A Twitter dilemma

fileIf you’re on social media, maybe you can relate to my experience.

I was on Twitter and ran across a series of tweets by someone I follow. Let’s call this person Q, and assume Q is female. Q is extreme in her views. I’ve never had any issues with her; sometimes I agree with her (and say so), sometimes not. (That seems to be the case for me more often than not; sometimes I don’t even agree with myself.)

She wrote a thread that started with one church-song-related observation. Then she took her original idea and extended that idea to an extreme that would’ve shocked the original songwriter. I thought her thread was faulty on several points.

One, the premise was faulty. It was taking the lyrics way, way too far into ideas that belied the songwriter’s intentions. The song is intended to praise God and remind the singers of God’s character, not be fodder for theological spats, political divisions, and rhetorical games.  But in criticizing the song lyrics, I thought she was dangerously close to misrepresenting God’s character.

Second, the thread’s logic wasn’t logical at all; it was full of straw men arguments, over-generalizations about groups of people, undefined evaluative terms, and non sequiturs. I’ve observed this tendency on her part multiple times since I followed her. Her arguments are emotionally-based, not grounded in logic, wisdom, and good sense. She’s young, though, and now that I’m (almost) 40, I’m inclined to give younger, more impetuous people the benefit of the doubt. (Or maybe it’s having a teenager and remembering all my teenage foolishness that accounts for this.)

Third, it lacked compassion; there appeared to be no understanding or consideration of any other viewpoint.  Instead, the argument appeared arrogant and close-minded. (It may not have been intended that way.) It lost sight of the fact that she was talking about other people, not only theology and politics. I rather wanted to cyber-wave my hands and yell, “Hey, you know you’re talking about your fellow Christians, right? You know, those people you’ll be spending eternity in heaven with?”

But I didn’t. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. And that’s where I’m puzzled.

Do I reply? Should I have tried to gently correct some of the more extreme aspects of the argument?  Should I have tweeted something rather than nothing, hoping that I’d be able to get my point across in 140 characters?

Do I let it go? Keep scrolling, click likes on kitty photos and funny memes, ignore this thread entirely. I follow this person, I like this person, I don’t want to unfollow her, but I wouldn’t consider her a “close friend” on Twitter. Nor do I know much about her beyond the words of her tweets. Nor do I share many of her theological presuppositions. Nor was I in my best frame of mind for a theological discussion via tweets: it had been a rough week, I was depressed, and my brain was sloth-like as it moved from one thought to the next. (I probably should’ve stayed offline entirely.) Nor do I know if she was in the best frame of mind for disagreement; maybe she’d had a tough week, too, and felt crappy and ignored and invisible. But are those good enough reasons not to say anything?

I’m still wondering, several days later, and it’s niggling at my brain while I’m trying to work on my novel. So that’s why I’m blogging.

When do you speak up? When do you stay silent?

I’ve run into this type of situation multiple times recently, so this scenario could apply to at least two other incidents. It doesn’t have to be a theological disagreement. It could be about politics or parenting or the pantser-vs-plotter debate in writing circles. It doesn’t matter. Any topic you pick, someone can hold a strong, deeply felt, possibly illogical opinion about. And that person might share on Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/Whatever-the-newest-media-outlet-is about it. And you might disagree.

But I don’t think it’s wise to always argue with that person, or, depending on the circumstances, even try to engage them in discussion. But in what circumstances would that be? I’m wondering what other people’s thoughts are and how you handle issues like this online.





14 thoughts on “A Twitter dilemma

  1. Laura, this is a great question that I’ve struggled with a lot. I don’t enter the fray easily or quickly in these instances. I may check to see if anyone else has already raised the same objection: if they have and it has been dismissed, then it might be pointless to speak; if they have and the original writer has acknowledged the truth of the criticism, then I don’t want to just be piling on. But maybe I’m just revealing that I’m basically a coward about public conflict!

    Most of the time when I criticize on Twitter it relates to demeaning/hurtful remarks about disability etc.: e.g. once a writer linked his own article whose title said we are “schizophrenic” about gun control; in another instance someone referred to speaking impulsively as “Tourette’s.” Neither writer even acknowledged my criticism, but I was glad I had spoken up. Maybe for me that’s the dividing line: MUST I speak on this issue? Will I regret speaking up, or will I regret not speaking up? While we can’t always perfectly predict that ahead of time, I think in a lot of cases we know deep down which we’d regret more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve done the same as you: checked for responses, etc. Sometimes someone else will bring out a different aspect of the argument and that can be helpful. I absolutely hate conflict, and I’ve had to deal with my fear of it in my private life, especially with the kids. In public, I never know whether the other person might be dangerous (in real life) or vindictive (online), so I tend to be leery.

      Your question is a good one. In this case, I don’t necessarily regret not speaking up; as I said, I couldn’t quite deal with the emotional impact of an online argument at that moment, but since it was bugging me so much, I wondered how other people handled things like this.


  2. Twitter poses a unique dilemma, with the soundbite communication. I am a wordy, thoughtful person – so communicating in such a brief manner is hard for me. Because of this I rarely get into “discussion” on twitter – mostly I just share links, and browse to see what types of things are being tweeted. Keeps me in the loop. But I mostly stay silent on twitter. Perhaps one way to handle an issue that particularly troubles you is to have a blog post about it? I’ve done similar. While you are not communicating with the original person, it can serve as a thoughtful example and demonstrate critical thinking to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here! I overwrite everything, and with 140 characters, I’ve had to resort to symbols and such (2B or not 2B?), which irks me. I’ve tried using “threads” in my replies and some tweet-bites disappear from sight. So frustrating!

