Celebrities do it. Bloggers do it. Politicians do it. And everyday Catholics do it, too.
Do you tweet? Do you twitter? Do you spend time with tweeple in the twitterverse? Do you have any idea what I am talking about?
As a writer and a blogger, I started avoiding the social networking phenomenon known as Twitter over a year ago.
"It’s silliness!" I told anyone who bothered to ask. "I have enough obstacles to coherent thought in my life as it is. Why on earth should I try to express myself in only 140 characters at a time?"
But then the inevitable happened. I read yet another glowing review that predicted the powerful ways in which Twitter would influence the future of publishing, and I decided it was time to pull my head from the sand.
I took a deep breath and I twittered. I tweeted. I wrote out thoughts, shared links, asked questions, and offered tiny pieces of my day, 140 characters at a time.
And, as happens with Twitter, I connected. With Catholics, with moms, with dads, with priests, with nuns, and with people all over the political spectrum.
More than 1,400 updates later, what I have come to appreciate most about micro-blogging, as Twitter is sometimes appropriately called, is that it is a simple and yet powerful means of communication.
When you share a thought, question, or link on Twitter, your 140 characters have the potential to land on computer screens in front of thousands of people. Within seconds, readers can respond to you, ask questions of their own, and re-share your information within their own networks. Does God not want us to use this kind of power to defend the unborn, to offer a Catholic perspective on the world, and to encourage one another in Catholic living?
It’s easy to find people who will criticize this new form of media. It turns our brains to mush, some say. It annihilates our attention spans. It fosters narcissism and vacuous conversation.
But none of these has been my experience.
When critics cite studies about distracted youth and wonder aloud if anyone will ever read a good old-fashioned book again, someone invariably stands up for Twitter by pointing out that people are misunderstanding it.
"Though the home page of Twitter asks, ‘What are you doing?’" they explain, "That’s not how I use Twitter. I would never fill up the Twitterverse with tweets about where I am and what I am doing."
To these Twitter defenders, though, I must say: I like links and I appreciate breaking news, but . . . um . . . I’m here for the details.
I do want to know what you had for breakfast. And I have been looking for a nutritious waffle recipe that freezes well, so please tweet the recipe, too.
I do want to know that your baby was up all night with a stomach virus, and now you are staring blankly at a computer screen nursing a cup of coffee. I’ve had nights like that, too.
I do want to know that you just returned from chaperoning a trip to the zoo with your son’s preschool and are wondering if your family is really going to have the nerve to expect you to cook dinner tonight. Or that your kids are rooting for Kris Allen to win it all on American Idol. Or that you are counting the minutes until your husband gets home from work so that you can escape to your bedroom with a magazine. Or that you are wondering what to buy your niece for her First Communion next weekend.
They say the devil is in the details, but I think God lives there, too. Small glimpses of others’ lives show us real bits of Catholic living, family life, and the human experience.
One of the very first columns I ever wrote years ago was about a wretched evening when I burned dinner, the kids were fighting, and the dog vomited oranges on the living room carpet.
Who wants to hear about dog vomit? It turns out lots of people do. I was surprised when I received notes from moms all over who wanted only to say, "Thank you!" and "Me too!"
Knowing others’ details shows us what we have in common, reassures us when we are feeling alone, and reminds us that others are right here with us fighting the good fight, even when all seems lost.
A friend of mine, a fellow mother of many who lives across town from me, once told me, "I don’t need to see or talk to you every day to feel encouraged by you. When my life feels hard, I like just knowing that you are there, at your house, doing what I am doing."
"Just knowing you are there" is the kind of encouragement I hope to offer through my own words and the kind I seek in what others share. In person. On paper. On computer screens. And anywhere else the future takes us.