[I met Jeff Fiet on Twitter and have enjoyed reading his wisdom and having fun with his word games there. In today’s guest post he gives wisdom about playing around on line.]
Paul & Barnabas’s Excellent Adventure #XianMovieMashup
This was my very first entry into the world of the hashtag game. Someone I followed on Twitter at the time had been engaging in this hashtag game and his tweets were funny, so I though perhaps I would try one myself. I typed it, hit TWEET, and then went about my day.
Paul & Barnabas’s Excellent Adventure #XianMovieMashup
The tweet received a few favorites and perhaps a retweet or two, but nothing significant. Then, about a week later, I was informed by the aforementioned Twitter user that my tweet had been referenced on a podcast. I was surprised and mildly intrigued. I decided to download the podcast and listen to it. The show is called The Moonshine Jesus Show and its hosts are Mark Sandlin and David Hensen. They talked theology as it related to current events and politics. Then, at the very end, they had a hashtag game. They would begin by listing their personal favorites from the previous week’s hashtag and then they would offer a new hashtag for their listeners to use. My hashtag about Paul and Barnabas was included in their favorites for that week. In that moment, I became hooked on hashtag games.
That was over a year ago and I have played countless hashtag games since, both ones suggested by The Moonshine Jesus Show, and others that I’ve discovered through connecting with other hashtag gamers and by scouring the trending hashes. I’ve come to consider myself pretty adept at them and have received compliments about some of my plays … things such as “Hashtag is your second language” or “You’re brilliant at hashtag games.” I don’t write this in order to boast or to lift myself up high. What I wish to communicate to you is how immersed in the hashtag gaming culture I’ve become. (Yes, there truly is an entire culture around hashtag gaming.) I was hooked. And every compliment, every fav, every retweet, drew me farther into the obsession, farther into the cult.
Now, I can hear some of you laughing. Perhaps you think I am making far too much out of something as mundane and trivial as hashtag games. And until recently, I would have totally agreed with you. Some days, I probably still do. But today, I am reeling from a significant reality check that I experienced. A few days ago, I decided to modify a hashtag that was trending and see if I could get others playing my adapted hashtag game. The trending hashtag was #MakeAMovieConfused. I changed it to #MakeAMovieTheological.
As a Christian pastor with many Christian followers on Twitter, I thought this new hashtag would be something I could get others to latch on to. At first, it seemed like it might just fizzle out, with little or no interaction. I even tweeted directly at some fellow Christian hashtaggers to encourage them to join in and received very little response immediately. I considered just cutting my losses and giving up. Then, finally, a couple of friends tweeted with that hashtag. Then a few more. Then a couple of more significant Twitter users (with many more followers than I) joined in the fray. Soon my little hashtag game was taking off. I had a hard time keeping up with reading all the ones that were coming up. It was exhilarating! And it inspired me to keep playing the game myself.
All in all, this would have been fine and perhaps even made for a great day. But therein lied the problem. It took up the entirety of my day. Sure, I accomplished a few small things along the way. But most of my day was focused, not on living my life and doing the work and ministry to which I’ve been called, but on playing a silly hashtag game on Twitter. It was fun. It was exciting. But it was also meaningless.
So, why did I do it then? Two reasons: affirmation and connection. Something inside me derives joy from seeing friends and strangers favorite a tweet on mine. I feel affirmed. I feel like I am funny or witty or appreciated. And maybe others actually feel those things about me when they read my tweets as well. But why am I seeking that sort of affirmation on Twitter? It’s because I don’t seem to be finding it in real life.
The same is true with my desire for connection. I love it when someone replies to one of my tweets or retweets it with a comment. I feel like I connected with that person in some way. But they are just a picture on a screen (maybe not even a real picture – might be a cartoon cat or a clipart tree or who knows what). Despite my feeling of connection, there is no real connecting happening. Again I find myself seeking something online that I am not finding in real life.
Don’t get me wrong. Hashtag games are not the problem. The problem is my lack of effort at building relationships in my real life. The problem is the lack of attention I devote to making myself a person worthy of being affirmed. The problem is me. If I can’t change me, the real life me, then I will never find the affirmation and connection that I so desire…no matter how many hashtag games I play.
Jeff serves as co-pastor of a church in the panhandle of Nebraska alongside his wife April. He is a father of two kids, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, an avid SPAM™ collector, and a fantasy fiction enthusiast. Jeff expresses his creativity through writing, hashtag games, and Christian parodies of pop songs.
Tim here now: Jeff’s words remind me of passages from Ecclesiastes:
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. (Ecclesiastes 3:12.)
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12.)
Those verses and Jeff’s post raise some questions to consider:
- Are you ever distracted by things you do on line?
- What can you do to avoid those distractions while not rejecting being on line entirely?
- When have you found connection with people on line that has built you up and encouraged you in your faith?
- How can you use your on line presence to encourage others in their relationship with God and the people he’s put in their lives?