Friday, May 01, 2009

The Spiritual Importance of Twitter

When something is wildly successful, as Twitter now is, I often ask myself about its higher purpose. In other words, what might be the deeper meaning of Twitter?

Although I was a Twitter naysayer at first, I’m now convinced that Twitter is part of the spiritual evolution of our species. Its growth corresponds to the accelerating spread of a global consciousness, one in which our sense of boundaries no longer end at national boundaries and we are increasingly in touch with our sense of “oneness” with others.

Twitter’s unique format contributes to our growth in a variety of ways:

1. Speed of learning: Never before have new ideas been able to propagate as rapidly. The emergence of the Twitterverse allows a new thought or idea to almost instantly be propagated through networks of like-minded people around the world, which can increasingly accelerate the learning process for our species as a whole. We become more like synapses in a global net of learning, almost instantly aware of the most important new breakthroughs.

2. Ambient intimacy: For the first time, a communication medium allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the thoughts and feelings of thousands of people in a way that is intimate without being intrusive. The term “ambient intimacy” was coined by Leisa Reichelt, and it’s central to the success of social media platforms such as Facebook, Flickr and Digg. However, the opportunity for ambient intimacy is most advanced on Twitter because it has the shortest communication structure (140 characters) and a format that allows one to scan a large number of such feeds rapidly. The implication for our spiritual growth is profound. The more rigid and protected our personal boundaries, the more we tend to suspect others and create conflicts. As we increase our sense of personal intimacy with other places, races, and cultures, we becomes less suspicious and protective. We expand our sense of global family.

3. Increased authenticity: In order to contribute to the flow of value on Twitter and build followers, we need to keep asking ourselves what is most real in our lives at this moment? In this sense, Twitter is part of a movement towards radically increased authenticity, as the boundaries between our public and private selves dissolve. This began to happen in a pronounced way with blogging but Twitter takes it to the next level since the short format allows much more rapid, unfiltered, and uncensored moments. From a spiritual perspective, this can be seen as bringing our personal selves into full alignment with our soul, which has no secrets. Transparency makes us more truthful, which in turn brings us into greater alignment with our higher selves. Authenticity has long been at the foundation of all good therapy and Twitter offers a form of free psychotherapy by encouraging us to regularly share our inner world with others.

4. Customized attention networks: With Twitter, we are able to fine-tune exactly who we find most interesting to follow – and change that in a moment. As our own consciousness is evolving, different perspectives will prove more or less catalytic to our growth. Being able to rapidly fine-tune our inputs at every moment allows us to stay on our growth edge. Each person that we follow becomes a link to our consciousness, with their deepest ideas, inspired recommendations, and heartfelt reflections transmitting to ours. The mass media offer a much grosser approximation with “verticals” in which each of us was assumed to mainly inhabit one market or demographic. In the Twitterverse, we are tailoring our media to exactly mirror our current preferences.

5. Increased individuality – At the same time that we are creating a more blurred sense of information boundaries, Twitter also encourages us to expand our individuality. If we simply repeat what others say, we will not be particularly interesting to follow on Twitter. There is thus a strong push to individuate ourselves and get very clear about our unique offerings to the larger world. This helps to undo the tendency of most of our media to push us towards similar tastes and interests. We each, in effect, become our own miniature media network and need to discover what our unique niche is.

6. Tracking global concerns – the new search function for Twitter allows us to track the most pressing concerns for the Twitterverse as a whole instead of having those concerns interpreted through a media filter. This allows us to have a more direct feeling for the true state of our collective “mind” and thus more sensitively understand what matters most to the human family at any particular moment. This awareness is also part of propelling us beyond purely local, tribal, or cultural awareness.

7. Personal connection to our heroes and heroines - Twitter gives us a portal into the innermost thoughts of our greatest heroes and most respected heroines. It’s thus a way to take them off a pedestal and help us realize that we have the potential to live a life as bold, influential, or magical as they do. The pipeline to our heroes is also more direct and unfiltered, which helps them inspire us more regularly, without exaggerating our tendency to put people out of arm’s reach.

