Tag Archives: twitter

For Tonight’s Debate, Use #youngcons on Twitter

If you’re so inclined, use the hashtag code #youngcons on Twitter while Tweeting in Twitteresque ways about the second presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

A bunch of, well, young conservatives used this hashtag for the VP debate and saw a major response.  It may just crack the Twitter top ten tonight, and that might inspire visions of global domination.  You never know (not that one wants to aim too high or anything).

Here are a couple of Christianity Today pieces I wrote recently on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, by the way.  And here’s a very good one from my buddy Denny Burk on the importance of bringing pro-life convictions to bear on voting.  Evangelical conservatives are of course “whole life” advocates–we wish for holistic human flourishing at all stages of life.  But to get to all the stages of life, of course, one has to exist, and not be killed in the womb.

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Linsanity: Jeremy Lin, Christian Basketball Star

If you haven’t heard of Jeremy Lin yet, you soon will (see this dated Time article).  He’s a Christian basketball player for the New York Knicks.  He’s also a Harvard graduate and an Asian-American.  I’ve followed Lin on Twitter for some time, but he struggled early in the season as he was cut from the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.  The Knicks claimed him off waivers, and he actually played a game in the developmental league in my home state for the Portland Red Claws.  Lin was not doing well, and it looked like he would be cut from the Knicks.

But a number of injuries forced coach Mike D’Antoni to give Lin an extended trial.  In his first game getting significant minutes, Lin scored 25 points; the next game, 28; and last night, 23 with ten assists.  In short, he is lighting up the NBA.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch, not least because this is a guy who Tweets CJ Mahaney quotations.  His situation has been so unstable that he’s slept on his teammate’s couch–imagine LeBron or Kobe doing that!

I would encourage you to keep your eyes out for Lin.  Though he was undrafted, he has many skills and could be a starting point guard.  He’s tall, has a great first step, is an excellent finisher, and creates many openings for teammates.  He plays good defense.  In short, I love his game, and it’s exciting to see yet another Christian athlete excel.  It’s also great to see an Asian-American Christian draw attention.  I’ve heard that Asian-Americans, to speak broadly, can feel like the “silent minority” in the American church, and that’s a major problem.

My buddy Doug Hankins of TEDS–a baller in his own right, with an excellent blog to match–just linked to some comments from Carl Park, a fellow TEDS PhD student, who commented positively on Lin’s impact for the Asian-American community.

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“We’re in the Middle of a Literacy Revolution”: Wired Magazine on the New Literacy

wiredI’ve got more great stuff for you on how social media is affecting our lives.  This is a fascinating piece from Wired magazine called “Clive Thompson on the New Literacy” that covers briefly a study by a Stanford University professor named Andrea Lunsford of 14,000 pieces of writing by college students–academic papers, blogs, texts, chat sessions, and more–that analyzes the style today’s students use to write. (Image: Mads Berg/Wired)

This study enters the debate currently raging over whether students are writing far more poorly in today’s digitized world than they used to.  Here’s how Wired writer Clive Thompson sets the table:

As the school year begins, be ready to hear pundits fretting once again about how kids today can’t write—and technology is to blame. Facebook encourages narcissistic blabbering, video and PowerPoint have replaced carefully crafted essays, and texting has dehydrated language into “bleak, bald, sad shorthand” (as University College of London English professor John Sutherland has moaned). An age of illiteracy is at hand, right?

Andrea Lunsford isn’t so sure. Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students’ prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples—everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring.

Here’s Lunsford’s surprising conclusion for her study:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civiliztion,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

Here’s what else she found:

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

And here’s the final take-away from the study, as Clive Thompson sees it:

The fact that students today almost always write for an audience (something virtually no one in my generation did) gives them a different sense of what constitutes good writing. In interviews, they defined good prose as something that had an effect on the world. For them, writing is about persuading and organizing and debating, even if it’s over something as quotidian as what movie to go see. The Stanford students were almost always less enthusiastic about their in-class writing because it had no audience but the professor: It didn’t serve any purpose other than to get them a grade. As for those texting short-forms and smileys defiling serious academic writing? Another myth. When Lunsford examined the work of first-year students, she didn’t find a single example of texting speak in an academic paper.

