Twitter and towers

Among the better decisions I’ve made this year has been to get off of Twitter. I gave it up for Lent, but once Easter came and went I realized that the best move might be to remain in the twitterless Lenten Lands for a while longer.

I have no beef with Twitter. I follow good, smart people (well, good and smart people plus the President who I also follow for some dumb reason) and I have learned a great deal and had my thoughts sharpened and even changed through the content of the tweets and threads I’ve read and with which I’ve interacted. It was fun; while I never had a large following, one of my tweets was actually liked by Lin Manuel Miranda, which was definitely a highlight.

The problem isn’t Twitter. It is me. As an active user I found myself in spare and not so spare moments scrolling scrolling, scrolling, searching, searching, searching.

Why is that? I think it’s because I live and participate in a culture that fears silence; a culture that reveres activity and controversy and hot-takes and making a name for oneself.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4 ESV

Comparing social media and the Tower of Babel; kind of a stretch, right? Possibly. But perhaps not.

To be honest, one of the draws to social media for me is the technological fascination with the platforms themselves, and the promise of things that are truly good: connection, interaction, mutual support, creativity, community. These are good things. Just like building a city and a tower is a good thing, in itself. God isn’t against ambitious construction projects.

The Tower of Babel was somehow seen by those who built it as a protection against solitude and disconnection, “lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole Earth.” Desiring to be connected and together is a good thing as well.

Unfortunately it is the human condition to take good things and twist them, to attempt to take the reins of our lives from the hands of our Creator, to make a name for ourselves. It’s the human condition to desire independence from our God and to run from his face, avoiding the silences and the solitude where he is, desiring autonomy in theory but then just clumping ourselves together in our tribes, allowing ourselves to be under the boot of the loud and the strong and the ruthless while declaring ourselves free; free to be at war with the other tribes with whom we go to battle, stick and stone and tooth and claw.

Dispersing the people, confusing their language, and leaving the Tower of Babel an empty husk was, like all of God’s actions, wise and good, though we may not understand it com poll letely. It would do us well to study it and learn from it.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be off Twitter. But I’m learning to love the new silences and unoccupied moments in my day.

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