I remember signing up for Twitter 7 years ago. It was great. It was a geek’s paradise. The most followers anyone had was 50,000 and mainly filled with people who had technical interests. It was a great place to get your technical questions answered and to keep up with latest startups.
But then Britney showed up. Britney Spears that is, and the whole thing went downhill from there. Soon it became a race for Twitter followers, along with retweets (a concept created by the Twitter community and not Twitter the company).
Shortly afterwards software applications showed up offering ways to increase Twitter followers with “real” followers. You could even pay someone to have robots follow you (I’ve tried it, you can read about it here).
Along with special software tools came the ability to autofollow people and build your following by automatically following those who followed you. (Of course Twitter became wise to the idea and eventually banned the practice.)
A Twitter Experiment
So recently I tried a little experiment. For about 90 days I decided to to see how many people I could follow that would follow me back. I signed up for a tool called ManageFlitter (no, I don’t have a clue what the name means) and built some lists using some data from a few settings on the website. Soon with a little effort I had about 12,500 followers. That’s great right? Not really. Let me explain.
A False Sense of Pride
One of the first issues with 12,500 followers is that it gives you the sense that people really care about what you say. But who are we kidding here? If I follow you and you follow me and we both are following thousands of people, are you really going to be listening to what I’m saying? You’re not. The only way I can get your attention is if I @ reply you. So in other words, I have to speak directly to you to get your attention in that crowd of thousands of Twitter followers. I’m not really that important to you am I?
Twitter is Personal
Obviously following all of these people became quite unruly when loading my feed on Tweetbot (my twitter app of choice). So, I decided to pull the plug and unfollow everyone till I got down to manageable number. Of course this led to some people become quite irate at my decision to stop following them.
At first it made some sense that people might not be happy with my choice to unfollow. In their eyes, they were losing a follower and that meant their numbers would go down. However, the more I thought about it the more it became strange to me. It occurred to me, are we really at the point in society where we judge our effectiveness and influence as a person based on our Twitter follower count? Have we become so detached from reality that we crave the need to be followed, retweeted and liked by someone?
(Side note, it’s one thing to follow someone to get updates from someone, but if you think that because a celebrity pastor follows you that they reading every single tweet you write, then you might want to take some time off of Twitter.)
As someone who’s job it is to determine what’s next on the digital horizon for the church, I think it’s time we stop and rethink our approach to these social media tools. It’s time we remove any tool, tactic or strategy that isn’t aimed at advancing the Kingdom of God.
I don’t know what that looks like for you, but I do know that we have the poor to feed, the widows to look after and I really doubt a retweet from me is going to help accomplish either one of those things.