The whole thing is worth reading.

My take?  I’m not so convinced.  I do agree that the multiple platforms on which today’s youth communicate does likely help them to learn how to communicate to diverse audiences.  That is a useful skill, one that we could undervalue, especially those of us who emphasize the importance of formal writing.

But with that said, I really wonder whether today’s students write as well as Thompson and Lunsford seem to think they do.  I have served as a grader a few times on both the graduate and undergraduate level, and I was stunned at the poor writing in the papers I encountered.  It’s one thing to be able to text, “hey dude tht game rocked 4 me” and another to argue persuasively, logically, and even elegantly for the reasons behind Rome’s fall.

With that said, this is an article that is worth serious consideration.  The insight that today’s students actually write more than any other generation is history is worth pondering in its own right, and does perhaps balance our perception of things.  Christians have a vested interest here, as we value both clear communication and high-level thought.  This doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a “Christian position” here, but conformity to Christ and His dominion over all of life necessitate that we think about this matter.

In addition, I would say that while blog comments and message board discussion often get hammered as unprofitable (and regularly with considerable justification), I personally often find simulating, logical discussion on intelligent blogs and websites.  You’d be surprised at how sharp and thoughtful a discussion of obscure NBA players can get.  I, for one, love that kind of technical, involved analysis.  Before web 2.0, basketball nerds like me had no such outlet.

Whether Lunsford and Thompson are right or not, it’s clear to me that you can’t simply slam web 2.0 and move on.  It’s a mixed bag.  The same collegiate goofballs that are turning in shoddy history papers are those posting highly nuanced and intelligent observations of the University of Florida football team’s recruiting decisions.  I for one wonder if this is not a net loss, but it’s at least interesting to think about, as the article leads us to do.

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Cultural Irony: Twitter Users Are Dad and Mom, Not the Kids

nagytwitterThe New York Times has an ironic piece up about Twitter users.  Apparently, they’re older, not young.  Surprising.

Especially funny to me was the quotation from an 18-year-old girl (photo: Tim Shaffer/NYT).  She is not necessarily the embodiment of maturity–she gets tons of text messages a day–but she has some funny words about the purpose of Twitter:

Kristen Nagy, an 18-year-old from Sparta, N.J., sends and receives 500 text messages a day. But she never uses Twitter, even though it publishes similar snippets of conversations and observations.

“I just think it’s weird and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know what I’m doing every second of my life,” she said.

Though the article doesn’t seem to give the exact percentage of older Twitter users, it suggests that a very small portion of users are young:

Her reluctance to use Twitter, a feeling shared by others in her age group, has not doomed the microblogging service. Just 11 percent of its users are aged 12 to 17, according to comScore.

So here’s the ironic thing.  An 18-year-old girl, seemingly more likely to be narcissistic than older folks, actually thinks it’s “weird” to tell others her actions for “every second” of her life.  Yet the older generation, seemingly less likely to be narcissistic than younger folks, thinks it’s perfectly normal to tell others of their moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour activities.  Huh?

Before too many people protest at this point, let me say as one inevitably must that one can use Twitter for good ends.  I’ve seen it happen.  It can connect people meaningfully, help make friendships, communicate information, and so on.  So that’s on the table.

But I do find it funny that this girl and tons of her peers would likely say that they think it’s “weird” to share needless information about oneself with the public.  Does this tell us something?  Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t.  It seems worth thinking over.  Who’s that knocking at the door?  Lady Irony?  Is that you?

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Want Country Music Stardom? Upload a Video

taylorswiftSeeking worldwide musical fame?  Upload a video to YouTube.  Actually, please don’t.  Veronica Ballestrini, budding country music star, didn’t take my advice, and she’s on her way to a record deal:

In a video posted to YouTube in January 2008, Veronica Ballestrini — then 16, blond, precocious — sits on a wrinkled couch wearing a pink Abercrombie & Fitch zip-up hoodie and clutching a guitar. “Today one of my fans messaged me, and he thought I should do a Taylor Swift song,” the singer said, then began a committed, occasionally imperfect version of Ms. Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar.”

