Twitter undoubtedly played a big role in General Conference 2012. It helped people like me keep in touch with what was happening in Tampa without having to be there. I could watch the official proceedings on the live stream, while at the same time, keep tabs on the real conversations and actual goings-on via the Twitter stream.
Ever since, however, I keep hearing United Methodists complain about the “tone” of what was said on Twitter. The Reporter’s article on the impact of Twitter also gave voice to this concern.
Mostly those who don’t participate in Twitter complained, but the concern surfaced again in last night’s #DreamUMC conversation. One tweeter said: “Make sure we don’t sound snarky or sarcastic, folks. The media may say that’s all we are capable of :-/”
In fact, I would dare say that snark is a spiritual gift! And this gift is desperately needed in today’s institutions, especially the church.
Snark may be a particularly Gen X or Gen Y or millennial way to converse. There is a generational difference, for sure. I appreciate snark in a way that folks older than me might not. It doesn’t hurt my feelings when people take shots at me on Twitter, and I hope people laugh at my sarcasm, too. It doesn’t mean that we are any more rude, or unloving, or uncouth, or even less holy. It simply means that we have different rules of communication.
But there is a deeper significance to this kind of talk … Snark is the unveiling of hypocrisy, abstract talk, and misleading language. Snark is a clever, witty, and effective response to the Powers That Be. That’s why the snark comes out at official gatherings – that’s when our hypocrisy is on grand display!
Essentially, snarky comments speak truth to power. If Twitter is blowing up with snark during General Conference, it means that the Powers are not listening to all the voices in the room. It means that something important is happening, but those in charge are not paying attention.
And at its most basic, snark is a self-deprecating tone of language, a sign of humility. It refuses to take others too seriously because at the core, it understands that none of us should be taken too seriously. Especially when we are talking about serious matters.
Paul was snarky! Jesus could be, too! And what about Samson, Jacob, David?
Snark is one of our most valuable skills. It’s a gift, and we intend on using it! Because if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then soon, everybody will be laughing at us.