Your 100 followers on Twitter are more powerful than you think
"I only have 100 followers on Twitter..."
Admittedly, Tweeting to a group of your friends is much different than delivering the Gettysburg Address. However, in a more subtle way, it may be even more powerful. Consumers are assimilated into particular ways of thinking, not by bold speeches but by constant consumption and interaction with bite-sized nuggets of a particular world-view. The person offering up those nuggets may not even be aware that that's what they are doing because the impact is so subtle and so gradual. However, it's affect can't be denied.
Do you think that the Nazi's would have been so devoted to Adolf Hitler if they were approached at the beginning of his reign with a bold speech such as, "Join me! Together we will slaughter men, women and children in inhumane ways, dump their bodies unceremoniously into mass graves because they have different color hair and eyes than we do and thus are less important!"? No, of course not. The Nazi's weren't inherently mass murderers - they were German citizens recruited into the Nazi political party. But through a timely process, they were brainwashed into a very rigid way of thought, one small example at a time.
The Katy Perry Army
While I'm not accusing anyone of recruiting an army to takeover the world, there are "army" subcultures of our day in which people en masse follow a particular "leader" such as Katy Perry or Bill Gates. Through months of consumption of their Tweets, music, instagram posts and a host of other media forms, these small armies do eventually become programmed, so to speak, with the worldviews and practices of their "leaders." That's basically what I'm trying to do to you guys (just kidding... but for real though) =P We adopt the lifestyle practices of those we admire and follow. Public figures are often referred to as "thought leaders" because they are literally leading their small band of followers in a particular way of thought! This isn't necessarily a bad thing. For those thought leaders who are truly knowledgeable and wise, who set good examples and who take their leadership seriously, it can have an empowering and positive affect on the follower. In other cases, this isn't the fact which is why gossip columns otherwise known as "the news" is such a thriving industry today.
To bring it back full circle, one of the greatest mistakes that we make as a social culture is believing that no one is listening to us. With platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, my generation is becoming the first generation to have their life documented and accessible to the world from the time they turn 13 until the time they die. Imagine your grandchildren, fifty years from now, being able to scroll through their Grandpa's Facebook feed back to when he was 13 and walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways. Today, a quick Google search will fork over information in seconds that would have taken a P.I. weeks or months to get just fifty years ago. As a result of the sudden surge of social sharing, the potential to have an impact has also heightened. You know the saying, "someone is always watching you." While often used in reference to children picking up on and mimicking the eccentricities of their parents, the mental imagery here can easily be in reference to Social Media. Between blogs, status updates and multi-media posts, the web has become a platform more powerful than a podium. Many people who wouldn't ordinarily have a chance to speak up, suddenly find that they have an audience.
You - sitting there in your underwear, staring at your computer - have an audience of hundreds, if not thousands, of people listening to what you have to say.
Just one generation ago, to have such an audience you must have either preached a revival or run for office. Let that sink in... the immensity of that opportunity is almost hard to believe. Available social platforms have empowered us to have a direct line to our audiences of twenty-five people or five-thousand. On a small scale, we're thought leaders among our peers, family, acquaintances and whichever other poor soul decides to click 'follow.' Whether you realize it or not, the sermon that you're preaching is your life and your pulpit is the Internet. Some Pastors preach to a congregations of twenty-five, once a week. You might be preaching to the equivalent of a mega-church on a daily basis.
How mindful are we of the content which we pass on to our audience? Are we mindlessly Favoriting, Retweeting, Liking or Commenting on content without so much a thought as to the collateral consequences? We should be intentional about what we consume and what we share, even to a point of not sharing a piece of content we find interesting because it has questionable material that wouldn't be wholesome for our followers. Inevitably, people will contest this point, saying their Twitter feed is for them and if people don't like their content they don't have to follow them. Except that they would be wrong. Social media, despite what we might THINK, is not about us. That's why it's SOCIAL. It's all about our connections. If it were about us, we would write it down in our private journal. But the minute we begin sharing content on social sharing sites, we accept the responsibility to take care of our connections.