As Twitter continues to evolve, there will likely be many new implications for our spiritual growth. So these seven areas are really only a start of looking at the spiritual meaning of what is arising. As our learning and exchange networks become ever-more instantaneous, we participate in something like a global brain, with each of us as synapses between different learning nodes, all connected to thousands of other nodes. It is very early in the evolution of Twitter but the evolutionary importance of the service may be truly profound.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter!

And here is my SHIFT List of inspiring leaders you'll want to follow on Twitter

If you enjoy this article and my SHIFT List, I encourage you to also join TheShiftMovement twibe.


At 8:09 PM, Anonymous PhebeK said...

Wow! What you say blows my mind. I have had a hunch about some of what you say about Twitter, e.g., I have sensed my separation from people dissolving through my interactions through tweets. This is a huge thing! Besides my personal tweeting, I also am one of the tweeters for Women Writing for (a) Change and have forwarded your post to a few people there. Until now, they may have thought I was a bit crazy about Twitter. Your reflection may cause them to look at this social media phenomenon with new eyes. Thank you for the wonderful insights! PhebeK on twitter

At 5:51 AM, Blogger chris said...

Nice take and summary, both for the folks that don't 'get' twitter and as a guide to greater potential for those that do.

One benefit I have noticed in my personal conections is that when I meet face to face with one of my tweeps (or Facebook friends for that matter) that use the tool in a transparent and interesting manner as you describe, there is already a depth of knowing a bit more about where they are 'at' presently and I find that we go deeper in a shorter period of time as a result. Not to replace the human connection (as is often the knee jerk criticism of twitter) but as an enhancement of it.


At 7:27 AM, Blogger Angela said...

Stephen, this is a great perspective! Despite your comment in #5 not to just repeat what others say - I'm going to pass this on for the Twitter nay-sayers to read.

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous mattbert said...

Well stated, Stephen, and possibly true – or not. Yes, I am one of those aging primitives that has neither a Facebook nor a Twitter account (egads!), and yet I still seem to feel perfectly at ease with the richness of my life, my network of friends, and my connection to, and understanding of, the world around me.

Like any technology, the application and use of Twitter is a direct reflection of the consciousness and intention of its users. Life is largely a bell-curve phenomenon: the norm is somewhere in the vast middle, while the interesting stuff takes places on the perimeters, along those “long tails.” When I start to read stories of how the advertising industry continues to work its way into all new realms of technology and social media, from the web to mobiles and now the latest casualty – yes, Facebook – well, what I see is the dominant paradigm (the norm) on a path of inexorable infiltration and take over. And don’t think for a minute that Twitter is out of harm's way. Resistance is futile.

My other curmudgeonly point is that in a society that is already so fragmented and isolated, assimilation into a hand-held universe leaves less and less room for actually being present in the immediate moment – looking real people in the eye, for example, and sharing a genuine smile or acknowledgment. “Be here now” has been supplanted by “be digital now,” and I’m not sure this constitutes an evolutionary breakthrough. Indeed, one could argue that this is merely another enviroscape for the monkey mind to bounce through. Not to mention a growing number of studies questioning the wisdom and health of allowing one’s attention to become so completely ensnared by the neural net. Frankly, I’d much rather stare at a tree than an electronic device filled with 8 point type.

Okay, enough of my rant. I want to believe you, I like the vision, but I find myself ruminating on that cautionary adage, Believe in Allah but keep you camel tied to a post…

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Deanna Zandt said...

This is an interesting piece with lots to think about... two thoughts.

1. you mention "public and personal selves," and I'm not sure if you meant this in a binary way. Many people do, and that's sort of false concept, that there is one public self and one private self, and they are now becoming one through the likes of social media. I think their are many more selves (I suspect this is your line as well), and I would say they are overlapping more... but boundaries can be and are still very much in play.