That’s a hilarious last line, by the way.  Please let it never be said of me that I am both “committed” and “imperfect”.  That’s condescension at its funniest.

Here’s how the wannabe Taylor Swift has made her mark:

When she first began recording music at age 13, “I had no idea about anything, nothing about the industry or radio or singles,” Ms. Ballestrini recalled last month, on the phone from Peoria, Ill., during her first tour of country radio stations. “But I did know I needed a lot of fans.” And so from her Connecticut home Ms. Ballestrini set about cultivating an audience online: MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, DigitalRodeo and more.

A year and a half later, all the screen time has begun to pay off. Last spring she recorded a proper video for “Amazing,” a single of her own, and uploaded it. After a couple of weeks it was picked up by CMT.com, the digital arm of Country Music Television, and shown on CMT Pure Country, the network’s all-video digital channel.

Here’s how another budding star has cultivated her fan base:

“My iTunes sales have far exceeded my chart position on radio, so if it’s not radio play, what is it?” Ms. Lee continued. “I answer back every person who writes me. I’m active on Twitter. People are finding me through YouTube.”

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Here’s the whole piece.

Social media has changed much of our culture.  One of the personally interesting developments to me is the way in which musicians and artists can launch their careers on their own at essentially no cost.  This has obvious weaknesses, but it has significant strengths as well.

It’s inspiring that a singer with legitimate but undiscovered talent can record a song, upload it, and eventually land a record deal.  This is of course quite rare, but it’s remarkable nonetheless.  Social media is a force.  It’s good for Christians to think about how to use it to push the gospel and glorify the Lord, especially in fields like music and the arts where funds are often scarce.  Let’s hope that stories like this inspire legitimately talented Christians to share their gifts with the world.

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The Link 7.24.09: Mark Driscoll’s Book, Tim Tebow’s Faith, and Martha’s Vineyard

tebow1. Have you seen the new Sports Illustrated profile of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow?  If not, here it is.  This guy seems to be the real deal.  An outspoken Christian who loves preaching the gospel.  Encouraging.

2. That street vendor selling hot dogs?  According to the NYT, he’s on Twitter

3. For those of us New Englanders currently living in exile, a brief look at Martha’s Vineyard makes the heart grow fonder

4. The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma, a Southern Baptist newspaper published since 1912, has just welcomed my friend Doug Baker to its editorship.  Congratulations are in order.

5. Have you heard about the free eBook by Mark Driscoll entitled Pastor Dad?  It looks like a terrific book, especially for men trying to tackle the challenge of spiritual headship of a family.     

–Have a great weekend, all.

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“Someone Tweeted”: My (Fake) Day in the Twitterverse

Purely for fun, I decided to do a fake Twitter day.  This is a satire, but it’s not hard-edged.  For fun.

So here goes.  The first and only Twitter entry of “owenstrachan”.  I’m sure that at this point you’re holding your breath.  Some events and persons have been created or edited for comedic effect.

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just kissed my wife and baby goodbye to go to work.  I love them.  8:03am from web

driving in car to work  8:04am from otowntwitter

stop light.  I’m stopped.  8:04:30am from otowntwitter

turning right.  8:04:35am from otowntwitter

this car smells.  someone tweeted  8:05 am from otowntwitter

just had breakfast with @jaredcompton.  I so appreciate that guy.  9:10am from web

just had a conversation with @markrogers.  really appreciate him.  we were in the hall.  9:15am from web

just had a conversation with @andynaselli.  I appreciate him as well.  we talked in my office.  great ministry–so thankful  9:30am from web

heart is full of appreciation.  appreciate you for reading this–grateful for your ministry  9:40am from web

received a funny email.  I laughed.  9:45am from web

just shifted in my chair.  my back hurts.  contemplating another shift–I’ll let you know how it goes  10:00am from web

shifted again  10:01am from web

so you know, the shift worked  10:01:30am from web

started reading Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.  loved page 17  10:30am from web

loved page 18  10:31am from web

page 19 was particularly stimulating  10:32am from web

page 20 was unsurpassed so far  10:33am from web

change that–page 21 set a new standard  10:34am from web

want to take Twitter seriously.  maybe should stop reading.  10:35am from web

realized that I should keep it up.  then, realized that I should probably twitter about each twitter  10:40am from web

