Just six years after its advent, Twitter boasts nearly 500 million users and has been recognized by MLA as a citable source in academic papers. With no “friendships” to maintain, Twitter offers the ultimate in low-maintenance networking. Any user may follow or unfollow any other user. With hashtags, anyone may join any conversion on any topic at any time (using 140 characters or less, of course). Twitter is social media simplicity and freedom. Such freedom, though, brings accountability and breeds etiquette. Users who show little restraint will annoy others, resulting in fewer followers. Those who tweet carefully will build larger networks, find themselves more connected, and be able to exert more influence (see www.klout.com to explore social media styles and strategy).
Ethically, Christians must think of Twitter no differently than other forms of speech. The biblical instructions concerning one’s words broadcast from the mouth apply also to words broadcast over social media. Try reading James 3:1-12, and replace each instance of the word “tongue” with “tweet.” Really. Do it. See what I mean?
While Twitter etiquette is still at its dawn, I offer my simple seven rules for Tweeting with class:
- Venting your petty frustrations only frustrates others. Complaining about poor service, a homework assignment, or your neighbor’s dog isn’t helpful. You may feel better, but your followers won’t. Besides, since when is venting—in any format—okay (read that James 3 piece again)?
- Say what builds up (Ephesians 4:29). This one should go without saying, but be encouraging! I’m often energized and exhorted by what my Christian friends and heroes post on Twitter. In fact, by carefully selecting those I follow, Twitter has actually become very helpful in my own sanctification, as their Tweets remind me of the gospel and God’s calling on my life. Am I doing the same for those who follow me?
- Tweet the “C’est La Vie”—share your “such is life” moments—the funny, the strange, the random, and the interesting. A child’s birthday, an exciting development, an unexpected visit, your favorite team—sharing life is what makes social media just that—social. Even the apostles shared their very lives (1 Thess 2:8).
- Seize the platform, but don’t make Twitter your pulpit. Tweet Bible verses, quotes from sermons and books, and even your own insights and convictions. Share the gospel and gospel-centered thoughts. Resist the urge, though, to make Twitter your personal sermon to the world. Casual conversation doesn’t afford you such privilege, and neither does Twitter. Your followers are your followers only in the loosely-connected, free-to-come-and-go-as-you-please sense, not in the we’re-your-disciples sense.
- Save your privacy and avoid TMI. As my father once told me, “You can get your skeletons out of the closet without hanging them in the yard.” Not everything should be tweeted. If you wouldn’t share it in a room full of people at a casual event, then don’t post it on Twitter. Life is peculiar in that the darkest and most delightful moments are deeply personal, even intimate. You can flatter your spouse without embarrassing him or her (or the whole world!). You can share some of your pain without spewing all the mess.
- Exerting influence isn’t building your brand. In Twitter’s early days, it seemed okay to RT (retweet) a compliment paid to you. As time passed, this practice became less acceptable, and now is nearly Twitter taboo. If, when in public, you don’t say, “Mr. So-and-So said I’m awesome and smart,” then, when on Twitter, also refrain.
- Keep personal conversations personal. Some back-and-forth is fine, and even a little light-hearted banter can be fun. Remember, though, no one wants to hear a personal conversation in public space—whether in an elevator or on a Twitter page. Use DM (direct message) for private exchanges (even though the true privacy of such information is debatable). Better yet, for very personal matters, use that mobile phone actually to talk to someone!
These are my simple seven. A common thread runs through them. Twitter is a semi-public space. Tweeting is the equivalent of saying something very loudly in a large room full of people with whom you have varying degrees of relationship. Don’t tweet what you wouldn’t say in that room. Rather, “give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).
Dr. Chuck Fuller comes to Anderson University with 13 years of experience in pastoral ministry, serving churches in Kentucky and Indiana. He holds a BA in Christian Studies from Campbellsville University, and an MDiv and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary field of study for the Ph.D. was in Christian preaching, with additional studies in systematic theology and philosophy. Before arriving at AU, Dr. Fuller was pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and adjunct professor of Christian preaching at Boyce College of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, Dr. Fuller has served on committees and boards of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Married to Jessie, Dr. Fuller and his wife have two children–Kaylen Marie and Ian Charles. Jessie holds a Bachelor of Bible from Ozark Christian College, with a concentration in deaf ministry. Currently, Jessie works as a stay-at-home mom and brilliant culinary artist.
Homiletical theology comprises Dr. Fuller’s primary research area, as demonstrated in his recent book, The Trouble With “Truth Through Personality”: Phillips Brooks, Incarnation, and the Evangelical Boundaries of Preaching. Dr. Fuller also presented a paper, titled “The Pulpit at the Precipice of Heresy,” at the 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Homiletical Society.