Easter Live: a critical view

I’m a big fan of Easter. No really, I am. But this year I’m feeling a bit grumpy about it. It all started about two weeks ago, and has been building since then. Let me try to explain why:

I’m also a big fan of Twitter. I find it an incredibly useful tool for connecting with people who have shared interests and discussing said interests. I use it to learn from others, to reflect with them, and to interact on a whole number of things. This year Easter & Twitter have aligned – or perhaps collided.

Easter(LIVE) 2011 is a project run by ShareCreative & the Evangelical Alliance and a number of other partners. It aims to encourage people to retell the Easter story in their own words:

It’s Passover week in 1st Century Jerusalem. A bustling throng of Jewish pilgrims have gathered in the city. But this year a preacher/carpenter from Nazareth is set to turn the tables of history – right before their eyes. This is the Easter story and this is your cue.

By Tweeting your story, the Easter(LIVE) website allows you to showcase your very own Passion Play. Be it a historical and Biblical account or a poetic, visual, musical or creative retelling – it’s up to you. It’s a chance to explore, to learn and be creative. Give it your personal stamp, bring it to life and share it with everyone.

So they’re encouraging people to send out their own version of the Easter story, using Twitter as the underlying tool, and collating the tweets into a user profile on the Easter(LIVE) website. Last year they took a slightly different approach which I encouraged our Church to support, and I found very helpful & valuable. Everyone was encouraged to follow the @easterlive account on Twitter, and they published a retelling of the story to anyone who was following. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and was well executed (similar to the Christmas story being told through the Natwivity project).

There’s a lot about this project which I love

  • anything which gets people hearing & talking about the Gospel has to be a good thing
  • I love that the story is being retold from different perspectives – some people will be writing their account with their own friends, family, community, context in mind which is really important
  • it is encouraging people to reflect on an “old” story in a new way
  • and as a recovering techie, I love the fact that they’re making great use of an existing & popular tool (Twitter)

But I have number of issues with it too:

One gripe is that a number of the people I follow on Twitter have signed up to the project. So they’ve been busy developing the characters through whom the story will be told, and carefully crafting their updates, waiting for the launch today (Palm Sunday). When I read about the project I quickly realised that this was going to have an impact on my Twitter feed. With approx 10-15 of the people I follow having signed up, and with one or two of them having mentioned that they have 120-160 updates “ready to go” during Holy Week, I was bracing myself to be inundated with Easter(LIVE) tweets. Since midday approximately 70% of the tweets in my Twitter feed have been #EasterLive updates (of course, that represents a great success my the project’s organisers to get people involved). Initially I feared that my general use and experience of Twitter would be negatively impacted by an abundance of EasterLive updates. It’s still less than a day into the project, but so far, that fear has been realised. That’s a bit of a selfish gripe though – who am I to moan if my experience of Twitter is impacted, when potentially thousands of people will hear the Gospel message?

I may also sound like a bit of a hypocrite as I’ve said it must be a good thing to tell the Gospel story in a new way and encourage people to reflect on it (some for the first time). But I want to question just how useful it will be for people to hear the Gospel told from multiple perspectives, in multiple styles, and each of them crossing over the other. How easy will it be for someone to follow the story for the first time? How helpful will it be at helping someone reflect on the story in a new way, when it’s actually presented in a number of new perspectives all at once? Only time will tell.

Personally I haven’t signed up to join the EasterLive project, not out of protest, but due to a lack of creativity (and time) on my part. Instead, I’ve signed up to a project called “The Passion Experience” which is using a similar approach to that of EasterLive 2010. It is also a retelling of the Easter story, and uses Twitter as it’s underlying vehicle. For me it seems to involve most of the positive aspects of Easter(LIVE) without the negatives.

What do you think?

  • Am I being selfish?
  • Is it confusing to retell the same story from multiple perspectives at the same time confusing?
  • Do you feel the approach taken by Easter(LIVE) this year is effectively spamming Twitter?

15 Comments

  1. I do sometimes wonder if we are using technology because we feel like we should eek the most out of what is available before we think about the story that we are trying to tell. In an experiment on using technology, gathering ideas and people around a central hub, shaing a stories it’s great. Retelling the story…. i do wonder? If i was to do it, then it would get me thinking about the story in a new and fresh way but as a tool to suggest that my friends would follow that story i’m not so sure…. For me personally i think there are better people out there telling the story. That’s what i liked about the Natwivity. Good story tellers doing what they do best and giving me the opportunity to pass that on to people.

    • :: If i was to do it, then it would get me thinking about the story
      :: in a new and fresh way but as a tool to suggest that my friends
      :: would follow that story i’m not so sure

      Interesting analysis. I hadn’t thought about it in that way – but I agree.

      :: That’s what i liked about the Natwivity. Good story tellers
      :: doing what they do best and giving me the opportunity to pass
      :: that on to people.

