A Second Opinion on Quitting Social Media

Last week I reflected on my concerns about social media like Twitter and Facebook, and explained why I ultimately agreed with historian Tommy Kidd that scholars can make good use of them.

But as a counterpoint, let me share a bit of what Tyler Wigg-Stevenson wrote (the same day as my post) in explaining his decision to stop using Twitter.

Tyler Wigg-StevensonA Christian anti-nuclear activist and author of The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, Wigg-Stevenson was just ordained as an Anglican priest. While reading Bede Frost’s Priesthood and Prayer on a pre-ordination spiritual retreat, he woke up one day and started to come to a realization:

My first thought was of Frost: how to start the day in prayer.

My first action, almost automatic, was: reaching for my iPhone on the nightstand and quickly scanning Twitter.

As he prepared to end the retreat later that day, he “could’ve been praying. But I was dreaming up tweets.” Eventually, it hit him:

I’ve got to stop. Not because I dislike Twitter (clearly). Not because I get nothing of value from it; I do. Not because it’s stupid or bad; it’s not, at least not in whole. Not because I’m too good for the medium; I’m not. The opposite, actually: I’m not spiritually mature enough right now to survive the level of mental agitation and distraction that Twitter causes me.

For all the reasons I cited last week, I’m not going to quit Twitter. But Wigg-Stevenson is describing a problem I know all too well:

The first and last instinct of my day is to check my iPhone, not to pray — or simply be silent before God. Worse yet, I too often find myself spending time on social media (or, yes, blogging) that I ought to be devoting to actual human relationships.

Wigg-Stevenson observes that these weeks after the startling election of Donald Trump strike him as “a time that seems to require getting serious, focusing energies, and selecting priorities.” Amen. And like him, I already know those priorities — my faith, my family, my vocation — and need to recognize when things like Twitter are taking precedence over them.

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