just twittered  10:40:01 from web

just twittered about twittering  10:40:03am from web

just twittered about twittering about twittering  10:40:05am from web

just twittered about twittering about twittering about twittering  10:40:07am from web

new policy–no twittering (about twittering).  10:40:40am from web

just realized you could call twittering about twittering “retwittering”.  or maybe “duplitwittering”.  which reminds me of my favorite Twitterverse saying: someone tweeted.  10:50am from web

just had another conversation with @markrogers.  remembered how much I appreciate that guy.  he is so easy to appreciate.  appreciation tank full to bursting  11:40am from web

take a break to stretch and walk.  over the course of the break, stretch.  then, walk.  12:00pm from web

lunch–Caesar wraps.  chicken, tortilla, lettuce.  and caesar dressing–of course!  ate them slowly, chewing regularly, swallowing when appropriate.  periodically drank water (some ice cubes floating in it–eventually they disappeared, lowering temperature of the water).  when finished, threw away napkin (used about 40% of it).  12:30pm from web

page 22 of Pearcey blew me away  1:00pm from web

another break.  this time, contemplate switching things up–maybe I’ll walk first, then stretch.  2:00pm from web

Yup–that was the perfect equation.  first walked.  then stretched.  brilliant  2:01pm from web

afternoon snack.  snickers.  first bought it (79 cents); then unwrapped it; then ate it.  digestion worked well  4:00pm from web

just saw @AndyNaselli again.  in talking with him, was reminded of how thankful I am of his ministry.  much to appreciate about him.  highly appreciation-worthy  5:00pm from web

heading home for the day.  just pushed in chair  5:30pm from web

driving home.  this car still smells.  <drumroll>  someone tweeted  5:35pm from otowntwitter

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Killing Narcissism: Or, How Focusing on Others Might Just Save Our Souls

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.”  (Clyde Kilby quoted in John Piper, The Hidden Smile of God, 112)

A good friend passed this cutting quotation to me in the midst of a conversation, and I thought it too excellent to not share with friends.  It seems a scripturally saturated thought, as it pushes we who are narcissistic, self-focused sinners outside of ourselves and forces us to concentrate on other people and on bigger, more significant matters of life.

This is the kind of quotation, I think, that should not cause us to attempt knee-jerk reactions to patterns of our lives but should instead prompt us to meditate on every aspect of our existence.  It might even be worth printing out and putting up on one’s mirror.  Or one might write it on the first page of a journal.  Whatever the case, this piercing word from an old English professor caused me to sit up straight.  I’m going to try to keep it in my mind for a long time, and use it to fight sin and silly thoughts and bad habits. 

God needs to reign in my mind and life; others need to occupy my attention; I need far less attention and praise than I give myself.  This could apply to those who use Twitter, those who have never heard of Twitter, and everyone in between.  Every Christian in every place could likely use a reminder that life is not about us, and thus we should not structure our lives as if it is.  We should avoid things that tempt us to act as if this is so, and should devote ourselves to larger, more important things.

If we do so, we’ll abase or lower ourselves and we’ll lift Christ high.  We’ll worry less about our cars or clothes or Facebook pages or blogs or classes or hair growth or children, and we’ll worry far, far more about making God great.  That is no small thing (though we are).

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Legalism and Twitter

A quick word following up on the Twitter discussion began last week:

I’ve seen the word “legalism” attached to my blogs.  While I don’t think I’m immune to legalism by any stretch, I would note very quickly that I avoided attaching the word “sin” to my post.  I also strove to avoid an automatic equation of Twitter and narcissism (or a foolish waste of time, or other sins and problems).  It is my personal opinion that one can easily fall into these traps with Twitter use given its concise, self-driven nature.  But at no point did I say that one automatically falls into these patterns by using Twitter.

