Why I do not cease to tweet and blog: with apologies to Menno and Diogenes

#Trust30 Prompt: Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson. Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?

Many of my more serious-minded friends ask why I spend so much time twittering, facebooking, and blogging. Their argument is that this activity is a profound waste of time with no apparent object. There is much in what they say. Unless one’s friends are for the most part immersed in the same social networking circles, all messages sent are a ping without a pong. Then there are friends who are lurkers: they scan but make no comment. The only way to entice a lurker to participate in the dialogue is to post a picture of a baby human or domesticated animal, or to relate a mundane life event with a slapstick or scatological flavor. I set a personal record for Facebook comments when I confessed that I was having a bad morning because I dropped my toothbrush and razor into the toilet.

Receiving these interactions did not encourage me. I felt that I was not being offered deep relationship, but a surface nod because I touched a place of safe commonality. My hope was that this was a starting point for dialogue, but alas, these Facebook friends apparently had no aspirations for our relationship beyond the tub-sink-commode triangle.

But consider the potential of this nascent media! Like Diogenes I cannot help but carry my lantern through the productions of amazing technology looking, not just for an honest man, but for any sign of intelligent life that might be willing to discuss mostly noble, and a few less-than-noble, thoughts. Now others express strong opinions based on irrational self-interest (and of course I do as well, but the hope for any growing human is to root these out without becoming dispassionate about truth and beauty), but I am hoping for powerful thinking based on truth, reason, and evidence. I don’t hear the word truth used much anymore. I suspect it is because it does not pair well with irrational self-interest.

I hope you hear a passionate lament in all of this. Diogenes has not given up.

Here is the point related to Emerson’s thoughts on imitation of suicide, or compromising whoness–our values and gifts–to kill the Muse and Genius for a mess of pottage. The “red stuff” for which one would sell one’s soul in this case is shallow connection as better than no connection at all. I have friends who urge me to adopt strategies of people whose videos have gone viral or whose blogs attract millions of eyeballs. I wish I could say that out of some conviction I have always refused this advice as imitation of another rather than trusting myself. I am willing to try an ethical means to accelerate my lantern-walk. What I will not do is use a popular or innocuous message to garner dittos: “just be yourself,” “trust your [frankly distended narcissistic] gut,” “follow your bliss,” and so on. I am being myself right now, but it is probably offensive to most. I trust my gut when I have learned self-control, and I don’t even use the word “bliss” in normal conversation.

I don’t tweet and blog to be heard at any cost, and I won’t imitate the more successful types who are heard. Like Jacob, I am a mess, but I refuse to become Esau. Like Menno, I will not cease to use whatever means are available to the truth. Like Diogenes I will be content to carry my lamp in a dark place. Will you join me here?