Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

My Failed Twitter Experiment

I tried splitting my Twitter accounts, one for personal and one for business, but here's why I'm going back and what I learned.

I have always had an issue with sharing too openly on social media. My personality is one where I typically speak my mind, get to the point, and don’t hold back. I “cut through the B.S.” as they say. People always know how I feel, and I’m not afraid to tell the truth even if it hurts people’s feelings. I despise small talk, but at the same time I love to tell a story.

Think Larry David, but extremely handsome, charming, and loves Jesus.

This has caused problems far too many times to count. I lost a job over it once. I’ve had “the talk” with numerous friends who felt the need to pull me aside and coach me on restraining myself and being a better example. They love me and mean well, but more often than not it always comes down to the fact that they just want me to stop saying things they disagree with. No one ever complains when you’re blunt or speak the truth, so long as they agree.

It’s frustrating to me when I can’t tell what someone believes. I have friends who don’t share anything remotely personal online, and in person they still hold back, not wanting to engage in any kind of controversy. How are you supposed to actually get to know someone like that?

Any Enneagram 3’s out there feeling what I’m feeling?

A wiser, more disciplined person would indeed restrain themselves more. The Bible certainly has a lot to say about self-control, bearing false witness, patience… things like that. I admit, it is a struggle.

When I hold back, I feel like a fraud. I hate the idea of putting on some more professional persona just so it represents the brand better. It’s why I love building my own brand and working for myself, rather than working for a company. It’s why I don’t work well with partners.

Maybe it’s why I follow Gary Vaynerchuck and Marcus Lemonis more than Michael Hyatt or John Maxwell. Love all of them, but man I’d love to see Hyatt or Maxwell behind closed doors when they’re really frustrated at something. I’d pay a million dollars for a video of Bob Goff yelling at his kids.

I also believe a big part of it is that people who are like me, and believe and think the things I do, are a silent breed these days. I don’t think we are rare by any means, but every day it is becoming less safe to express our views. I’m not pulling the victim card here (I think it’s clear that I don’t care) but the reality is the things that make me who I am (christian, conservative, Calvinist, pro-gun, anti-abortion, Trump supporter, etc.), are becoming taboo.

And the hatred is hot right now, especially among other Christians. I certainly don’t search for posts by liberals, or posts from Wesleyans, or posts that are anti-gun and start fights with people over them. Yet if I post about any of the things above, out of the woodwork come all the Christians ready to tell me why I’m being a poor witness, or why I’m not even a Christian.

And yet, another Christian “leader” can promote homosexuality, or tell someone they are racist simply because they voted for Trump, and they’ll get praised for being bold and courageous.

It certainly can be distracting. That’s why a few months ago, a friend of mine DM’d me on Twitter and proposed a solution. I admire this friend, and I appreciate how blunt they were with me. He said that he enjoys following me on Twitter for the church communications and marketing content that I post, but he didn’t care about my thoughts on politics, or guns, or really anything else.

Now, I’m pretty careful to serve up relevant content on each channel. I don’t share a lot about my family and post personal stuff on Twitter, because most of the people who follow me there aren’t there for that. I do that on Instagram and Facebook mostly. But this friend’s message came at a time when I had gone on a few political rants on Twitter. It’s hard to avoid it, frankly. Twitter is 80% political content right now, it seems.

His idea was that I create a second Twitter account, one that is strictly personal. I can post what I want on it, but keep my existing Twitter account for the “business” stuff. I loved the idea. I’ve seen a few tech company CEO’s do this, and it seems to work well for them. Particularly if they like to post a lot about sports, but their tech followers get lost.

So I decided to run an experiment. @ThatJustinDean is where I posted personal stuff, including my conservative political thoughts, dry sarcastic quips, and I may have even let a cuss word or two slip out.

And @JustinJDean I kept strictly business related, namely #ChurchComm posts.

