Quitting Twitter – a Lesson from the Diner

Quitting Twitter

On the drive home I convinced myself it was time to close my Twitter account. Then Tom’s Diner came on the radio.

I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee

And he fills it
Only halfway
And before
I even argue

He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

Sometimes when I’m on Twitter I feel like the person waiting for the cup of coffee. I feel like a person who is watching other people who are waiting for each other and there I am, standing by. And I know – from experience – that if I take part in some of those conversations between those people I can get in trouble.

I don’t mean to butt in unwanted. After all (I figure) if they are conversing on Twitter it’s an open conversation, isn’t it? Especially if one of the people re-tweeted something the other person said as if to say, “Hey, look what my friend just said. Isn’t it interesting?”

But it turns out I’m wrong about some of those conversations. They don’t want new voices. Or at least they don’t want new voices that aren’t in agreement with the current speakers. Perhaps you’ve seen it too. You try to add a different take on things and get shut down.

It’s happened to me, and more often than not I can’t see what I said that was so wrong. But there must be something because there are times when I’ve not only been told I am out of line but I am also quite clearly given to understand that my subsequent attempts to straighten things out are merely mucking it up even worse.

Yesterday I had one of those exchanges that got worse. It got bad enough that I convinced myself Twitter is not worth my time.

But then Suzanne Vega came on the radio and sang about dealing with the people at the diner and getting only a half-full cup of coffee.

“It is always
Nice to see you”
Says the man
Behind the counter

To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
Their hellos

I’m pretending
Not to see them
Instead
I pour the milk

So she looks the other way,

and pretends not to see,

and occupies herself with the milk.

There’s wisdom in those words.

There is wisdom in knowing I don’t have to take part in those conversations that appear to be inviting me along. (My friend said something clever in our Twitter exchange, see?) I can look the other way, pretend not to see, occupy myself with something else.

Twitter Does Have A Purpose

You might wonder what purpose Twitter really has. Vega covers that as well, even though she wrote this song long before the advent of Twitter.

Twitter’s not bad for news:

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Sometimes it’s merely a light diversion:

And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

(I don’t read the horoscope, but I do read the funnies daily. Don’t judge me. And don’t judge Suzanne Vega.)

But what I really want out of Twitter is people.

Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I’m listening

To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice…

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began…

There’s the key to Twitter’s purpose as far as I’m concerned. I want it to remind me of people, to make me remember that the people on Twitter are real people, and that I should do what God says is important: care about the people he’s put in my life.

Even if those people are on Twitter,

or are bloggers,

or are commenting on blogs.

Because the purpose of this blog, more than any other, is to come alongside people the way that God has come alongside me.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

The word “comfort” in that passage has the sense of “coming alongside”, and whenever I read that passage I can’t help but read it:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all coming-alongside-ness, who comes alongside us in all our troubles, so that we can come alongside those in any trouble with the coming-alongside-ness we ourselves receive from God.

So I hope to follow Suzanne Vega’s lead on Twitter. That means avoiding  conversations where I’d only be in the way. And it means remembering people. I’ll try to follow Paul’s advice, too: come alongside people with the same coming alongside that I’ve received from God.

Say hello if you see me on Twitter.

Let me know how I’m doing with this.

And come alongside me.

***

If you pay attention to the two male dancers in Suzanne Vega’s music video for Tom’s Diner you’ll see the slickest moves ever to come out of an 80s aerobics class. I ought to know. I took aerobics classes back in the 80s.

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36 Responses to Quitting Twitter – a Lesson from the Diner

  1. Hi Tim, so glad you don’t leave Twitter – you’re one of my fave tweeter friends! I’m not very good at the whole Thing because, other than you, I normally don’t tweet ad lib and don’t dare to enter a lot of conversations. And when I enter yours, you’re always just as welcoming as you describe it in your quotes above. So thanks for that! And there sure lies wisdom in what you said about the certain conversations we rather ignore and sip our coffee instead. If I People are not interested in an opinion that differs from theirs, I think it’s mostly a waste of time and energy to try to get them to look at it. As we say in German: Perlen vor die Säue werfen (to throw pearls before pigs) :-)! Glad to meet again on Twitter!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Claudia. I enjoy your tweets too, both the ones in English and those in German (although I rely on Google translate a lot for the latter!).

  2. I do not tweet, but this conversation reminds me of Col. 4:5 in the New Living Translation.
    “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

    • Tim says:

      That verse is really instructive, Carol. It shows us our responsibility to others and how we can act well, rather than focusing on others and what they should be doing. It’s a blessing that God works in us to help us and guide us as we interact with those he’s put in our lives.

