One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom and see who waves back.”
Now I didn’t just follow random people or the people that Twitter suggested. I actually did something somewhat methodical. I started going to accounts of people who followed me and people I followed and started following those people. I assumed if they were following my friends, then they might just want to follow me anyway. Then I also went to the accounts of everyone I wrote for and started following the people that followed those organizations. I assumed that these people would surely want to follow a writer that writes for that organization.
Again, I confess that this exploit was fleshly and selfish. It was all about me. I wanted more, and I succeeded. I tried to justify it by telling myself that I work so hard to write well; all I’m doing is helping people find my writing. They can choose whether they keep following. If they don’t like what they see, they can unfollow me. In reality, if the Lord wants people to find my writing, then he will show them the way. He doesn’t need my help to get that work done.
Successful Antics, But Burdened Heart
So, about now, some of you are wondering, how successful was this? You might even be wondering if it would work for you; you might just be tempted to try the same shenanigans.
Well, over the course of 90 days my followers jumped from 750 to over 3500. And this jump did not go unnoticed. One of my friends and peers jokingly texted me and gave me a hard time for becoming a sellout.
Others, observably, saw what happened to my account and employed the same methodology. They went from following a few hundred to flat out following everyone. I’m not sure if that was the competitive edge speaking to them or what. I mean, yeah, if some other guy doubles your following in a matter of weeks, you might just feel a little threatened, maybe.
Something else happened too. My following increased and so did my pride. Along with this came the heavy weight of burden, the burden of guilt. I was promoting myself, and it felt so dirty. Sure, if you’re a writer, there is a certain level of promotion that takes place. So, yeah, I tweet out my fresh posts every day and make sure my writing is accessible. But this, these Twitter antics, were beyond the acceptable level of self-promotion. I had wandered into a dark place of my soul, and I knew it.
So, as Summer drew to a close, so did my following insanity. Just as I woke up one day and decided to follow everyone, I woke up another day and repented, unfollowing everyone. Well, except the people I actually know, or actually need to follow because they influence, mentor, and are admired by me. All in all, I plummeted from following the maximum 2000 to following 350 and with that plummet came a corresponding plummet of my followers. Overall, I’ve dropped roughly 1000 followers since that time. I imagine the number will keep dropping, but I’m cool with that.
Anyway, I learned a handful of things about myself, others, and Twitter in this process. I thought I’d share what I learned from these antics, because who knows, it might help you sort some things out too:
1. Sin is sin regardless of the platform.
I operated from my flesh, and it didn’t matter if it was me talking one-on-one with a friend and being all into myself or it was me trying to generate a following in a digital universe. Anywhere ideas can be communicated, so can sin be committed. Though sin does not require the speech-act, the speech-act enables sin. In my eyes, what I did was wrong. It needed to be undone.
I didn’t have to write this article. I could have shuffled it all to the side. Just like how most of us do with our sin. We conceal it, not wanting others to see it. But perhaps my repentance will help others examine their own approach to using Twitter and compel them to think through their use of it.
Friends, sin is just as real online as it is offline. Virtual reality does not remove sin’s reality. The same penalty is still reaped.
2. People gravitate to crowds.
This is ironic. When I actually developed a big following of over a 1000 people, I noticed an acceleration of people following me. I had the perception of being important, and so people thought that I was.
The reality is no one is really all that important. It doesn’t matter who you are. And if you do the right thing long enough, speaking the truth plain enough, the crowds always disburse. That’s what happened with Jesus; that’s what still happens with his disciples today.
We’re all dust and to dust we will return. There are few people who’s work have lasting impact. When I think about Church History, I can quickly name a couple dozen. And because I have a fond affection for certain time periods I can add a few more dozen from each of those periods. But I’m like the 5% who are actually still interested in those people.
For the most part, our hard work in this life doesn’t last. If it truly exalts God and not ourselves, then it might, and that’s only because God is the one who outlasts, outshines, and outdoes all.
3. People are forgiving.
My friend that gave me a hard time, gave me an equally hard time when I repented. I took that as a sign he forgave me. He’d probably say that the whole thing didn’t matter much to him, but it did. It mattered enough for him to lovingly bust my chops about it.
Likewise, a couple other people noticed that I unfollowed them. They mentioned me and said that it was cool and they understood. Some of these people I ended up following back because I realized they were normal people not using Twitter following as a bargaining chip. They became friends, and we keep interacting.
People in general are forgiving in nature. They appreciate someone who is able to confess when they are wrong or have committed wrong.
I also wonder, if at times, people are too forgiving? If they don’t think some of these things are a bigger deal. In my case, I felt like what I did was a big enough deal for me to share it with you today. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done this. And if my decision to follow everyone and then unfollow people affected you or caused you to sin, then I ask your forgiveness.
4. What matters is what’s in your heart and where your affections lie.
I’m not convinced that following everyone is wrong and only following a few is right. Sometimes I think it can be pretentious and a sign of “cool kid” status to not follow anyone but the other “cool kids.” I consciously try not to do that. I played that silly game in high school all too well. Still, I want to have a substantive connection with those I follow. I’m not just going to follow strangers.
What really matters is what’s in your heart. I followed everyone with the wrong motive. I was trying to win at something. I was shooting for success. I erected an idol. My affection diverted around my twitter success. I know others, watching from afar, saw what I did and felt a little disappointment. Or at least I hope they cared enough to have those feelings. I’m grateful for my one friend who cheekily said something. I sorta wish others had too. I didn’t get a Twitter rebuke or admonishment like I should have. But that’s not much different from the real world, is it? I mean, when was the last time a brother or sister actually confronted your sin? It’s been too long for me. That’s for sure.
5. Trust God to extend his platform.
If you’re truly serving the Lord then you’re extending his platform, not yours. It’s his glory that goes forth, not yours. If he wishes to prosper you, then that is his will. It shouldn’t be your will to prosper yourself.
I think the battle over this truth will continue to wage in my soul. I will have to continually admonish myself: “The Lord adds and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
There are those who follow everyone and there are those who follow no one. Then there are all those who lie between. The whole Twitter following thing is definitely one of those grey areas of the Christian faith. It’s like meat sacrificed to idols. There are those who are strong in faith, who can follow everyone in good conscience. Then there are those whose faith is weak and prone to wander to self-exultation rather than self-forgetfullness. I discovered I’m one of those. I need to follow less, so that he might increase.