People seemed to like the idea, and I thought it was off to a good start. But now, I’m switching back, and here’s why:

  1. It felt like I had two personalities. Which if you know me in real life, that’s far from the truth. I am who I am. I don’t turn it on or off for anybody.
  2. Occasionally I’d forget to switch accounts, or I’d see a tweet that I wanted to retweet and comment on, and I’d end up saying something personal or political from my “business” account. People were more than happy to point this out every time it happened.
  3. It goes against how Twitter is designed. People were confused about which account to tag. People were following the personal account, who clearly had been looking for the business account and likely just saw me pop up in a search or recommended follower list.
  4. My “business” account became devoid of personality. I found it hard to express myself and make it feel personal, when all I was posting was communications tips and promotional tweets.
  5. Frankly, the personal account only accumulated 112 followers so far. I mean, I don’t get out of bed for less than 15k. And I don’t feel like putting in the work to build two platforms.
  6. After awhile I began to feel like a fraud. Like I’m trying to be who people want me to be, instead of just being me. Someone mentioned that Jesus was “all things to all people”, to which I replied, “I’m not Jesus.”

So I’m going back to just using one Twitter account. You can follow me at @JustinJDean, for better or for worse. If you like my church communications stuff but can’t handle my personality or viewpoints when it comes to politics, life, guns, family, etc… then so be it. You are welcome to unfollow me, filter me, mute me, or even block me.

And you are of course welcome to engage with me and have civil discussions. But if you know you disagree with my conservative political views, then don’t just pick a fight with me every time I post something. Engage if you’ve got something meaningful to add, but quit trying to call me out or change my mind. You know who you are.

A few things I’ve learned through all this:

  1. Learn from negative feedback, but keep it in perspective. I can post a tweet or a video, and a hundred people might like it and a dozen or so may comment or message me to tell me they loved it. But then one person pushes back on it or is offended by it, and it ruins my day and makes me question everything.

    You can’t please everyone. Believe it or not, I actually care what people think and I want what I say and what I produce to better their lives. So I take it seriously when people take issue with something I created. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Know what you believe, and why you believe it. Try to understand and learn from different viewpoints, but don’t let one in a hundred shut you down.
  2. Find a friend or two who are like you. There is so much pressure to have friends who are not like you, so you can hear fresh perspectives. I understand that, but the people closest to you are going to be the ones who are just like you. I have found that when I’m able to have real conversations with people who aren’t judging me and offended by me, that I’m less inclined to tweet about it. That probably says more about my need to be validated than I’d like to admit, but I think there’s some wisdom in finding yourself some people who support you and think like you.
  3. If I’m going to be myself, and that means being transparent and open with the things I post, then I need to be willing to deal with the ramifications of me being my full self. Yes that means some people aren’t going to buy my products or come to my events because they don’t agree with who I voted for or my view on climate change. Yes that means some people are going to get mad, and say not nice things. And, to be honest, sometimes that means I’m going to be a jerk… and I need to own up to that.
  4. I will continue to learn and grow. As I’ve gotten older, my personality hasn’t changed much. But I have grown closer with the Lord. My discernment is better, I’ve learned to articulate things better, pray about things more often, and research things better. As a result I am able to stand behind my convictions and the things that I say and post. I’m also able to restrain when appropriate, apologize and correct when appropriate, and empathize with how my words affect others. If I’m going to be open with what I post, then I need to be open and transparent with the response as well.

Lastly, some encouragement for you in all this… be yourself, but strive to always be more like Jesus. Because I know sometimes I can be a jerk. I’m clearly not perfect. I’ve got major issues. A lot of people don’t like me.

At the same time, a lot of people do like me. I’m going to focus on those people, and strive to provide more value than distraction.

I’m still learning how to lead with love. It’s certainly not something I’m known for, yet it’s where my heart is at.

So rather than divide myself between two channels, I’m going to continue to be myself and together we can become more like Jesus. Or you can unfollow me. Your choice.

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