The Value of Narrative Tweets

Jordan posted some comments on a previous post that were so thought provoking I needed to respond with an entire new post.

Part of Jordan’s Comment

Let me see, what will people be reading in 100 years.

DA Carson’s works…check.
John Piper…check.
oh yes and Billy Chia’s twitters. hahaha


My Reply

I may not be as famous as Piper – you don’t have to rub it in 🙂

You’ve inadvertently touched on a very important feature of twitter that many people don’t take advantage of: Narrative Tweets.

You see if I ever do get as famous as DA Carson there is a very high likelihood that they will be reading my tweets in 100 years.


People are fascinated by narrative. They love a story – this is why people read books that are diaries, journals, and autobiographies. My tweets not only connect me with other people – the tell the story of my life. But, not everyone’s tweets do this. You have to be intentional about it.

Non-Narrative Tweets

Some people tweet in a disconnected way – random “what I’m doing now” tweets pop up that aren’t connected to anything else going on. They are informative in the moment, but like you said, the value dies quickly. This is because they think of twitter in terms of the way they most frequently access it: via the ADD inducing stream on their page.

Enter the Narration

However my tweets (and many others) have value when you go to my twitter page and look at all my tweets together. When I tweet later in the day I try to connect it somehow to something I said earlier. This could be as simple as “practice is starting” and “practice is over” or more complex like my commentary on homeschooling.  The point is that if follow me through out the day (or even just check in once and look at my twitter page) it tells the story.  There’s a narrative value to browsing my twitter feed. In this way the value is ever present – even 100 years from now.

I would love to see what Jesus’ twitter archives would look like. I guarantee if he would have twittered we’d be reading it today. The same goes for Piper, Edwards or Fowler.

In Closing: Thank You

The real point of twitter isn’t what will happen in 100 years – books are better at that hands down. The point is that right now there are 75 people who follow my twitter feed. 75 real people who matter. They care enough to plug into what I put out through twitter. There are even more who follow through my facebook status updates. When I my daughter was sick and I asked for prayer on twitter I got responses back through facebook. That’s meaningful kingdom impact in my book. So thank you for following me on twitter.

38 Responses to “The Value of Narrative Tweets”

  1. 1 jordan August 8, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    You know I like you dude BUT…

    1. Jesus would have been way too busy doing ministry to twitter about it.

    2. How is buying orange juice and getting a library book not random and instead narrative? How is this supposed to enrich others lives? Inspire them to imbibe more vitamin C?

    3. How narratively rich can you be in 140 characters or less. If you have a life experience worth sharing, does it not deserve some commentary as well? Take the bigger life points and blog them instead? Ex. Why did you buy “The Alchemist?” What are you learning from it? What premises do you disagree with?

    4. Are they plugged in for real concern about your daily schedule or the narcissistic hope that you’ll in turn follow theirs and thus up their count? That is up to each individual I am sure. In a sense its like a blog comment. Some comment out of sincere interest (ala me on this post) or simply the hope that you’ll link to their blog (narcissism).

    No one has yet made an argument to convince me of its value. In most twitters I have glanced at, there seems to be a shallow recount of trivial events such as grabbing coffee. I am interested in other’s lives, but the richer aspects of their lives set in context. What are they learning? What deeper experiences are they having? The best purchased journals and memoirs contain not such trivial matters but richer experiences (ex. Ann Frank, Lincoln’s journals, etc.). What were the life experiences that shaped them? The fact that they are getting coffee, etc. has little meaning about from a “life fabric” context of interpreted meaning. Twitter seems like a “flash in the pan” technology that exists “just because I can.” Just because I can disclose my day I am, though the value of it is highly limited.

    Somebody must sell me to a greater degree on its value and anyone’s investiture of time into it.

  2. 2 Russ August 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm


    It’s obvious you’re not a twit like the rest of us.

    Leave us alone and get back to doing ministry. I kid, I kid.

    Using your position, the very fact that you’re spending time trying to convince Billy (and the rest of us who waste our lives twittering) that it’s a waste of time is in fact, a waste of time.

    It’s all about perspective.

    There’s a reason, not wholly understood to me, why “reality” programming garners such a huge following. Even though, most people understand that it is edited, there’s still this desire to “peer” into people’s lives. Call it voyeurism, call it intrigue, it’s there.

    In my opinion, twitter captures the positive side of that. Well, more specifically, those who use it like Billy, Fred, Los, Mandy, and others do. It’s about connection.

