My Take on Live Tweeting at Conferences

It has become very popular in recent years to “live tweet” while attending special events or conferences. It is now quite normal, in fact, for events to be “covered” through live tweeting. Can’t make it to the event? No problem! Keep up with what’s happening with instant twitter updates right to your phone!

Now I realize that there can be certain instances where this would be really helpful, but I don’t think this is always the case. I have in mind especially conferences that feature keynote speakers where those in attendance feel the need to live tweet. I have significant issues with this. Granted, it really isn’t a big deal, but it’s grown to be a rather annoying pet peeve for me. Here’s why:

1. You should be listening, not tweeting. As a preacher, I can attest that I would not appreciate knowing that people are busy texting my quotes 6 or 7 times during a talk rather than carefully listening to the whole thing. If you are tweeting, it means you’re not listening, which means you’re missing out on other stuff I’m saying.

2. A talk is more than good quotes. Tweeting while listening is a bad habit because it causes us to listen wrongly. Rather than tracking a point and thinking deeply, we are only listening for the next dynamite sentence we can share with others. This is not a healthy way to listen. Again, as a preacher, my job is not to provide a bunch of quotable quotes. That’s not the measure of a good sermon, and if that’s how you are listening, you’re probably missing the bigger picture.

3. Your motive is probably pride. Why the need to share it as it’s happening? Why not listen to the whole thing, jot down some notes, and tweet it later? Can it really not wait 30 minutes? Or even a day or two? My hunch is that a lot of live tweeting is fuelled by pride… “You heard it here first! Aren’t you glad I’m taking notes for you?” Suddenly we get the sense that others are dependent upon us more than they actually are. I’m sure the motive for some is that it could help others, but I think more than likely it’s just pride.

4. You’re not taking time to internalize. One of the rules of good sermon listening is that we should apply what is being said to ourselves first. Only after we have considered the implications for our own lives should we feel like that truth should be shared with others. Live tweeting doesn’t give us time to think and reflect on our own failures. It makes us seem spiritual, but in reality it exposes how superficial we are. You didn’t tweet that because you were deeply convicted and moved to repentance…you tweeted it because for a split second you felt a flash of conviction and felt like it would do the same for others. I would be surprised if this brought about the kind of life change that God seeks in you or your readers.

5. Frankly, I don’t think anyone cares. Perhaps I’m speaking only for myself here, but I assume not. I really don’t care about your live tweeting because there is no way I would rely on it for any real, provocative experience. Think about it: who sits and ponders on a tweet for any length of time, even if it is a really good one? People probably think “wow, that’s a good point” and then never think about it again. Also, if I was unable to be at a conference that I would have liked to be at, I would not rely on live tweeting as my experience with it. Most conferences post the talks online the very next day! I’ll just listen to it for myself. Again, your need to be the first to provide the material, at least in my eyes, screams of self-importance.

I would suggest that if you genuinely think that your live tweeting can filter through these five points and still seem necessary or helpful, then go for it. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a very healthy activity for you to engage in.

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