Twitter and Creation

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

“What does Twitter do to our relationship with Creation?”  This was the final question in a wonderful conversation the other day with Liz Parsons, Co-Director of Contextual Education at the Boston University School of Theology.  Our free-ranging dialogue ended on this note as we were exploring potential win-win formats for field placements for BU students at social change agencies.  What would be in it for the agencies?  Stating my belief that many students bring with them more natural collaborative inclinations and social media savvy than “seasoned’ social change leaders, I posited this as a value proposition inherent in members of the younger generation.  Which got us firmly down the Twitter path . . .

When Liz’s provocative question popped, my mind split.  On the one hand, I could see the case being made that Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools provide an additional and unhelpful buffer between us and the world.  Too much reliance on the technology can, as essayist Bill Holm writes, “separate and deracinate us from nature and one another” removing “any sense of from-ness or connection.”  The question looms whether we need any more mediation of our experience when so much suffering seemingly stems from disconnection.  In a follow-up message, Liz mentioned that when her husband purchased a laptop, it came with an ongoing slide show of nature photos.  “As if we have to be reminded,” she wrote, taking the words out of my mouth.

On the other hand, maybe we do need to be reminded.  Perhaps not so much that there is nature in them thar hills, but that the world is more complex and interconnected than we give it credit for being.  As I reflect on my own forays into the Twittersphere, I find this to be one of its greatest contributions.  As I tweet and re-tweet others’ tweets, I am aware and can actually see that knowledge is co-created, that we do live and act in networks.  When I have an idea, I am humbled (and increasingly comforted) to see that many others have already had it, or some variation thereof.  The patterns of connection can be both dizzying and beautiful, and provide a wonderful illustration of how social movement happens.  Our job is made clear – “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”

So I’m left with the thought that in some sense Twitter can help us to better see and appreciate aspects of Creation, at least on the human systems side of the equation.  At the same time it seems important to remember that there is no substitute for direct relationship.  The question for me then is – “How can we carry the insights of this tool/lens into more lovingly meeting the world?”

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  • Jen Willsea says:

    I love the question, Curtis. It made me stop and think! While I agree that there is no substitute for face-to-face relationships and real life connection, I experience a kind of connection with others via Twitter and Facebook that I don’t get in any other way. Perhaps it’s that these mediums allow me to see insights from folks who are my acquaintances and/or people whom I admire, but with whom I don’t have close enough relationships to know what they’re thinking about and working on in any depth otherwise. In this way, Twitter and Facebook make me feel more connected to the edges of my networks, and therefore remind me of my connectedness to a wider range of people in a tangible way. Maybe more importantly, because of who I follow on Twitter, I am reminded and informed of more amazing work being done on various social justice issues I care about than I would know of otherwise.

  • Curtis says:

    Thanks for your insights Jen! Part of what you are speaking to might be the power of “ambient intimacy” that I’ve read about somewhere. That is, we hear indirectly via Twitter and Facebook the intimate details of people’s lives and this helps to grease the wheels for the next time we get together in person. For example, I have had a number of people ask me about that flying squirrel without me saying a word to them. And I have had the same experience that the tools give me access to certain people that I might not otherwise have access to.

  • Great post, Curtis. Im more and more convinced that, with these tools of technology, they simply take on the nature of the user…as do any tools. At best, they extend the reach, ethos, personality of the user and are ways to help us express ourselves and communicate whats in our hearts, minds and emotions. I am loving the implications for text, context, subtext and form. I am digging more and more the designer’s mind and skillfulness in navigating these media in ways that are creative, humane, soulful and with integrity. I am inspired by the brilliance and artfulness of many (young) folk who are bursting forth with creativity, passion and mission in this medium. Having just audio-booked The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, I am wowed anew by the implications of our times and these technologies. It is the proverbial, “game changer”. :-O

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