11/20/12 | 994 views
Tweetsgiving? A new way of saying thanks
‘Grateful tweets,’ thankful posts turn social media into font of gratitude
A little bird says gratitude is making a comeback.
With Thanksgiving upon us, the days of November are popular ones for calling to mind all for which we are grateful. And now, thanks to social media, these thankful thoughts can be read, commented on and shared by family, friends and, yes, even total strangers.
Maybe you’ve seen them?
On Facebook, there’s the 30 Days of Gratitude Project, started by Annie Zirkel, author of You’ll Thank Me Later, and supported by international gratitude speaker and trainer Paul Taubman, a blogger at allaboutgratitude.com.
The idea is that from Nov. 1 to 30, a Facebook user posts daily one thing for which he or she is grateful. It can be for husbands or for wives. For veterans or voting. For a stranger that lets you and your toddler ahead of him in line.
It could be for favorite burger joints or for weekends or for piles of leaves in the fall. For the sun, for the birds or for just another day.
The posts usually start as part of a trickle-down effect as one friend inspires another to jump on board. That’s what happened for Christi Landauer, a parishioner of St. Philip Church in Falls Church.
“It was really inspiring seeing everyone being thankful for something every day,” she said. And focusing on gratitude was a good antidote to the negativity she’d seen online following the Nov. 6 election.
“Social media is supposed to update family and friends about where your heart’s at, and I wanted it to be this,” Landauer said. “I wanted it to be my gratitude.”
And then there’s Twitter.
The social media stream used by many Catholic bloggers was the perfect setting for Matt Swaim, producer of the EWTN’S Son Rise Morning Show in Cincinnati to share his daily prayer of gratitude with the world.
He did this, he said, after spending too much time posting one negative tweet after another — especially first thing in the morning.
“I thought, ‘You know, what if I tithed that first tweet of the morning and made it a tweet of gratitude?’” he said.
Inspired by Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá’s concept of the “heroic minute” — how you should start your day by setting the tone in which you want to live it — and by St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “little way” — in which everything is grace — Swaim began documenting his moments of gratitude. Using the hashtag #gratefultweet, he’s been thankful for pro-life friends, leftover gummy lifesavers, guardian angels, for the last day of campaign ads and for the recent opening of a nearby Waffle House.
“It can be as simple as possible or as profound as possible,” he said. “That’s the great thing about it.”
For those who might be Twitter novices, when someone like Swaim posts an update on Twitter, it lands on the feeds of all those who “follow” him via their own Twitter accounts. But when he adds the hash tag (#), anyone who sends out a tweet including #gratefultweet will appear in the universal #gratefultweet list.
On Thanksgiving Day, Swaim will post his 425th #gratefultweet. His consistent example of positivity and gratitude has rubbed off on others.
Lisa Hendey, founder of catholicmom.com, and a follower of Swaim on Twitter, as well as his personal friend, said she watched Swaim begin his grateful tweets last fall. A couple of weeks later, she decided to join in — and her moment of gratitude has dramatically altered how she goes about her day.
After morning prayer, “the first thing I try to do is put out my gratitude tweet,” she said. “The reminder to start every day in a posture of gratitude … has fundamentally changed the way I do my social media now.”
Posting messages of gratitude on her Twitter feed gives Hendey the opportunity to “remember to pause and to pray and to give thanks for all the blessings that I have in my life,” she said.
And, on days when “the load feels heavy,” she is glad to have the opportunity to remember what she’s thankful for.
“It just bends my mind in a posture that helps me to have a better attitude,” she said.
Similarly, for Atlanta resident Maria Johnson, author of the blog Another Cup of Coffee, what started as a 30-day #gratefultweet experiment has morphed into a 14-months-and-running daily routine.
“It’s really changed the way that I approach using Twitter,” she said. “It puts your mindset where it needs to be for the rest of the time on the Internet.”
Grateful tweeting has caught on beyond Catholic circles — offering the perfect opportunity for evangelization and for “building bridges” between Catholics and people of other or no faith, Hendey said.
“I think that so often we forget that our circles of friends online don’t always contain Catholics; that we’re connected with lots of different types of people with lots of different backgrounds,” she said. “The concept of gratitude, of thankfulness, of blessing is universal. Even if somebody does not share our background religiously, they more than likely would be attracted to the idea of giving thanks for blessings.”
And, Swaim said, modeling gratitude and positivity is what Catholics should be doing.
“As Catholics, we will never convert the culture with negativity,” Swaim said. “If people see Catholics as complainers, as whiners, as grumps, especially first thing in the morning, it wouldn’t make anybody want to be Catholic.”
Of course, social media isn’t the first type of communication to emphasize gratitude. St. Paul, in each of his New Testament letters, put words of thanksgiving at the very top.
“I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,” he writes to the people of Philippi.
“I wonder what the grateful tweets are going to look like (on Thanksgiving Day),” Johnson said, joking that leftover turkey sandwiches would likely be a popular #gratefultweet the day after.
But, Hendey said, the key is to remember to be grateful year-round — not only when gathered around a large table with friends and family.
“I hope that people who catch onto (sharing daily thankful thoughts) because it’s Thanksgiving will see it’s something that’s quick and easy and not only helps (them) to share (their) faith, but really benefits (their) relationship with the God who’s blessed (them),” she said. “When it gets rough is on a Monday morning in the middle of July, or at the end of a busy workweek. That’s when being in the habit of taking time to prayerfully give thanks is such a blessing.”
Crowe can be reached on Twitter @GCroweACH.