Quick to Listen – Slow to Tweet
Relationships once developed slowly via personal encounter. Every chance meeting and handshake provided another casual conversation that gradually vetted the acceptable parameters of agreement on issues important to the two parties of a budding friendship. To the degree that two people found familiarity and commonality a friendship developed. Contrarily, when dissonance in virtue and ideology was uncovered a certain calculated distance was programmed into the relationship and the two parties silently negotiated an acceptable barrier for future encounters. At the end of such process, legitimate friendship was the result of natural commonality between two people. “Friends” were those who were generally in agreement with one another in areas considered important or desirable.
How profoundly certain things have changed in the social networking generation we now enjoy. Becoming “friends” is in theory as simple as clicking a button on a Facebook profile screen of someone who perhaps has been never actually seen with the human eye of the friender. Unlike the former process of methodically screening potential relationships through calculated conversation, now a person’s life story, political and social ideologies and a full array of revealing conversation with others is instantly displayed, organized and ingested in a single sitting. Gone completely is the discipline once required to garnish such privileged information.
In this setting our lives are on display to a much wider audience than many seem to realize. Things once said between friends with a wink of the eye are now heralded well beyond the privy of those who may have understood the sentiment of an inside anecdote. The concept of an ‘inner circle’ simply does not exist in online form. That which is posted on a social network is literally enshrined forever for public scrutiny.
The warning of James 1:19 must be seriously calulated more today than ever before: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
It seems that every week I see some exceptionally awkward situation being aired in full living color on someone’s Facebook wall. Personal disagreements are publicly posted in shameless attempt to illicit sympathy over issues which, if only left alone, would resolve themselvesg. Yet, “quick to anger” translates to “quick to tweet” in our current social paradigm. The frustration of the moment coupled with instant internet access persuades people to speak before they think and lash out before they listen. The friendships of yesterday provided a built-in buffer from such rash behavior. We went home, had a warm evening in the safety of family, slept on it and only then was the outside world encountered once again.
I was once told after a particularly frustrating conversation to write a letter to the person who had offended me stating everything I truly wanted to say. Then, I was instructed to fold it up and read it again in twenty four hours and send it only if I still felt the same way. Surprisingly to me, after twenty four hours I no longer wanted to say most of what I had written. I threw the letter away in the end, and no damage was done to an important friendship. What I practiced that day was the art of being “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
I would propose that any social networking post involving personal grievance be left alone entirely. Yet, if you simply must write something, rather than posting it to the entire world why not email it to yourself, have dinner, hug your kids, sleep on it and then read it again tomorrow. If it really needs to be said it will still need to be said tomorrow. Let us practice being quick to listen and “slow to tweet” that our own sin of anger be not what is actually on display when we next click the ‘submit’ button and reveal our condition to all.