      Exactly. You’ve nailed it right there.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Will…

  2. Ricky,

    That’s a really good point which I wondered about myself. Especially since my tweets go right to my facebook and many non-twittering friends do not understand the symbols & codes of twitter. I thought it might be a turn-off.

    What I did as preventative maintenance was to publish a “note” with an overview of the EasterLIVE project and directions for “hiding” my updates if they clog up wall feeds.

    I think the positives of this initiative outweigh the negatives, and we will never be able to read everything written in EasterLIVE, but those with voices & perspectives that call to us, we can “follow” and then unfollow later. Or unfollow now & re-follow later. It’s all under the reader’s control.

    My 2 cents…thanks for posting your opionion! I will check out the other site you mentioned as well.

    Shannon

    • Hi Shannon – thanks for your comment.

      :: What I did as preventative maintenance was to publish a “note”
      :: with an overview of the EasterLIVE project and directions
      :: for “hiding” my updates if they clog up wall feeds.

      Well done – good to see someone thinking through the implications for friends/followers.

      :: I think the positives of this initiative outweigh the negatives

      Fair enough – I’m still evaluating :o)

      :: we will never be able to read everything written in EasterLIVE,
      :: but those with voices & perspectives that call to us, we can
      :: “follow” and then unfollow later. Or unfollow now & re-follow
      :: later. It’s all under the reader’s control.

      But if I decide to unfollow all those whose EasterLive story I don’t want to hear, I also lose out on their non-EasterLive tweets and potential conversations. For many of the people I’m following who are taking part, I value that interaction/reflection too much to lose it. Ironically, if the EasterLive tweets keep up at the same pace as yesterday, I’ll effectively be losing most of that conversation anyway as it will be lost in the over-abundance of updates.

  3. We (as a family) have signed up for Easter(Live), planned our tweets and are all set to go later today. We were hoping that a retelling of the story in this way might help some people.

    Having seen it in action so far I now have some reservations. I fear that whatever we tweet will simply be lost amid the chaos and caucophony that it has become. Anyone who follows a few people involved in this, follows Easter(Live) themselves or the #Easterlive hashtag cannot help but be confused by what they’re confronted with.

    I guess we’ll run with our first couple of sets of tweets and see how it looks. It may settle down after today.

    • Hi Paul – thanks for the comment.

      :: Having seen it in action so far I now have some reservations. I
      :: fear that whatever we tweet will simply be lost amid the chaos
      :: and caucophony that it has become.

      An interesting observation. My initial comments about the mass of information being confusing were from the point of view of those who somehow unwillingly get caught up in the project’s output. Interesting to see it from the point of view of someone involved in it too. Thanks…

      :: I guess we’ll run with our first couple of sets of tweets and see
      :: how it looks. It may settle down after today.

      Indeed – I’m trying to reserve judgement on the project as a whole.

  4. It’s good to read a critical view of easterLIVE as I have a tendency to be ridiculously enthusiastic about things like this without any reference to what might be the negative sides.

    What I’ve loved so far with easterLIVE is the diversity of expression. It’s made me realise how chaotic the world in which Jesus lived actually was – it was filled with all sorts of different people with different perspectives and the city of Jerusalem must have been really chaotic on the day that he entered on a donkey – what with the Roman occupying forces and a huge religious festival on.

    I don’t think it’s really spamming Twitter too much – everyone’s view of Twitter is different depending on who you follow. You obviously follow more Christians than me on Twitter as my feed wasn’t particularly ‘flooded’. Also, there are all sorts of tools one can use to filter what you want to see on Twitter (Tweetdeck is particularly good for this).

    Some may find it confusing to see all the different perspectives coming through on easterLIVE but I think this shows more the diversity of the church and the fact that Christianity isn’t a cult – if it was, all our tweets would look the same! I think it’s healthy even, if there are some contradictions and even arguments.

    I think anything which gets people talking about the most amazing events of human history this week has to be a good thing.

    Thanks for sharing your views though, it’s made me think a bit.

    • Thanks Bryony,

      :: What I’ve loved so far with easterLIVE is the diversity of expression.
      :: It’s made me realise how chaotic the world in which Jesus lived
      :: actually was – it was filled with all sorts of different people with
      :: different perspectives and the city of Jerusalem must have been
      :: really chaotic on the day that he entered on a donkey – what
      :: with the Roman occupying forces and a huge religious festival on.

      Great – I guess getting people thinking about different aspects of the story is one of the organisers aims.

      :: I don’t think it’s really spamming Twitter too much – everyone’s
      :: view of Twitter is different depending on who you follow.

      I was reluctant to use the word ‘spamming’ as it appeared too provocative, but once the updates started rolling in that’s exactly what it felt like.

      :: You obviously follow more Christians than me on Twitter as
      :: my feed wasn’t particularly ‘flooded’.

      Maybe that’s something I need to address – get more of a balance? ;o)

      :: Also, there are all sorts of tools one can use to filter what you
      :: want to see on Twitter (Tweetdeck is particularly good for this).

