Do You Feel the Love?

I just started following the very wise and quotable author, Eugene Peterson, on Twitter. When I was a parish pastor, I found his words to be balm for my soul. He reminded me regularly to say no to distractions that kept the main thing from being the main thing. He spoke eloquently of the pastoral arts as arts – not sciences demanding fool-proof methods. Ministry means instinct and intuition formed by prayer more than data and its distractions. He called me again and again into community. I am happy to make his acquaintance, again.

I look forward to seeing how he makes use of Twitter. I use Twitter in a course I teach this semester. I have my students share experiences and information gleaned from a community service learning module that is a core component of the course. (If you are interested in finding out a bit about their experience, check out #gc102csl). Consequently, I have been observing the perils and possibilities of this mode of communication. Many scoff at the 140 character restriction, preferring the endless ream of characters available on other social media. But I think Twitter has possibility if you work with the idea that it serves to communicate aphorisms and such, or links for further reading. I tell my students that this assigned use of Twitter serves two purposes; first, it challenges them to think about how they might communicate for the sake of the agency where they work. Second, it charges them with the responsibility of intentionally communicating themselves into the social-media-sphere. Many people – especially young people – are unaware that potential employers search your social media self before considering you as an employee. In sum, those who turn to social media develop a public persona. We need to take responsibility for that. This brings me back to Peterson.

When I checked out Peterson’s home page on Twitter, I noticed that he has something like 10.4 K followers, and follows no one. I imagine the Pope and other notable figures have comparable statistics. But this leaves me asking: is this the real purpose of social media? To launch ideas in one direction alone? Of course, for all I know, Peterson may well have another handle wherein he engages others online, but the optics are odd, all the same. It is problematic to have “followers” while following no-one.

Having said that, I am also well aware of the burden of following people who tweet their every thought, meeting, encounter, and scratch. I find myself buried in posts that burden my brain. But I still feel some degree of responsibility for reciprocity. If you follow me, I need to think seriously about following you. Of course, that need not equate to a requirement to do this; but at least the thought should cross my mind – or, to but it differently, my mind should be crossed by thought of following you. I need to live into the yoke that is both a burden and a buoy by attending to concrete relationships. People mock social media, and I can appreciate that, but at the end of the day it is another way to communicate, and modes of communication always enable both love and its obverse possibility. I’m hoping you feel the love.

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7 thoughts on “Do You Feel the Love?

  1. Marie Taylor says:

    you bring up some thought provoking points – the responsibility of reciprocity. thanks.

  2. shoreacres says:

    I follow several people on Twitter who don’t follow me, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m interested in the links they offer, and their observations. But I don’t care to engage in “social” interaction. On the other hand, there are people who follow me for reasons I can’t fathom, but there they are. Most of those, I don’t follow. And I have been known to block followers, particularly if they seem to be engaged in — ahem — “adult” activities.

    Of course, I don’t really understand Twitter as a social platform. Many people do, but for me it’s a means of tweeting out my posts (when I remember! Have to do better about that!), sending links to someone, or sending the occasional private message. I see it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. It’s a tool.

    Where I do agree with you entirely, and congratulate you, is in your effort to heighten young people’s sensitivity to the “public persona” they’re constructing. One reason I’m so careful about my own comments on my blog, just in terms of grammar, spelling, and so on, is because I knew, intuitively, that if anyone ever were to look at my blog to judge my writing, the comments would be as important as the posts. If there’s a consonance there, it will be to my benefit. It may never be an issue, but if it is, I’ll have nothing to worry about.

    Happy travels! There were some members of my family who moved up to Saskatchewan in the very early 1900s. I have a photo of one of them by a steam sod-buster, and one with his dog by his side and a brace of birds around his neck. Eventually, they turned tale and came back to warmer territory — Iowa.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for the bon voyage… oddly enough I will be travelling to WARMER weather in Sask today. Last night we hit minus 32 – rather unusual for southwestern Ontario, especially at this time of year.

      I too follow people who don’t follow me (can anyone really expect the Pope to follow them?) and am followed by those who I will never, ever follow (usually some sort of sales gimmick). These latter generally only follow for a time, and then unfollow. I too am not quite sure I understand Twitter, but think it worth pondering what it means to “follow.” That in itself is an interesting choice. Why don’t we “read” them, or perhaps “visit”? Likely some marketing decision? At any rate, I have more questions than answers.

      As for my students, they are the best, and I really want the best for them. I shudder to imagine that after four years of university, some otherwise bright and capable potential employee, is refused a job because of a thoughtless retweet, or late night photo. Hopefully they learn this lesson…

  3. dianerivers says:

    I very much enjoy Twitter for its wealth of interesting links and insights into what people find important enough to want to share. Thankfully, for me it’s not a black hole of distraction nor is it a marketing tool that I have to manage. It’s just fun. But I agree that “attending to concrete relationships” seems a more worthwhile endeavor. And I, too, am flummoxed by people who have legions of followers and follow no one. Seems arrogant.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, as with all technology I have a love/hate thing going. But on the whole, I find twitter more useful than facebook, for instance. I just worry when I think how much time it eats up in some people’s lives.

  4. jannatwrites says:

    I haven’t encountered Twitter yet (I don’t want to commit to it because it could take up time I don’t feel I have at the moment.) I do find it interesting/odd about having so many followers but following no one. In the blog world, I don’t follow everyone who follow me, but I do check out the blogs of those who follow and the ones who impact me the most, I do follow… sometimes it takes a few visits before I commit. But once I follow, I read as much as I can (albeit, sometimes days late, but I get there.) I think there is enlightenment to be found in reading others and the social aspect of it is a two-way street.

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