wisdom in 140 characters

twitter

I’m not a fan of social media. It sucks up time, especially for those (me!) with an addictive personality. Social media’s focus on popularity and numbers can be an ego crusher. It also fills the mind with too much information. Really. Too. Much. Information.

And yet, I’ve become hooked on Twitter.

Why do I like Twitter so much? The poet in me loves the minimalism. Twitter leaves no room for verbosity. Say what you have to say in 140 characters or less, and press the send button.

I’m a lover of words and true wordsmiths, and Twitter has some brilliantly witty and intelligent writers. They know how to fashion a funny phrase, a deep thought, a spot-on analysis or a simple, personal thought all within the strict parameters of a tweet. Tweeting can be a form of smart word-play.

As with all social media, there is a dark side to Twitter.

There are a lot of ragers, ranters and haters on Twitter. It’s easy to get sucked into a hell-hole of anger, especially if you find yourself in an “echo chamber” of like-minded folks. The sharing of information turns into a team pep-rally, fomenting righteous indignation against the shared enemy. This happens on both sides of any ideological fence.

Another danger is the passing on of false information. Laziness and ignorance are behind a lot of the  dissemination of “fake news”. Here are the rules…Don’t read the full article. Don’t check the sources. Don’t educate yourself on the deeper issues being discussed. Simply read the shocking headline and RETWEET, with the suitable amount of indignation.

I have a tendency towards sarcasm, the quick, snarky reply. Too often, a witty or funny retort is a thinly disguised put-down. I need to discern my words carefully, whether speaking or writing. Am I sharing words of worth, or simply joining the ranks of ranters? Am I providing thoughtful, constructive criticism, or simply a nasty put-down? On a day of especially dark news, where are the messages of hope? Can I write or retweet some wee bit of wisdom that will lift spirits, mine included?

Trump, arguably, is the person most associated with Twitter in recent times. The media salivates every time the man sends out a tweet. The more ridiculous the statement, the more time the media wastes in covering the fall-out.

trumptwitter

I have my own theory why Trump likes Twitter so  much.

Have you listened to Trump in interviews, speeches, press conferences? Not when he is simply reading from a teleprompter, but when he is speaking as Trump? The man has no substance. He has a sparse vocabulary, and an even sparser intellect. He speaks in catch-phrases. His reasoning is circular. His words give meaningless a new meaning.

Think of a student writing an essay, who knows absolutely nothing about the topic he or she is writing about. What do they do? They ramble. They pad sentences with worthless words. Pad paragraphs with worthless sentences. Pad the essay with worthless paragraphs, all to meet the minimum word count.

This is exactly how Trump speaks.

Twitter, on the other hand, gives Trump a maximum word count well suited to most of what he has to say. Just the bare-bones message, sometimes shouted in CAPS. No in-depth analysis. No explanations. Yes, 140 characters is usually enough for Trump to get his message across. Short, but not sweet. Trump’s words are not poetry. They’re just scary.

Trump’s tweets reflect little or no intellectual energy. He leaves it to his advisors, the media, and the GOP to expend time, money and resources on figuring out what he said.

power of words out of context

Greetings, friends! I’m not going to waste time with more feeble excuses for blog absenteeism. You’ve heard them all. I’m just going to jump back in…

From today’s liturgical readings;

Jer. 18:18-20.
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” …

The lectio divina form of prayer seeks a word or phrase that speaks to you, at this moment and place in time. Today, I pondered on these words;

And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word

In lectio divina words are often taken out of context. They become a springboard for mulling, meditating, praying, and discerning right action. This can be a good thing. A very good thing. But, how often do we take words out of context in order to destroy the character of others?

Taking words out of context and splattering them across news headlines and social media has become the preferred style of journalists, commentators, and bloggers. Others pick up on the energy in discussion boards, giving the words a larger life than intended or a distorted life far removed from the original meaning.

I’m guilty of this. I love to pounce on the latest stupid remark from a person on my “do not like” list whether a political candidate, celebrity, government or church leader. My ears become attuned to the words that fuel my dislike and affirm my righteous anger. I intentionally search them out, and gleefully share them with like-minded souls.

I’ve used this strategy to write many a blog post and column. Mea culpa.

Yet, there are times when words are so stupid that they make context irrelevant. Or, they are repeated so many times by the person that they become fair game for a good rant or a challenging debate. When we realize that the words accurately reflect the person speaking them and these words demean or promote hatred then it is our duty to challenge them.

As with many things in life, it boils down to discernment. And, discernment cannot be rushed. It requires careful pondering and judging before acting. This is especially challenging with instant communications.

For myself, I’m going to try and resist the temptation to pounce on the “headline wagon of the day”. It’s freeing, actually. One of the things that I was finding most stressful with my writing was trying to keep on top of all the issues as they happened. I admire the quick-witted writers who can pound out a thoughtful, meaningful commentary within hours or minutes of an event. I’m not one of them.