2. mattbert, you used the verb "supplanting." I think this is a mistaken notion about what technology can and can't do for us. No one intends for the tech to supplant our existing modes of interaction, but maybe to complement it or give a different perspective. Again, I ask people to set and maintain their boundaries, just like with anything else in their lives.

At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Josia said...

"I have sensed my separation from people dissolving through my interactions through tweets"
Quoted from the first comment.

You are really on to something Stephan because whatever connects us is going to succeed in this new era we're entering. Whatever does not will fade away ...

At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read, food for thought, pondering this will bring even more to all.

At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read, food for thought, pondering this will bring even more to all.

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice. I would, however, like to disagree with the point about RTs, probably because most of my output consists of them. I'm able to filter input into a much smaller stream that represents what I see as relevant & interesting. This can be of value to those sharing my interests.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger gwen bell said...

Thanks to Brian Johnson for putting you on my radar. I couldn't agree more that Twitter can be a spiritual practice. It can also be a time suck. So, like anything in life, learn to use it wisely. And engage with awareness.


At 6:13 AM, Anonymous Tracy Latz said...

I too had strongly resisted Twitter as I am quite busy with writing and teaching seminars and courses on shifting the obstacles that keep people in fear-based patterns of living rather than in their heart- as well as busy with my 'day job' in my full-time integrative psychiatry practice. However, I too began to have the sense that this modality of constant and immediate connectedness could serve a greater and higher purpose of more rapidly transmitting bite-sized information and tips to rapidly assist others with feeling connected and in their heart- a major step toward inner peace that can assist with creating outer peace in our world. I invite you to follow me on Twitter now as well!

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Lani Voivod, co-owner of Epiphanies, Inc. said...


I was about to write a blog post called "The Spiritual Side of Twitter" when I thought I'd check Mother Google to see if anyone else beat me to it. Alas, you did, for all intents and purposes.

However, I'm not disappointed at all, because your blog post says it all so eloquently and thoughtfully. I'm thrilled the subject fell into good hands. You're so right on so many levels.

This short-form global
communications phenomenon has a poetry about it. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts beyond the 140-character limit. :)

I may yet explore the topic myself, just to see what comes up. No doubt your perspectives will inspire a better blog post from me.


P.S. My hubby/biz partner and I took the time to write "37 Easy Ways to Boost Biz Visibility, Revenue, and Results With Twitter," because we see it as such a powerful tool for entrepreneurs, thought leaders, corporations, and mission-driven organizations alike. If you'd like to check it out, you can download it at While it doesn't directly address the spiritual angle, the implications are there, or so I like to think.

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Terrie Crowley said...

Thanks for your perspective. The eventuality of all this the realization that we ARE ALL in fact connected energetically. Twitter offers a step towards embracing it as we witness the like-minds following each other around the planet. Very exciting!

At 10:23 AM, Blogger gregory said...

twitter has no spiritual importance whatsoever ..

it is simply the out-picturing of what the mind can already do ..

as is everything else ..

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Awakenings with Michele Meiche said...

yes, an out picturing of the mind... the mind of God as all of us...
& that is spiritual...

this also brings up the idea of "use"... some are using twitter more "consciously" or should i say for more conscious, aware purposes & activities of service.

it think the connecting is representing a spiritual concept in material form.

great post & you have some great ideas that bring "food for thought"

really inspiring.. as i have had similar thought/feeling.


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Good work Stephen! I wrote on "Twitter and Mindfulness" on my Digital Dharma blog [] back in September. I really think that this all all part of the opening of the global 5th and 6th chakras!

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the responses are positive. Everyone loves Twitter. But, my concern is with exiting, not entering Twitter. Anyone trying to "leave" Twitter will be confronted with a near impossible task, unless they're computer nerds.

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At 7:41 AM, Blogger Frank Dobner said...

Very powerful observations and facts. I believe that Twitter (and other social media) is running alongside our indigenous energetic apparatus and is merely an external means of facilitating that connection.

Nice work.

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At 8:31 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Wonderful to read your insights on spirituality and Twitter because I had not connected the two together! Thank you for sharing.


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