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The Worst Way to Grow Your Digital Platform in 2024

December 27th, 2023 | 2 min. read

By Patrick Miller


In January 2021, I returned to Twitter after a ten-year hibernation. Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better to keep sleeping.

On the upside, my digital wakefulness generated dozens of friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise. I bandied about ideas, and more than once abandoned those ideas because the good people of the bird pointed out how dumb they were. But on the downside, I made a discovery that everyone knows, few people talk about, and even fewer take seriously.

I learned that pugilism pays. Comments. Likes. Retweets. Followers.

That’s not to say digital pugilism costs nothing. It costs time. It takes an emotional toll. It chips away at your soul. And all for what? Attention. Every time these concerns came into view, I stuffed them somewhere just beyond conscious awareness. It wasn’t hard to squirrel them away into the “non-issue” part of my ethical system. 

I moralized: Jesus flipped over tables to defend justice!

I utilitarianized: This is the only way to reach more people with true ideas!

I equivocated: This is accountability!

I self-justified: I’m not as bad as they are!

Of course, I wasn’t alone. This is the same game most Christian Twitter influencers play. They attack others under the guise of accountability. They grow platforms by slamming anyone to their right under the veil of journalism. They amass tens of thousands of followers by eviscerating “woke pastors” while cosplaying as serious theologians and thinkers. 

However much I want to say, That’s them, not me, the truth is that the same temptations enticed my heart. And more than I care to admit, they won my heart. The simple truth was that my digital habitat was designed to reward certain habits, and I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to admit that I lacked the maturity to resist. It took a year and a half, and several awful internet kerfluffles, to finally admit that digital pugilism’s payout wasn’t worth the costs. 

So I spent some time off Twitter and created a number of “principles” to prevent myself from relapsing. But now I’m sitting on the edge of yet another election year, wondering whether I should disappear from the social internet altogether. After all, elections charge the body politic with intense anxiety, and social media is the conduit. Can I put my finger on the circuit and not get electrocuted?

I know that one year from now there will be new Christian social media celebrities who played the pugilism game on social media and won out big. There will be the usual players, too, who will likely expand their digital footprint by taking sides, taking names, and delivering blistering digital beatdowns. The self-justifications are easy, and with so many controversy soups du jour, there’s not much time to stop and reflect whether it would be better to forego the dopamine jolts and protect their soul.

So here’s my modest proposal: we should wear slow growth and low engagement as a badge of honor in an election year. This is a year not to go viral, not to subtweet, not to quote tweet critique, not to lurk around social media silently raging against the political tribe you despise.

Instead, this is a year to spend more time with family, to ignore the latest controversy, to resist the macadamization of our minds, to attend to local matters, and to make a difference in our actual spheres of influence.

Maybe I’m just preaching to myself. If that’s the case, I’ll just call it a New Year’s resolution. But I kind of hope I’m not alone. I can’t stomach losing another friend to the algorithmic meat grinder.

Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is a pastor at The Crossing. He offers cultural commentary and interviews with leading Christian thinkers on the podcast Truth Over Tribe, and is the coauthor of the forthcoming book Truth Over Tribe: Pledging Allegiance to the Lamb, Not the Donkey or the Elephant. He is married to Emily and they have two kids.

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