    Is it a time waster? I’m sure at times. Is it ALWAYS a time waster. Not in a million years. I’ve made some meaningful connections, even if they might not be as deep as those face to face connections I have in my own realm, but they are connections none-the-less. People who are doing what I am doing. In the trenches (so to speak) 😛

    For me, twitter works. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s all gravy, baby. I’ll continue to catch your posts in my reader (which I enjoy immensely as they come in).

    One love.

  3. 3 Mandy August 8, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I agree w/ Russ. I do waste a lot of time on twitter, but I’m gaining a deeper connection with many folks at my own church (& many others across the country). People I didn’t know before.

    It was awesome last week when a family came over for dinner & I knew an issue they were having & was able to pray for them about it…all because I follow them on twitter.

    And let’s be honest. Some of us stay at home moms need some social time!!

  4. 4 fmckinnon August 8, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    OK, so I typed something here 3x … and I just keep saying “better not say that”.


  5. 5 Billy Chia August 8, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I can see you are a tough sell. I really did this post more because I thought it’d be helpful for other tweeters rather than trying to sell you further – I linked you more out of inspiration 🙂

    To answer you questions it’s more about the meta narrative across tweets that becomes valuable rather than one individual tweet. Drip, Drip, Drip and bit by bit you build a theme. That’s how you pack a lot into 140 characters.

    My one tweet on OJ and The Alchemist is part of a larger story – it builds on previous tweets and some of the story is yet written. It’s not designed to make sense on it’s own – you have to follow to get the context.

    To make one final illustration as to the power of twitter – I began writing this comment moments ago. While I was writing Russ tweeted this and within minutes 3 comments appeared on this post.

  6. 6 fmckinnon August 8, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    (phew, I’m actually LEARNING)

  7. 7 Billy Chia August 8, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Mandy, Russ,
    Yes I’m sure I waste as much time on twitter as I do on the phone as I do on email. It is honest. Communication is inconvenient and takes time.


  8. 8 tam August 8, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    “And let’s be honest. Some of us stay at home moms need some social time!!”

    amen! now THATS a twitter!

    i could totally see Jesus twittering in between ministry & miracles. “dude thought he was crippled. I showed him!”

    seriously…no big deal. twitter isnt for everyone. but i have seen some pretty impacting things come across in under 140 characters. some of the best things said take fewer words!

  9. 10 Billy Chia August 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    “dude thought he was crippled. I showed him!”

    I’m so cracking up right now.

  10. 11 Mandy August 8, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I laughed at that too Tam!!

    Paul spoke the language of the people to reach them…isn’t being a technophile & communicating in a way that’s used by so many, going to reach others that an organ never could?

  11. 12 Jeff M. Miller August 8, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Sorry Billy, you’ll probably have to moderate this one because of all the links.

    I’m going to toot my own horn here, and use one of my own recent posts about the value of twitter:
    And let’s not forget Anne’s great post about twitter saving lives:

    And don’t forget the Twitter-like It has the same 140 character limit, yet I know it has caused people to pray. It has spurred me to prayer.

    Also, though it may be too cutting edge for some (my church wouldn’t know what to do), go see what really cool things John Voelz’s church has found beneficial:

  12. 13 fmckinnon August 8, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Hey Billy –
    Regarding Facebook status – that’s something I do … but because I’m conscious of the fact that Twitter updates my FB status .. it makes me LESS likely to do many @replies.

    As a result, my ability to use Twitter as a “messaging client” is diminished. My thought is that “most people who follow me probably do NOT care so much about what I’m saying to someone else”.

    So, rather than going back and forth in 2 to 3-way conversations w/ a few people via Twitter, I just often reply with a direct message, or if I have the friend on AIM, I just IM them … far easier to communicate than waiting on twitter to update.

    That way also, my facebook status updates .. and is truly more about what “I’m saying” for everyone … and less about what I am saying to a specific person.

    Now, I’m not saying that’s how it “should be” .. .I’m just saying that’s how I’ve used it.

    Would you say this is the opposite of the “narrative” you are talking about?

    Makes me curious -maybe I’ll do a separate blog or tweet about this … for my tweet followers – would they rather get general tweets from me, and less of the @reply public replies to other people (2-way convos), or do they want to “see it all” …

    Hmm …. makes me wonder.

  13. 14 Mandy August 8, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Fred – we can set it up on our own twitter feed if we want all of your postings, or only @replies you send to those we already follow.

