I often get insulted in @replies on twitter. I don’t blame people because I’ve shot off ill-advised tweets, too. I always feel bad later.
It’s tough for me to send out a tweet at all that doesn’t get some kind of push back. If it’s a tweet including a theological statement, I’ll get ten times as much push back. There’s really nothing you can say about God that isn’t going to either tick somebody off or be seen as an “I’m smarter than you” softball they want to hit out of the park. (If you really want to tick people off, write a book about God. And if you want to see them go ballistic, make a movie!)
That said, I go through this little routine when somebody is insulting or disrespectful. I don’t respond, then I click on their names to see a little more about them. If it’s a God thing, I wonder if I’ve insulted somebody who doesn’t profess faith or somebody in ministry or what.
In doing this, though, I’ve noticed something striking. And it says a lot about people in general. It’s this:
I’ve never been insulted or disrespected by a person who has more followers than the number of people they follow themselves. What I mean is, the people who are insulting are following a lot of people but they aren’t following them back. Or at least statistically, they are being influenced by more people than they themselves are influencing.
And when I say never, I honestly mean NEVER. It’s never happened, and I’d say I’ve had about 300 people or more insult me or be disrespectful.
It’s not a scientific process, to be sure, but I’ve learned something. I’ve learned not to be a reactionary (believe it or not, I’m the exact kind of guy who would send off a rude @reply because God knows there are times when I want people to know how stupid they are!) but I’ve stopped doing it. The reason? It doesn’t work. Our negativity may feel validating, but it has a short reach in terms of influence.
Accepting criticism is important, but accepting it in a public sphere is out of place. The person being criticized doesn’t feel respected and if you’ve taught them anything you’ve only taught them that you’re a jerk for throwing the mud.
I get what you might be thinking next, though. Who needs a world where nobody shares their opinion and we’re all just being falsely nice? I don’t want to live in that world. But there’s no need to go to extremes. The idea is if you want to be chippy, go ahead, but don’t expect people to want to listen to you for long. It may get you some immediate attention, but when people need sound advice, encouragement or wisdom, they won’t be thinking about you.
Ever sent off a tweet you regretted?