I Love You I Hate You I Block You

Twitter PenPals

Twitter PenPals

Spend any time on Twitter and you’ll see this crazy relationship cycle. The elongated version goes like this:

–          I discover you

–          I love you

–          I follow you

–          I hate you

–          I unfollow you

–          I block you

Now I’m sure that people who don’t use Twitter to interact don’t ever notice this cycle. It’s true, some use Twitter only as a platform for their message – they don’t care to interact with others (that’s a shame, but that’s a topic for another day).

Those of us who DO interact with others have, at some point, experienced this relationship cycle. The problem is that Twitter is training us to be me-centered in our relationships rather than working on developing genuine relationships.

Hear me out – I’m not nuts.

Twitter is very user-centered. We follow people based on what we get out of their account (laughter, inspiration, etc.). But it’s really not about them. It’s still about us. As soon as we are no longer laughing or inspired (or simply grow tired of their shtick) we unfollow and move on.

That’s cool. This post really isn’t about complaining about losing followers. What I DO get frustrated and confused by is when followers interact with a Tweeter and begin to develop a rapport then, because of offense or some other reason, the follower says, “I’m done with you.”

And it happens once the honeymoon period wears off.

Following and being followed create a false sense of intimacy. We feel like we know and are known by others. But it’s a superficial knowing. You know what I want you to see about me. I know what you want me to see about you. It’s a façade.

As a Chaplain in the Army Reserve I have taught a lot of Singles Retreats for Soldiers. One of the primary points I try to teach them is that it takes 3 months of dating someone before the masks really come down and you see the person as they truly are.

We too often jump into things too quickly. Like The Doors sang: Hello, I love you – won’t you tell me your name?

But the initial infatuation with people ends. The honeymoon period wears off. It’s at THAT point that we can genuinely start knowing and being known. On Twitter, once that honeymoon period is over we tend to call it quits.

Unless we’re intentional about building relationships with others.

Real Life Twitter Example:

One of the people I clicked with immediately on Twitter was @chattytamster. We seemed to mesh well and have many similar views on faith, politics, etc. But then came the day when we found we had a stark contrast in one of our views. She publicly (but politely) disagreed with me. And I with her. Sides were taken. It got tense because here we are as pen-pals having a public disagreement. I’ve been in that situation with people I didn’t mesh well with and those situations ended in being unfollowed.

Not this time.

In spite of the weirdness that comes when superficially (Social Media) connected people argue, Tamster and I talked about our differences and decided to be friends anyway. In the process of talking through the disagreement and talking honestly about the tension the weight of the tension has been lifted and I feel like the connection is stronger because of the process.

Relationship guru Dr. John Van Epp talks about how really knowing someone can be visualized as a mathematical formula:

I = T + T + T.

Intimacy = Talk (self-disclosure) + Togetherness (experiences) + Time

This can even happen on Twitter. I know people who met through Twitter who have exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Twitter has become a place where I actually get to do ministry. I’ve talked to people about prayer requests, family problems, and personal needs and concerns. What an amazing tool, and I’m just a flippant Anon account.

I know this post won’t change Twitter. I have no desire to “win back” people who have unfollowed me. But for the rest of us, we can have a little bit of insight and wisdom in knowing that the people we follow are real people, faults and all. You will be disappointed. You might occasionally be offended. But heck – you’ll experience that in real life, too.

The façade drops and the honeymoon period will end.

How will you respond?


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