    But I don’t use FB, but it’s diff in that format.

  14. 15 fmckinnon August 8, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Ya – I saw that … it’s kinda an all or none situation. I like to see some @replies .. that’s how I’ve found (and started following) some folks on twitter that I didn’t even know about … so it’s cool. Then, other days, I get overwhelmed and tired of scrolling through pages of 2-way conversations between people that have nothing to do w/ me … but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast.

    Beast – hmm … could the hex code for twitter be 666?

  15. 16 Billy Chia August 8, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    One of John’s twitter posts is what finally sold me:

    Good thoughts on the @reply there are many times I use DM for such a reason. Sometimes I intentionally want everyone on facebook to see an @reply and think it adds to the conversation.

    With as few followers as I have right now I actually have my feed set to “show all @replies” not just ones between both people I’m following. I find that it helps me see who’s active even if I’m not following them yet.

  16. 17 Mandy August 8, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    try twittersnooze someday. It’s great when folks are at a conference you don’t care to hear about. Or someone who twitters every minute.

    You can sleep them for a day or longer!!

  17. 18 Chris August 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    All I know is that my spiritual life and my professional life have been enhanced by Twitter. It’s a keeper, for me.

  18. 19 brent(inWorship) August 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Hi, my name is Brent and I am twitter addict…

  19. 20 brent(inWorship) August 8, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Does Twitter have to have one focus of use? Or even a couple?

    The greatest attribute of Twitter is it’s community. In my opinion, the community you are involved in on twitter should determine how it’s used and why.

    there should be no limitation to twitter’s use or abuse. It’s organic and I bet we haven’t even discovered all of it’s uses yet.

  20. 21 Billy Chia August 8, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Twitter snooze, sound pretty cool.

    “there should be no limitation to twitter’s use or abuse. It’s organic and I bet we haven’t even discovered all of it’s uses yet.”

    I totally agree.

  21. 22 Russ August 8, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Fred, try another “update service” such as

    I use it to update my twitter, facebook, myspace, and pownce accounts.

    So when I have a really general “for everyone” kind of where I’m at, what I’m doing kind, kind of post (maybe 1 or 2 per day) I hit my tab and enter away. It immediately updates my twitter, fb,myspace, and pownce accounts.

    When I tweet on twitter, it does NOT update those statuses. So I keep those 2 streams separate. It’s what’s worked for me the last few months.


  22. 23 fmckinnon August 9, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Thks for the heads up. Last night I twittered something about “is anyone else getting goosebumps from the opening ceremonies of the Olympics”.

    I got ZERO twitter replies .. but MULTIPLE FaceBook wall posts and “status messages” from FaceBook friends, which made my FaceBook profile come alive with activity for a couple of hours.

    That’s the community I love.

  23. 24 fmckinnon August 9, 2008 at 8:05 am

    PS: Jordan, you would never like twitter because you can’t really use it properly if you stick it in a vitalist context, hehehehe.

    That’s where my discipline goes out the window. If I tried to put it in Vitalist (which I still don’t really use, sadly) … I’d have a context setup and a spot reserved to “check twitter timeline and reply”.

    problem is, I’d reply … and Vitalist would tell me it’s time to change hats and move into another context … but my ADD won’t allow me to wait 8 hours before I can check my tweets to see what kind of responses I got.

    Yep – call it ADD, call it “obsessed with self”, call it insecure, I dunno .. yep, I’m that guy who posts his blog, tweets about it, then refreshes the blog post every few minutes to see if anyone came by and commented.

    Sad, isn’t it. (I bet I’m not the ONLY ONE)

  24. 25 Stevie Nature August 9, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Jordan is right. In 100 years no one will care how much coffee or OJ you drank…even if you’re famous.

  25. 26 Billy Chia August 9, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Congratulations Stevie – you’ve completely succeeded in missing the point.

    I appreciate you making your way from the forums onto my blog – you have good things to say on TWC. It’s a common courtesy in the blog world to actually read the post before you comment on it.

  26. 27 tam August 9, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    chia – youre killin me! awesome! 😀

  27. 28 jordan August 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Brent wrote…

    “there should be no limitation to twitter’s use or abuse. It’s organic and I bet we haven’t even discovered all of it’s uses yet.”

    Someone call me when you find a good one. hahahaha!

