tweeting LIFE :: thoughts on strategic transparency, storytelling, and land mines

July 8, 2010


I bet she wishes she could get a do-over.  Not so much.  As of yesterday afternoon, CNN Middle East news correspondant Octavia Nasr is out of a job because of one tweet.  In a moment she now says she deeply regrets, Ms. Nasr expressed her respect for the recently deceased Hezbollah leader (and terrorist) Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.  Apparently, the masses were paying attention, and they were not impressed.  Octavia Nasr and CNN were deluged with angry feedback questioning her judgement.  In the end, less than 140 characters brought down her career.

I’m not focused on the politics of this story.  What arrested me was the fact that this woman actually lost her job because of a moment of transparency online.  Oops.  The moral of the story?  Tweeting life can be dangerous.  It requires a careful blend of honesty and discernment, but done well, I believe it is tightrope worth walking.

I’m continually amazed at what is possible with smart-phones today.   Instant connection.  Moment by moment play by play, complete with GPS tagging, TwitPics, and streaming video.  I’ve even programmed my phone to sing me to sleep at night and cook me breakfast in the morning.  Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and all of the world’s newspaper headlines are available right now – wherever I am.  A complete interactive community of “friends” and “followers” ever-present to connect with and stroke my ego.  It’s amazing, and seductive, and powerful, and dangerous.

The new world – plugged in, social media fueled, web 2.0, YouTwitFace world – allows us to live our story transparently.  We can post a stream of details.  Where we are, what we’re doing, and what has captured our interest in the moment.  We can share resources and encouragement, or cut people and their ideas down.  We can refine our thinking, and we can fritter hours away with an unlimited flow of distraction-on-demand.

Healthy life-streaming requires healthy boundaries.  There are amazing opportunities and overwhelming advantages to tweeting life in real time.  And there are distict and profound dangers.  Just ask Octavia Nasr.

And the problem is, once a post or tweet has gone public, it’s a living piece of history that can NEVER be put back in the bottle.  Everything we post – EVERYTHING – is available.  It’s searchable.  It’s eternal.

“Don’t you dare put that on Facebook.”  This is a phrase that is ALWAYS welcome in our house.  And while I almost always follow it up with an enthusiastic, “OF COURSE I wouldn’t post THAT” following one of our family squabbles or a particularly embarrassing child-rearing incident, I make it clear that setting boundaries out loud is welcome.  Boundaries do not restrict – they give freedom.  Like a fenced-in back yard for the kids to play in, boundaries define the “safe area” where there is room to play.  Thankfully, Amy lets me know what is safe, and what is out of bounds.

So I tweet life with this in mind:  I want to live a good story.  And good stories are fraught with conflict and growing and pain and triumph.  I am a child of the One King, and He’s put me here to enjoy His company and tell the world about His sovereignty and His grace.  If our family is willing to hear His voice and GO when He calls us, life will be a faith adventure.  If we can live out a great story, and do it transparently with joy, I hope it can encourage others to trust Jesus, too.

But it must also be true.  Land mines.  I want to share my REAL life.  Danger.  I am acutely aware every time I hit “send” that this could (and probably will) be seen by many sets of eyes, and it could live on (and on… and on…) for years.  So I walk the tightrope of living transparently while protecting the privacy of my friends and family.

At the end of the day, I want to reflect a life lived well.  Healthy faith, thriving family, and joyful service to my God and the people I rub shoulders with.  I want the people in my life to get in on my thoughts – to be a real community – and to refine and enjoy each other in the process.  But I won’t tell you everything.  I can’t be a totally open book.  I saw the land mine Octavia Nasr stepped on.  I know what Amy is OK with and where she has staked out the “do not cross” barrier.  And if you step out onto the YouTwitFace technological tightrope with me, remember that every step – every post – every tweet – every status update – will be permanent.  You can’t take it back.  It’s a living part of history.

Step carefully.


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“tweeting LIFE :: thoughts on strategic transparency, storytelling, and landmines” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

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