  3. stephanielynn75 says:

    Hi Tim…as you may have realized by now, I closed my Twitter account, this time for keeps. I think Twitter does have a purpose and is very good for some people, but I have found a wealth of pain on Twitter. I have tried for a long time to surround myself with positive people there, and I have found many (you are one of them!), but I always seem to have someone in my crowd of followers who chooses to be hurtful. Life is hard enough, and I decided that to invite more difficulty into my life through the channel afforded by Twitter was not something I was willing to do anymore. I am too sensitive for Twitter, methinks.

    I even had my blog set to Private for a bit because of some of the things happening.

    All of this being said, I have seen Twitter serve several useful purposes for various people and causes, and it is a valuable source of interaction for some people who, for whatever reason, do not have a lot of people in their real-world life. Twitter does have a purpose, and I am glad it is there for those who choose to use it well and wisely. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      :Life is hard enough” is right, Steph. I’m so glad you are here, and that this is someplace you feel welcome, because you are. (Welcome, that is!)

  4. stephanielynn75 says:

    Reblogged this on Garden Variety Neurosis Redux and commented:
    I have let Twitter go for the time being, but this blog post from Tim Fall is very good. If you use Twitter or are thinking of using Twitter…or any social media, for that matter…this article is well worth reading.

  5. Hi Tim, Thanks for coming alongside me! Maureen

  6. janehinrichs says:

    Nice Post Tim. I post on Twitter but I haven’t ever gotten much into it. I don’t know why. Nonetheless I love your commentary on Twitter and what matters — the people part. It all gets back to relationships.

  7. VelvetVoice says:

    My favorite part of the paper is the funnies! Who wants to look at the news anyway? Too depressing. I need to come alongside people too, I have a tendency to be too self-focused. And I’m staying on social media so I can irritate the people I love. It’s who I am!

    • Tim says:

      That’s my favorite part too, V V. I may not have time for the front page or the editorials, but I will get to the comics if at all possible!

  8. Aimee Byrd says:

    I rocked the 80’s and 90’s aerobics classes. Teheh.
    And I’m still unsure of the purposes of Twitter. I think that people use it differently, and so sometimes we find ourselves disappointed. I look at it as a sort of cyber-bulletin board that offers links (instead of phone numbers) to articles and ideas. Some only look at it as an opportunity for self-promotion. Some want to use it to go deep. I like your analogy to the diner. In a diner, all these things can happen, and there is a hustle and bustle about Twitter that goes well. And sometimes we’re like, “What the crap?”, when we’re only given a half a cup of coffee.
    Often, I think my daughter’s Twitter account is better than mine, because she uses it for entertainment and just to shoot off random thoughts. But I guess that would make for a strange customer at the diner.

    • Tim says:

      The diner analogy does work well, especially as you fleshed it out, Aimee. I’m still trying to figure out what I expect form twitter and how I can use it under those expectations. a 140 character bulletin board is certainly a lot different way to communicate than posting blog articles and interacting in comments.

      P.S. You public would like photographic evidence of embarrassing … I mean representative aerobics participation.

      P.P.S. I personally have no such photographic evidence of my own 80s aerobics participation, but I admit that occasionally I dressed a tad like WHAM in their “Wake Me Up” video.

  9. Jeannie says:

    Wonderful post, Tim — pure poetry. I totally get it, and I’ve only been on Twitter for a few months. But Twitter would be only 50% of the fun if you weren’t there, so please don’t quit! 🙂

  10. Tim, I find your writing and your personal interactions on social media to be kind, encouraging, and chock full of coming-along-side. Thank you for this.

  11. I love this article, Tim. It’s funny – “Coming-alongsidedness” is EXACTLY the catchphrase that the Good Books folks used with me, when they were trying to infuse my writing with a little more compassion and humility…maybe that came straight from 2 Corinthians?

    • Tim says:

      You’ve taken Greek so you probably already know the connection between the word Paul used in that passage for comfort (paraklēseōs) and the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:25 (paraklētos). It makes sense since the Holy Spirit is our Great Comforter, after all.

  12. Laura Droege says:

    Well, you know I’m not on Twitter! But I’m glad other people enjoy it and benefit from it, even if I know my mind can’t handle its fast pace.

