Twitter, I've learned, is really more fundamental than a social network. It's foremost a communication tool, a way of reaching people and picking up buzz from people worth listening to. Your mileage varies, of course, depending on who you follow.
Although I only have a measly 486 followers (as of this writing anyhow), among these are students, friends, and co-faculty. I use Twitter to give assignments, post reminders, announce schedule changes, and answer the occasional quick question. Giving up Twitter might have been a penitential inconvenience to me, but it would also have been a practical inconvenience to the people I work with.
And then there were the recent developments. Benedict XVI's resignation was an historic moment, one that affected me deeply as a Catholic, and therefore an event for which I wanted as much news as I could get.
Unfortunately, trash quotient from mainstream media was extraordinarily high on this occasion, and likewise local TV coverage has been woefully abysmal and ignorant. Instead, I got up-to-the-minute updates from accounts like @CatholicNewsSvc, @LukeCoppen, and @JamesMartinSJ.
Benedict XVI's final public address last Wednesday was particularly moving, and I followed the proceedings through Twitter, courtesy of @CatholicNewsSvc. Following Twitter's limitations, I received the updates in chunks:
#Pope thanks crowd. Interrupted. "I'm moved. I see the church is alive. I thank the Lord for the beautiful weather, even tho it's winter"
#Pope: “I feel a heart-felt need, first of all, to thank God who guides the church and makes it grow.”
#Pope: “I have great confidence because I know, we all know, that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength& life of the church.”
#Pope: Years of my papacy have “moments of joy & light, but also moments that weren’t easy.”
#Pope: At times, “I felt like Peter with the apostles in the boat on Lake Galilee”
#Pope: Sometimes catch was abundant, sometimes the waters were rough and it seemed “the Lord was asleep.”
#Pope: “I always knew the Lord was with us & that the church wasn’t mine, but his & he wouldn’t let it sink.”
#Pope: As “I felt my strength diminish” asked God to help make “the best decision not only for me, but for good of the church.”
How appropriate that I followed Benedict XVI's last days as Pontiff through Twitter! Remember, too, that Benedict XVI was the first pope to have a Twitter account, @pontifex, and encouraged evangelization in social media.
Benedict XVI's tweets, though few, offered timely reminders on Christian living.
How can faith in Jesus be lived in a world without hope?
We can be certain that a believer is never alone. God is the solid rock upon which we build our lives and his love is always faithful.
We do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us. Christ, who is the truth, takes us by the hand.
We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.
If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!
At the time that Benedict XVI stepped down, the @pontifex account had over 1.6 million followers. The account is still there, but Benedict XVI's tweets have all been deleted. Instead of his name, it now says "Sede Vacante." The Chair is vacant.
His last tweet was:
Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.