      Indeed. See my earlier tweet. I’m resisting using global filter immediately though. I’m keen to find a few EasterLive stories to connect with and follow, so I’m trying to wade through and separate the wheat from the chaff. Sadly I don’t use Tweetdeck for iPhone for reasons I’ve documented elsewhere.

      :: Some may find it confusing to see all the different perspectives
      :: coming through on easterLIVE but I think this shows more
      :: the diversity of the church and the fact that Christianity isn’t
      :: a cult – if it was, all our tweets would look the same! I think
      :: it’s healthy even, if there are some contradictions and even
      :: arguments.

      That’s a great reflection. Thanks…

  5. I can see a clear upside to this for participants, as retelling the story as a character is a great way to enter into it. Indeed, entering into the story as a character is an Ignatian prayer technique that helps people connect with the Gospels, and midrash – retelling the story imaginatively – is a technique that was already being used in Jesus’ day to make scripture come alive.

    I certainly don’t want to be a spoilsport or to put people off this imaginative participation in Holy Week, My first contact with the church was through a Diocesan initiative for schoolchildren called ‘A Week In Jerusalem’ that sought to do the same thing, and although it took some years to bear tangible fruit, it did seed a knowledge of the Easter story in my which I know was valuable.

    I think my main reservation is really that, in common with so many Christian initiatives both online and offline, people are being encouraged to think of it as a huge evangelistic venture when there’s no evidence that it’s actually going to connect with people who aren’t already Christians.

    I think there is a great value in the exercise for participants, maybe somewhat less for observers, and I am a bit dubious about the way that Twitter’s being used since there is a ‘spamming’ feel to being flooded with lots of tweets about something you haven’t opted in to follow.

    • :: I can see a clear upside to this for participants, as
      :: retelling the story as a character is a great way to enter
      :: into it.

      Absolutely…

      :: I think my main reservation is really that, in common with
      :: so many Christian initiatives both online and offline, people
      :: are being encouraged to think of it as a huge evangelistic
      :: venture when there’s no evidence that it’s actually going to
      :: connect with people who aren’t already Christians.

      I’m still unsure about this aspect of it. I’m not entirely sure what the actual aims are. It doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated on the EasterLive website. It’s simply being ‘sold’ as a ‘fun, creative and thought-provoking’ worldwide community initiative which is retelling the Easter story. My reading of it has been that it’s being provided as a tool to get congregations thinking about the story in a new way.

      :: I am a bit dubious about the way that Twitter’s being
      :: used since there is a ‘spamming’ feel to being flooded
      :: with lots of tweets about something you haven’t opted in
      :: to follow.

      I guess one argument would be that you’ve opted to follow the individuals already, so you’ve opted into receiving whatever they publish. If my contacts spent the week tweeting Easter reflections outside of the EasterLive project, would it be quite so intrusive & annoying? I guess not. I think part of my gripe is that this is an organised campaign – somehow it just doesn’t quite sit right.

      Thanks for the comment Pam…

  6. I agree that in principle it sounds good, but I was a little startled this morning to read that priests would be glad to see the end of Jesus. “which priests are these?” i wondered to myself, heaving a bit of a sigh and bracing myself for a new round of Anglican bashing or an anti-Catholic diatribe…

    When a tweet that is meant to be part of a 2,000 word essay arrives out of context, it can easily be taken to mean something completely different from what was intended. That seems a bit of a snag to me.

    • Thanks for the comment Maggi.

      :: bracing myself for a new round of Anglican bashing or an
      :: anti-Catholic diatribe…

      Hehe – there’s probably another just around the corner. Sit tight, you won’t be disappointed ;o)

      :: When a tweet that is meant to be part of a 2,000 word essay
      :: arrives out of context, it can easily be taken to mean
      :: something completely different from what was intended. That seems
      :: a bit of a snag to me.

      True – I guess at least all the tweets will include the #easterlive hashtag which provides an easy(ish) way to find out the context. Hmm, but clicking on the hashtag takes you to the amophous blob of EasterLive tweets rather than the profile/story of the tweeter who posted it. I guess that will just add to the confusion.

  7. I think encouraging people to tell the story in their own way is great. And there are a few I’d choose to ‘follow’ – but the mass publication model doesn’t seem to work for me. I love the idea that the tweets are being collated and published on a profile page for each user, so if you want to follow their story you can do it in one place. I can totally understand why using Twitter was the easier/cheaper way to power the project (that’s not to say that a considerable amount of work hasn’t gone into the tech behind the current project!), but if they could’ve found a way to produce the story on the profile pages without ‘spamming’ Twitter, I think the project would have a greater impact. Individuals could then publicise their profile page and encourage people to check it out.

    My critical comments about the project are not intended to be an attack on those who have chosen to participate, or those who have devised and developed it. I admire the technical side of the project, and love the creativity it has unleashed, just not its side-effect

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