I remember when people worried about blogs dumbing everything down. People no longer read books, critics said, and could no longer sustain their attention for anything longer than blog posts.
That was before Twitter came along. In Twitter, you have 140 characters or less that you can use to communicate pretty much anything: what you’re up to, what you’re thinking. Anything goes.
I love Twitter, but everything has its drawbacks. Sometimes I wonder if we’re being trained to think in 140 characters or less. I also wonder if we’re being trained to go for breadth (a huge number of small messages coming in all the time) rather than depth (a small number of significant messages that need a deeper level of thinking).
It’s not just Twitter either. The constant barrage of emails and messages make it hard to be fully present anywhere. Mobile technology means we can stay connected to the incoming barrage all the time, making it difficult to be fully present anywhere.
Haddon Robinson once said that being a seminary president felt like getting trampled by a herd of ducks. Sometimes I think that social media leads to the same feeling, and all the ducks are quacking all the time. It’s not just seminary presidents who are being trampled; it’s all of us, except for the Luddites.
Reggie McNeal wrote this back in earlier days, and it’s even more relevant now:
Fax machines, emails, telephones, beepers, an over-committed schedule, the press of people’s needs…these are the tools of mass destruction for spiritual leaders. Their development and deployment often proceed without inspection. They threaten to shut down the spiritual leader’s communion with God. Once that happens, the leader’s effectiveness is destroyed. The leader becomes a casualty of a struggle that is as old as humanity ‚Äì the drowning out of eternity by the screams of temporal concerns. (Reggie McNeal, A Work of Heart)
Nothing wrong with any of these technologies. We just have to figure out ways of not getting trampled.