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Social media wasn't forcing me to become narcissistic; it just enabled those tendencies. After all, the reason I joined in the first place was to build a platform for my books and CDs. This is not a bad thing when you consider that a publisher or record label has taken a risk on you and you're trying to match their investment with your own effort.

It is, in one sense, an effort to be a good steward of these opportunities. But it was in another way quite selfish and insidious. I was guilty of trying to be global and influential, not personal and local—a dangerous thing for a pastor.

So I accepted my friends' advice and took a six-month break from blogging and social media. And it was good. It was healthy to step back and ask, Why am I using social media? What are my goals with it? How is it changing me?

When I re-engaged, I was able to accept its healthy aspects, the ways it can support personal and local ministry and help me think out loud and process ideas, while fleeing the temptations. Here's a bit of what I've learned.

Three Dangers

Among social media's temptations:

1. Social media tempts me to get into heated debates with people I don't know.

Social media creates the illusion of intimacy. When you see leaders' thoughts pop up on Twitter every few hours, they feel like a part of your life. On Facebook you can read about their families, their history, even their favorite movies and music. But that doesn't mean you know them—or that you've earned the right to criticize them.

It's easy to see a megachurch pastor's Tweet and find something to disagree with. So with no context and with no prior relationship, I'd fire something back. Of course, I never got a response from them. Why should I have? It was an ideological drive-by. I was sticking my nose where it didn't belong.

In John 21, Jesus is talking to Peter about his future, and Peter says, "Lord, what about him?" referring to John. Jesus says, "What is that to you? You must follow me." I was too concerned about arguing theology with people I'd never met. Jesus was saying to me, "What is that to you? You must follow me." (Twitter pun intended.)

2. Social media removes nuance. It reduces people to words.

I used to read what certain people were tweeting and form unfavorable opinions about them. Then I'd meet them in person, and realize, I really like this guy! Their social media presence wasn't an accurate representation of who they really were.

This hit home when I found myself on the other end of these assumptions. When I was rethinking my understanding of congregational worship, I would tweet something about lights and smoke and rock 'n' roll. And some of my worship leader friends thought, Glenn hates what we do. But then we'd talk about it in person, and they'd say, "Oh, I get it, and frankly, I agree with you. I just thought you were attacking me." There was no context for my tweets, no nuance. It's too easy for tweets to be zingers.

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

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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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