Twitter is a fun part of social media because it is the meeting ground for possibility and brevity. In 140 characters or less, you can inform folks about your lunch, send your followers to a link you enjoyed, or try to impress everyone with how witty and concise you can be. But should there be limits that go beyond number of characters? Should you expose your soul to the world and come clean for you sins in 140 characters or less? I wouldn’t recommend it.
There is a community of Reformed Jews in Harvard that are being encouraged to publicly confess their sins on twitter for Yom Kippur. I think that this is a bad idea, and it seems to undermine the purpose of the Al Chet as stated in the article. Granted, I am not Jewish, but I do know a thing or two about confession, and I think I know enough to say that Twitter is not the place for it.
First, twitter is not the place for a communal confession of sin because your thoughts on Twitter are your thoughts. If you are confessing your sins on your account, you are hardly speaking in solidarity with the community. Second, if you start confessing your sins publicly on Twitter, unless you are very generic, you are going to sin worse than if you had kept your mouth shut. The public at large does not need to know about your specific sinfulness.
For example, one of the confessions lauded in the article was this: “I have judged people before getting to know them.” Perhaps this is cathartic, but it is hardly a real confession of sin any more than saying, “I have lied to people in general.” A real confession looks like, “I judged (insert name) to be a dangerous terrorist because he is a Muslim. I failed to love him as a neighbor.” That’s personal, that’s real. And nobody needs to know about that but you and the Lord.
Your confession ought to only go as far as your offense. If it is a private failing, keep it between yourself and the Lord. If you have a close friend and confidant who can handle your dirty laundry, feel free to talk to him or her about it. Talk to your pastor about it if you are struggling with something in particular. But do not foist your failings upon others in the hopes of the sweet release that confession may bring, as you may actually serve to cause others to stumble. How? By planting your garbage in their brains, that’s how. So unless you are confessing to someone because your actions have severed or injured a relationship, keep your baggage to yourself.
Finally, such public confessions are actually a kind of a faux humility. That is, I can confess, “I have often been short with others.” Well, that’s no skin off my back to admit, almost everyone has been short with others. Such confessions make us look pious and penitent, and that’s just what our pride likes, isn’t it?
So my advice is to keep your confessions off of Twitter. Keep them between you and the Lord God and the parties that you have offended. Unless, of course, you have sinned against the entire Twitterverse, then by all means go for it!