O Me of Little Faith

I love Twitter. I’m coming pretty late to the party — as usual (“Hey, have you heard about the iPhone? Quite a contraption!”) — but signed up a couple weeks ago and am thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Dear experienced Twitter users: Please ignore the next paragraph, as it will be so rudimentary you will want to cry.

If you don’t know anything about Twitter, it’s the world’s most popular microblogging platform. You get an account and it asks a simple question: What are you doing? You answer that question, as often as you want, in 140 characters or less. Amazingly, there are people in the world who want to know exactly what you’re doing or thinking or whatever, so they decide to “follow” you. In turn, you follow other users. It creates a weird little community of people who get occasional updates on friends or colleagues throughout the day.

Tweeting my thoughts and activities is a great discipline for a writer like me, because it forces me to be concise…I’ve only got 140 characters to express myself, whereas it usually takes me about 300 words to introduce a topic on a blog. As evidenced already in this post. Sigh.

Some people think Twitter is stupid, because who really wants to know whether or not your friend in Nashville is enjoying coffee, or is headed to the gym, or had a hard time waking up in the morning? That’s a legitimate complaint, and for that reason I’ve been hesitant to tweet mundane activities. But the point can also be made that relationships are built on mundane and superficial activities, as Jollyblogger David Wayne recently pointed out. Unless we’re sitting around a campfire or up past midnight, my real-world friends and I rarely get into deep theological discussions or engage in heavy conversations. Mostly we talk about the stuff we’re doing in our lives — our kids, our hobbies, our work — the “boring” stuff that becomes meaningful because our lives and friendships are intertwined.

It matters to me what my wife does during the day, even if she’s just having coffee with a friend. It matters to me what my kids do at school, even if it’s just a game they played at recess. Superficial? Yes. But that’s what good relationships are built on. Maybe superficiality is the glue of community. So I would join Jollyblogger in arguing that Twitter relationships share something in common with “real” relationships, and can be very meaningful in connecting people and building up a tribe. Therefore it matters to me that it’s Bryan‘s brother’s birthday, or that Matthew liked a certain movie, or that Kevin just got the long-awaited adoption call.

But there’s something else about Twitter that I’m really beginning to love, and it’s the creative aspect. Twitter lets you tell a story in a very small amount of space. Twitter lets you create a persona. That’s why there are a ton of Twitter fakes: people who pretend to be someone else.

Like Fake John Piper, who gets excited about predestination in a way that makes me very uncomfortable.

Or fake David Letterman, who spends an inordinate amount of time talking about Regis.

Shaquille O’Neal recently joined Twitter — allegedly — because someone else was pretending to be him. It turns out that the fake Shaq is much more entertaining and quippy than the real Shaq. But the real Shaq also has some redeeming characteristics, most notably because his tweets are Zen-like in their random disregard for spelling, syntax, or basic comprehension.

Also enjoyable? Pretend tweets from Albert Einstein (theoretically from the beyond), Darth Vader, Buffy Summers, fake David Hasselhoff, Frodo Baggins, Santa Claus, and the United States (“There’s just no talking to Zimbabwe these days.”)

Here’s a great list of fake Twitter profiles. And here’s a story about fake politicans on Twitter, written before the election. Twitter may be the next big thing in fiction.

Anytime I think “I better tweet something,” the things that comes to mind are things that are not actually happening in my life. They are outlandish and exciting but not in the least bit true. So I don’t post them, and it sorta makes me sad, because I’m having to stifle all that creativity. But the possibilities for creative Twitter expression are becoming too hard for me to resist. Now, I realize I’m not very famous, and I’m not a politician or a fictional character or a country, but I’ve come to a decision: Along with my regular Twitter persona, I’m going to create a Fake Jason Boyett profile on Twitter. Just for kicks.

And trust me, fake Jason is bound to live a much more exciting life than I do. Consider it a small-format fictional experiment. If you currently follow the real me, I invite you to follow the fake me, too.

See you amid the tweets.

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