      I appreciate how you respond to things online through your blog. Your posts are always thoughtfully written and gracious, even when you’re troubled by the issue. You take the time to think it through and don’t post impetuously. It’s refreshing.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. There’s nothing wrong with not responding but you don’t want to respond rashly. Actually, now might be the time to respond since you have had some time to think it out.
    We also live in a time where people in the church,our fellow believers are not open to correction, it doesn’t mean that they’re not open to correction, but it seems nowadays everyone is so opinionated in the church and hasn’t opened up to hearing other voices and being open to correction. I wouldn’t walk on egg shells either,because sometimes we have to speak up for what we believe in. Prayerfully consider it , season it with the words of Christ and pray about it before you hit send.
    If she receives your words and acknowledges and confesses her rashness then great, and if she refuses your words then I would move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rob, I’ve observed that problem in churches, too. No one really likes correction, obviously; it hurts. But to be in fellowship with our fellow believers means hearing not just praise and agreement, but hearing rebukes and disagreement as well. The cyber-aspect of our relationships makes it even more difficult, IMO.

      Thanks for the advice. I’m not sure how strongly I feel about the original thread she posted. I only know that the issue was bugging me and I couldn’t work on my novel until I blogged about it! I’ll reread the thread and see what I should do. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Laura, So true what you have said. I Don’t tweet and I don’t have Facebook. I used to, but I got tired of the political debates, religious debates and strange stalkings of people including family/other people watching your every action or movement. It’s actually very concerning some of the postings by believers in Jesus Christ on social media. There is a witness, albeit a poor witness of a number of christians; we witness by the words written and even the tone of the words. Yes, people like you and I who do believe and even those who don’t believe in Christ see the things that people write. It’s very embarrassing the messages believers write on social media and the unbelievers read them and already have made their judgment on you. I’d rather be filled with the fruit of the Spirit and express the same attitude that Christ had to all that he encountered. Whether it was him overturning the moneychangers tables outside the temple and even the sensitivity and love he showed to the Samaritan lady at the well. There are many countless examples from the,red letter words of Jesus and even from the Pauline Epistles.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting that you noted the “stalkings” of people online. I don’t know if every other writer is like this, but there have been times when I’ve wanted to post something online (either here on my blog or on Twitter) that related to church-frustrations (specifically, when our last church split) but didn’t because I was afraid I would be disciplined by the church leaders; my words wouldn’t have been criticism of them, per se, or given details or names, but rather expression of my feelings of despair and frustration during that tumultuous time. Still, I kept silent because I didn’t know if they would interpret them as personal criticism. In some ways, I regret that choice; but on the other hand, does the world really need MORE evidence of division and discord in the body of Christ? I’d hate for the unchurched to read my words and think poorly of God because of the shenanigans of his people.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yikes, such a thorny issue. I think that speaking up is sometimes an issue of conscience (I HAVE to say something here), and sometimes it’s a choice to engage in online ministry. I’ve long wondered about those two parallel proverbs in Proverbs 26:4-5 “When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.” (So, don’t take the bait?) But then verse 5: “When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” (So… answer?)

    I think it lands firmly in the “it depends” category. Sometimes the conviction of the Spirit, or a moment of clarity, or whatever will lead us to engage. And sometimes we don’t have the time or emotional energy to really take that on, or there’s a red flag that warns us that engaging is not worth our time or will make it worse. 2 Timothy says a lot about avoiding foolish quarrels, but there’s also instruction about correcting and rebuking and building one another up in the faith. The difficulty is the online forum, I think: wisdom in choosing your conversation and battles is hard enough face to face, but to do so when we have limited characters, no context, no body language etc makes it all the harder.

    In the case you mentioned, if it’s bugging you a few days later, I would say maybe respond with a gentle, short tweet to remind them there’s a bigger perspective and that real people who are loved by God (however misguided she might think they are) could be hurt by her words. Or not.

    So basically, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that the decision to engage is often about how emotionally resilient I am feeling at the time and how strongly I feel about a call to speak up, rather than about trying to assess how well the thought might be received on their end.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good advice, Bronwyn, thanks. The emotional energy issue is where I’m at right now. I really don’t have the stamina to try to deal with it, especially online.

      But . . .
      Oddly enough, I seem to have an easier time being understood on my blog than I do when I try to verbalize the same types of ideas, especially in church. There’s been more than once that I’ve thought I might be speaking a different language than the rest of my fellow churchgoers. It’s strange and disorienting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Early in my blogging and tweeting I remember calling this type of online persona the Earnest Young Person, but also recognize that i sometimes fall into it though I am no longer all that young. I don’t know whether the EYP would take kindly to gentle correction. I know I didn’t when I was young. I still don’t necessarily take well to it.

    I think our engagement with people on line has different boundaries than with people we get to know well in person. I’ve been choosing not to engage with the EYP more and more as time goes on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love the acronym, Tim. I’ve observed this in myself; I think I’ve become more pragmatic and less idealistic as I’ve grown older and had to deal with the world as it really is. It makes me less likely to make issues cut-and-dry, all black-and-white, and more likely to admit that I could be wrong on many, many things. It also makes me feel like cringing when I hear/read certain things (like I did in this case, and as I do at church) when I think the person isn’t considering other points of view, only their own.

      I’m fairly certain this person would fall in the EYP category, and from what I’ve observed of this person’s Twitter behavior, I think even a gentle correction on my part might result in more sarcasm, criticism, & only serve to reinforce the stereotypes of certain types of Christians in her mind. It’s unfortunate.

      Liked by 2 people

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