    I have read all twitters I can find from every commenter here and there are a very few I would consider high content (tornado and praying for a baby on the way). Most twitters are, not to be offensive, very trite and offer little value in terms of those of are connecting with you (things like going to movie, grabbing coffee, going out with my wife). Sorry I just don’t get the value.
    I think whomever made the voyeuristic quote had it partly right.

    Have we sunken to such shallowness that this is the expectation or depth of our conversations? Where are the “letter richness” of those such as Lincoln to his friends and cabinet? If this is the depth we are seeking from others in life, I’m definitely out…becoming like billy’s wife, connecting with “people I know in real life…”
    and “making deeper connections with people here in town…”

    (Billy did this get you close to your most commented post of all time? Or did the shower one take it?)

  28. 29 Billy Chia August 9, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I don’t tend to cultivate conversation as well as Brent or Mandy – but I have had several posts get up into the 20 – 30 comment range.

    My blog has been on the rise recently and I believe I’ll reach 100 RSS readers by December. More subscribers through RSS could translate into more comments – but that will only happen if I’m putting up quality content. I’m focusing on putting up quality content and I think the subscriptions and comments will take care of themselves.

    btw – what’s your phone number? I have several 🙂

  29. 30 Sarah Chia August 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm


    For the sake of argument, of course, we can’t say that twitter and getting to know people in real life are mutually exclusive. The point of my comment on your blog was to say that I didn’t feel the need to get engaged in community online, but that I might use twitter if the people I know here in Huntsville used it.

    I think that being “present” in a person’s life more often leads the way to easier depth later on.

    Also, we can’t forget Billy’s original post was all about how twitter helped him meet someone in real life sooner. And it could be argued that they were able to get to know each other more because they had more time together than originally planned.

  30. 31 brent(inWorship) August 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Jordan, I here you, if all you want is power packed nuggets of wisdom every time someone Twitters, fine. But what you won’t get in those Tweets is community or relationship.

    It is a balance for me. I am huge on relationship. I don’t want to interact online without them. But it’s no different than life. I will relate to some and not to others.

    I love reading a good book, but it is more meaningful, with where I am in life right now, to know the author before I hear anything they have to say. Then in that relationship, I will also gain their wisdom insight and encouragement.

    Also, I would say that I don’t know anyone (or should I say follow anyone) who tweets “going to movie, grabbing coffee, going out with my wife” all the time. But, most I follow allow me into that part of their life as well. That is only one aspect of life. I will hear about coffee, but I will also hear about prayer needs and God’s truths and the inevitable issue with gas. That’s real, That’s life. That’s Twitter to me.

  31. 32 jordan August 9, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Okay, I gently bow out of this particular argument still 98 percent unconvinced and getting tired head from the fact that half this argument is happening on this blog and half on worshiptrench (but that is my fault). If I’d just twittered “hey everyone only post at Billy’s” then that would have been solved right? OR better I could have arranged a 100 person conference call so we could have had better communication and heard the vocal inflections necessary for good interpersonal communication (hahaha).

    Billy, you are the man and I will gladly give you my number anytime, just no waaaay in public. You come Texas way and you always got a place to crash at.

    Don’t think you are getting rid of me on future arguments though..he laughs to himself. (hey that would have fit in a twitter).

  32. 34 alex August 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    y’all crack me up!

  33. 35 Ryan August 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Just saw how lively this discussion became!

    I have to say that…I agree. 🙂

    I agree with the majority here that there is value in Twitter BUT I also agree with Jordan in that most of the time it’s not as valuable as we all think it is and sometimes it’s just a time waster and a distracter.

    I got sucked into tweeting about anything and everything for a while and watching everybody I followed through twhirl. After a while, I tried to not follow through twhril and just go to the web when I was going to post something. I would then browse a bit, check my @replies. Honestly, I’d go away going – well, maybe one thing was worth checking, but not that much.

    It’s not that I’m not interested in people’s lives – I think that’s the awesome power of Twitter – especially locally and with people you know – it’s just that for me and my nature, it causes me to lose focus very quickly.

    But, I’m not going to quit using it 🙂 Just slim down a lot, which I already have.

  34. 36 Jon August 22, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Late to the conversation, but I’m pretty sure Jordan thought blogging was a waste of time at one point, too :).

  1. 1 worship trench » Blog Archive » My Huge Argument Against Twitter with my Friend Billy Chia Trackback on August 8, 2008 at 4:27 pm
  2. 2 FredMcKinnon.Com » Blog Archive » Saturday Social and Music Request Trackback on August 9, 2008 at 8:57 am
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