Furthermore, sometimes we can confuse a discussion of what is edifying and helpful with what is sinful.  Now, behavior that does not edify can easily become sinful.  But it need not be.  It may simply stay in the realm of unwise or unedifying.  It seems to me that Twitter can easily fall into this category.  Those who read my posts carefully will note that I spent the lion’s share of them discussing the vacuous nature of much Twitter usage.  It is not necessarily, inherently sinful to tell me you just watched Cinderella Man.  But neither is it necessarily edifying.  I would argue, to continue, that a pattern of such posting could well drag one into a pattern of time-wasting that could in the end prove unwise and even sinful.  Does this make sense?

With that said, my exhortation to not use Twitter was intended to be a bit startling.  As other sections of each blog articulated, many godly people use Twitter and do so for good reasons.  I don’t personally think one has to use Twitter to live an edifying life, and I push back against techno-obsession and an over-realized drive to redeem all aspects of culture, and I have seen few people use Twitter in a way that seems robustly edifying or meaningful.  But that’s not to say it can’t happen.

I guess at the end of the day I lean towards focusing one’s effort on the cultivation of face-to-face fellowship.  That, rather than an essentialist understanding of Twitter, is where my exhortation sprang from.

Thanks to all who’ve chimed in and to Rich Brooks for being an insightful discussion partner and the leader of a terrific website, Christ and Pop Culture.

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The Twitter Debate: To Use or Not to Use?

Yesterday’s blog drew a good number of reactions from thoughtful folks. Here are a few responses to comments from yesterday’s post.

Many Christians will use Twitter or their Facebook status relatively responsibly. Many, for the most part, won’t be narcissistic, self-promoting, time-wasters, and so on. Great.

Many others, however, will not. And thus Facebook and Twitter and their blog will often be used, as much of life in our day is, for narcissism, self-promotion, immaturity, and time wasting, while really important things go undone.

facebookAfter a while of thinking about Christianity and culture, I’m not one to say that all things are worthy of engagement by Christians. I’m in no hurry to see a movement of Christians embrace jello-wrestling as a means of evangelism, for example. Can Twitter be used for good? Yes, it can. I think it will take some effort and intentionality to do so, though, because I think it’s inherently structured to share generally needless information. I’ve done some research in thinking about this, reading various folks’ Twitter accounts, and I can say that rarely do I find them edifying or meaningful. They’re sometimes funny, sometimes amusing, but rarely are they really edifying. Often–most often, I would say–they focus on mundane things that in my opinion do not need to be shared. I have yet to see a good case for why you, the reader, need to know that I just drank a hot chocolate and that I like hot chocolate. Why do you, the reader, need to know this?

As technology and other factors fragment society, it seems to me that we need to focus a great deal on meaningful face-to-face interaction. This doesn’t preclude email, blogging, or whatever, but I don’t think the answer to a high-paced world is an avalanche of rather unimportant communication about mundane things. Doesn’t it seem natural to a Christian to focus most of their attention in such a situation on the cultivation of real, substantive communication? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems obvious.

If our world makes it difficult for us to meaningfully connect (and it does), why accommodate? Why not push back?

The public nature of Facebook and Twitter concerns me. It’s one thing to text a friend. It’s another to tell 500 people. I don’t need to stand up in a crowded cafeteria and shout, “I JUST BOUGHT THE TATER TOTS! THEY’RE SMELLING GREAT!” Why should I do this on the Internet? How does this help my Facebook friends to know and love me? I personally don’t write my parents, who live far away from me, with a list of what I eat or do in a given day. There is no need, and the communication of such things may, it seems, ultimately cheapen the sharing of real news. If I don’t tell these things to my parents, why should people I barely know learn these things?

I’m not against Facebook or blogging or texting. I use and do all of these media. But I don’t believe the modern myth that all technology has to be good simply because it’s new and fun and simple. I don’t believe that. I follow David Wells in seeking to understand that the use of technology can shape our souls. It can make us thin, it can make us distractable, it can make us shallow, it can make us narcissistic. So I’ll use some new media, but very carefully. Other new media I’ll just avoid, especially when it seems to give as little payback as Twitter does.

With all this said, many of the people who disagree with me are mature, godly, helpful, insightful, faithful people. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go scratch my back. After that, I plan on pacing the room for a bit; then, I’m contemplating maybe getting some water; after that, who knows? The possibilities of minutiae are endless!

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