    Interesting, though, that you highlighted the people aspect. That was one thing I couldn’t figure out on twitter: how to deepen the relationships (or even keep the people straight in my mind). I had too many writers who I followed/was followed by, and sometimes they became a jumble in my mind. For me, 140 characters wasn’t quite enough for me to gauge their personality or interact meaningfully with them. (Facebook was slightly better in this regard for me, mostly because I already knew most of my “friends” in real life.) I’ve found blogging a better fit, simply because I can go deeper when I don’t have a character limit. There’s more breathing room.

    Either way, God calls us to be kind and encouraging in our interactions, whether that’s online or off. Different topic: how do we play peacemakers on the internet? Does the Biblical principle of “going to the brother who you’ve offended” apply even to trolls creepy commenters or verbally abusive people, especially when we only know them online? I had that issue come up several years ago on my blog, and didn’t know how to respond.

    (Sorry for a long winded comment. There’s yet another reason I didn’t thrive on Twitter! Too long winded.)

    • Tim says:

      “140 characters wasn’t quite enough for me to gauge their personality or interact meaningfully with them”

      That’s one of Twitter’s great failings, I think. The internet is always about people, because it’s people who are posting and commenting and responding. How do we interact with them when the problems you faced come up? What do we do with those who come across with what looks like trollish behavior? I think because of the nature of Twitter sometimes the most irenic way to respond is with no response. that frustrates me, but it is a method I’ve come to adopt.

      The wisest advice I’ve heard on the subject is “You don’t have to attend every argument that invites you to join it.” And I realize more and more how true that is.

  13. Chris says:

    Ha, I was expecting this to be a country song from the lyrics. I left facebook for this same reason. Fb is a different animal and also tends to provide lots of drama. I moved to twitter, but still I have gotten myself in trouble with comments often. I tend to come off negative with my opposite or subversive viewpoint. I comment a lot less now. Peace!

    • Tim says:

      Engaging without offending is something I’m still working on at both FB and Twitter, Chris. thanks for coming alongside me here at the blog, too.

  14. Tuija says:

    Tim, I have tremendous respect for you and everyone else who uses social media in such a constructive and encouraging way, ‘seeing’ the people behind the texts and avatars. Thanks for doing what you do.

    I’ve stayed away from Twitter and Facebook because I have this unfortunate tendency to take internet exchanges (the sort where there is disagreement and/or misunderstandings) too personally. Meaning that they stay on my mind and I keep mulling over them, even when I’m not in front of the computer. I can’t afford to put all that emotional/mental energy into online interaction, because it’s robbing my offline relationships. I appreciate my online relationships, too, like the blogs I read and their comment sections, or the Republic of Pemberley (where we may disagree about a book or a character, but everyone is mostly civil and kind to one another). But not getting into Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all that limits the amount of time I use online as well as the number of those discussions which prey on my mind and influence my mood even when it’s time for me to interact with my family, friends and the people actually face-to-face with me – or to pray, or to concentrate on my work.

    PS. Aerobics in the 1980’s? Yep. My PE teacher had a Jane Fonda type cassette tape – though in Finnish – that she used in class occasionally. In the third year, we sort of knew it by heart, and I still associate ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and a couple of other late 70s/early 80s songs with those moves…

    • Tim says:

      Eye of the Tiger was practically an aerobics class anthem back in those days!

      Thanks for the kind words about the way I come across on line, Tuija. Some places are better at fostering that type of exchange, and I hope my place here is consistent in being one of those places. (Hence the comment policy linked at the top of all my blog pages.)

  15. Tim, I appreciate that you came alongside me on Twitter. You let me guest post on this blog on New Year’s Eve and later encouraged me to start my own blog. Sometimes I wonder why I started a blog, but it has helped me to keep writing, however intermittently, which has de-rusted my writing skills. I’ve just sent off an article to a magazine, because they responded favorably to my pitch.

    So, thank you, Tim, for coming alongside me. Your friendship has caused me to keep doing that which I want to do, writing, but don’t always have the motivation for. My novel has lain dormant for some time, but at least I’m still writing during what has turned out to be a bit of a difficult year.

    Thank you for your friendship. May I pay it forward.

  16. caramac54 says:

    1. I’m so glad you’re on Twitter. 2. Please don’t quit, anytime soon. 3. Who else would I wittily converse about all things Gilmore Girls with? 4. I too (too often) feel like I’m on the outside looking in, so my thoughts (in song) exactly.

  17. Pingback: Why I Started Blogging « PRESSING ON TOWARD THE GOAL

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  19. madhabmatics says:

    Tim, you are welcome to jump into my Twitter conversations any time, even though like the other 2/3rds of my tweets are about Islam and massively multiple games. You don’t even have to know anything about them, just post!

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