and am still in process.. am a pastor, found I was pondering over my 600 friends and realized that some of these Ive never had a real conversation with, they are friends of friends, and I met at conferences. but, feel an overwhelming need to encourage people as they cry out for loved ones. so, to make matters worse, I try to say not to much, not what others have already said, and I'm endlessly pondering to make a difference in some one's world .. mean while, it dawned on me how many real friends I've been overlooking, no longer time to chat, due, to keeping up with fb, and by the way I already know what's going on in your world, saves me the trouble. I woke up and felt like slamming the phone to pieces, that's when the fast began, also, I realized there where people in my own congregation I needed to follow up on personally! It's too easy to escape from being available.. I know it is a good resource,I might be back? I don't miss it yet

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Marshall Shelley

September 16, 2013  11:25am

This is one of the most honest and insightful descriptions of the "life with Twitter" that I've read. Thanks for helping us navigate this world with both passion and discernment, Glenn. Well done.

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