I am spending increasing amounts of time on Twitter. It takes up a lot of my time, scanning through headlines, stories, blogs, news amongst other things. There is a new tweet nearly every second on my ‘twitter reel’ and I constantly find myself updating it. Generally, I use it to tell people about Jesus or to let people know about what charities are up to. This is a useful way to send out information fast and to many people that follow me.
However, sometimes it is important to pull the plug on social media, the internet, mobile phones and any other technology and realise that they are useful tools, but they do not substitute real life. It seems that we are spending increasing amounts of time online, interacting with people that we may never meet but can have a conversation by text from halfway across the world. This can be fun if you are sending emails out to friends who live further away, or are interacting to share your ideas in a positive and fun way for the betterment of yourself and others. For example, I am developing a regular writing habit encouraged by fellow Christian bloggers online – we encourage one another & take the time to read and comment on one another’s posts. We are growing in our faith in a creative and expressive way. However, blogging, tweeting and socialising online are great… provided that it does not take a foothold in our lives to the point we fail to interact in the real world.
The Good Samaritan’s Radar
The inspiration for this post was a response to an app that the suicide prevention charity Samaritans have developed to monitor certain public tweets that contain key words such as “tired of being alone”, “hate myself”, “depressed”, “help me” and “need someone to talk to.” The motives behind this app seem genuine and good as it aims to identify distress in users in the hope that one of their followers who has signed up to the app might reach out and give them some encouragement. The overall aim is to highlight any possible indication of a suicidal tweeter, to help them and to hopefully save their life.
This story can be read on some of the following websites:
Rory Cellan-Jones, a technology correspondent said on the BBC website that:
“Samaritans Radar is aimed in particular at a generation which lives its life online – and sometimes finds it easier to express its deepest hopes and fears in a tweet rather than face to face.”
I find this statement very sad and troubling. Should it really come as a surprise that we are isolated, secluded and downcast if we are a generation that live our lives online? For some, the internet provides an escape from the difficulties that we encounter in our daily lives. It is a safe haven away from face to face contact and confrontation of reality. Or is it? It is sad that so many people feel that they have to convey their hurts and fears through a tweet because they cannot for whatever reasons share them with someone personally, face to face. Often the internet is a dark place full of temptations, trolling, abuse, disturbing images, hate and evil. People can become ensnared in this online space of seclusion.
The app may identify what they are feeling and someone may be able to tweet back, and they may bounce their feelings and frustrations from one screen to another. But what they really need is that relationship and contact and care provided from one person to another. The isolated person on the computer screen needs the Good Samaritan to come into his or her life and bring a ray of hope and love into their downcast and despairing soul. We should all be reaching out to our friends and family and making sure they are ok. But we should go even further than this – maybe speak to an acquaintance and have a really good chat with them. Meet someone for coffee that you have met in passing a few times. Get involved with charities or organisations that reach out. Samaritans do a great job and I am not trying to put them down. I just think if we all started investing our love, money and time into other people, we may be able to stop the calls from ever reaching the Samaritans.
What Would Jesus Tweet?
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I would like to add that the only real hope and joy that we can know, the only One that shows us unconditional love and mercy, the only One who has ever died for us so that we may know the Lord in a personal way forever… If we choose to see the evidence presented to us in the bible and accept God’s unending love and amazing grace for us… only then will we have full assurance and comfort and peace in each circumstance. Christians do not have an easy ride anymore than someone who does not believe in God. However, they have something that goes deeper and heals any wound – whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. He wants to be your friend and walk by your side through every battle, whatever that may look like. Whether it is a few tears, a lot of anger and resentment, a fear, a failure, a fear of failure, even suicidal thoughts.
I believe that Jesus would not Tweet because His message is still spreading today over 2000 years later from what started as intimate, face-to-face conversations. Jesus was out in the community, speaking and sharing, loving and guiding, befriending and caring, helping and healing, listening and praying, discipling and ministering, reaching out and welcoming in. The message that Jesus Christ brought to us all resonates all over the world, even without an internet connection. God’s message of salvation reaches the loneliest and most despairing person and place, and that is what we should be re-tweeting, if we are stuck on Twitter.
But, GO! Love your neighbour. Check up on the elderly and see if there is anything you can do for them today. Care for the forgotten youth and love the rebellious teenager. Listen intently to those you speak to – as it has been said, God gave you one mouth and two ears, so do twice as much listening! Help someone. Take them for coffee. Bake them a cake. Find out about their life and meet with them when you can. Pray with them if you can, but if not, pray for them earnestly at home or wherever you pray! Be the Good Samaritan, face-to-face, and meet the needs of those around you.
Shut off the electronics, and tune in to God’s Word. Listen to His still small voice, not the millions of tweets from an imperfect world. Trust the perfect maker who loves you deeply.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)