Twitter has been discussed as a ministry tool, as a way to create buzz about upcoming events, send members encouraging words, meet potential new members, or even to discuss the worship service during the service itself. (Just do a search for “Twitter” on this site and you’ll find some excellent information.) But what about Twitter as a way to develop empathy for others?
Perhaps you've noticed that people’s opinions can completely turn around when something happens to them, or someone close to them. For example, a politician may argue strongly against funds for a program for disabled persons, but when he himself or someone in his family becomes disabled, rights for the disabled becomes a top priority. Or maybe it’s gun control, or women in office, or immigration, or racial discrimination, or ….the list goes on.
The other day I heard an interview with Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter. He said, “All of these people getting connected and sharing their information with each other means that I can be waiting in line at the grocery store and I can take out my iPhone and I scan the tweets and I can see what's happening halfway around the world, and I can put myself in the shoes of someone who is trying to overthrow an oppressive regime, and I can suddenly have an empathy with that person that I would not otherwise necessarily have had.”
Do you think he’s right? Can we become empathetic to those who are different from, or have different opinions than, ourselves by “getting to know them” through technology such as Twitter? I think reading can help us to better understand people. When I read a good book about characters who are very different from me, if the story is well written and the character development is good, it does seem to make me more sympathetic to them and their situation. Can Twitter do the same? Or other types of technically-enabled relationships? What do you think? Do you have any examples of this? Any ideas?