Size does NOT matter, when it comes to art. Is a painting judged on the the size of the canvas or a poem by the number of words? Many among the intelligentsia carp that the proliferation of social media has taken society so far down the slippery slope to illiteracy that they will be the death of thoughtful expression. It was all well and good when these media were strictly the province of teenagers and drug addled celebrities.
If it had ended there, their failure to communicate with us or each other in a meaningful way could only be viewed as a boon to society, but the use of Twitter and Facebook has spread to people of all ages who have forsaken writing letters, speaking on the telephone, or even sending emails. How, the scholars clamor, can there be any meaningful expression of ideas in media limited to 120 words in Facebook and an intellectually stifling 140 characters in a tweet? It is no coincidence, they point out, that a â€œtweetâ€ is the sound that emanates from a bird communicating with other birds, and only people with bird brains use tweets to express themselves.
I have concluded their criticisms are wrong headed. If they had lived in the Japan of old, they would have decried the destructive constraints of the haiku. They fail to appreciate that the very constraints of these new media mandate an unprecedented precision of expression. In the face of the limitation to 140 characters, every thought must be whittled to its very essence so themes can be fully explicated. Tweets add a sense of immediacy and rawness to the expression that makes them more genuine rather than less. They transcend the limitations of grammar, spelling and syntax in much the same way the work of Jackson Pollock and his ilk transcended the limitations of even the most rudimentary concept of traditional technique.
Tweets don’t limit the expression of profound thought and insight. If anything, they provide the opportunity for the quick study and absorption of a greater breadth of topics. Even the most complex of concepts can be distilled, expressed and transmitted within a matter of seconds prompting responses as fast as they are profound. It’s the perpetuation of the oral tradition of storytelling without words. If Twitter had been available since the dawn of time, every idea, large and small, could have been shared with such clarity that further explication in books would have been unnecessary. For example, the Christian New Testament can be communicated in just 10 Tweets, as follows:
The Gospel According To Twitter
@MaryofNazareth- had the weirdest dream last night. can’t wait to tell Joseph. He’s gonna freak.
@Jesus-wedding reception in Caana.Band is ROCKIN.Mom wants me to go buy more wine run.Think I’ll just make it myself.Don’t want to miss Macarena
@12Apostles-Loaves and fishes for dinner AGAIN 2nite.Seriously,can’t we just order in Chinese once in a while?
@12Apostles-Jesus just drove a herd of pigs over the cliff. FINALLY!!! BBQ TONIGHT!!!
@Jesus-what do you have to do to get into Heaven?Simple.Don’t be a jerk.How freakin’ hard is THAT?!
@Lazarus-what’s a guy gotta do to finish a nap around here???!!!
@ Jesus- you people got too many rules.Seriously,this ain’t rocket science.See a hungry guy,feed him.See a sick guy,help him.Want love? Give it.Duh
@Jesus-Just got to Jerusalem,having dinner with the guys.Good food,great wine,better friends…except for that guy Judas.He’s creepin me out
@Jesus-I’ll be appearing on the road to Emmaus on the Monday after Passover. Limited engagement. Go to ticketmaster.com/resurrection.good seats still available.
@DoubtingThomas- I’m like, ‘you want me to put my finger WHERE?’
I’m hoping my insights will help the critics overcome the fear of new forms, they’ll get Facebook accounts. However, they should be forewarned that if Jesus doesn’t confirm them as friends, they’re screwed.