Today began as just another Wednesday. I woke up, took a shower, ate breakfast, and went to work. After a typical Wednesday morning at work, I went home for lunch, as I often do when I don’t have an appointment or meeting since I live next door. I prepared some food for lunch and cooked it in the oven, and while I was waiting for it to finish I checked Twitter from my phone. I replied to a couple of interesting tweets and sat down to finish my lunch. A few minutes after I finished, I checked it again before heading back.
That’s when my day became anything but ordinary. In the few minutes since I had checked it previously, I had 15 mentions (for those not on Twitter, this means tweets written specifically to me). Ordinarily, I’ll get a dozen or so mentions a day, typically from friends replying to one of my tweets or writing me about something. This was different, though: I’d received more mentions in a 15-minute period than I usually receive in a day.
When I saw this, I honestly thought there was a glitch with my phone’s Twitter app. Maybe it lost track of what it had already loaded previously and reloaded all my previous mentions from the past 24 hours or something like that. But when I began to read the mentions, I realized this was not the case. This was no mistake. 15 people had sent me messages in the past few minutes, and the total had already climbed to 17 in the minute or so I had been looking at my phone.
I soon discovered that ESPN had retweeted me. If you’re new to Twitter, a retweet is when someone copies someone’s message so everyone who follows them will also see it. When I checked Twitter before I ate, ESPN asked a question about Carmelo Anthony and offered to retweet their favorite responses. My response was the first they deemed worthy of a retweet:
@espn Chicago. If Melo goes there, they're the favorite to win the East. New Jersey and even New York can't make that claim.
— Jonathan Guenther (@jonneygee) January 12, 2011
In so doing, all 875,160 people who follow ESPN’s Twitter account saw the message I wrote. I have 160 followers, so you can do the math. That’s by far the most people to have ever read something I’ve written.
Afterward, a bit of chaos ensued. I had several replies from people who agreed with me, mainly Bulls fans who were happy I said that Carmelo should play for Chicago. All the comments weren’t so favorable, however; I was called drunk, crazy, and weak, and I was even told (by someone whom I presume to be slightly biased because of the NY in his account name) that “that’s one of the dumbest tweets I’ve ever read.” None of the criticism really bothered me. In fact, I thought it was funny that people I didn’t even know cared enough about what I said to attack me.
The whole experience got me thinking – not about how to keep New York Knicks fans from getting mad at me (I really don’t care all that much about the NBA anyway, which makes the whole thing pretty ironic), but about influence. We all have moments of influence. Maybe we don’t all write something that nearly a million people will read, but we influence the lives of those around us all the time. If it was up to me, I would have preferred that those 800,000+ people read something different. Nothing against Carmelo Anthony, but in the big picture, the place the Nuggets end up trading him is pretty unimportant. Instead, I wish they could have read something else – something encouraging I wrote, or even better, something that would point them to Christ.
The good news for us is that most of the time we have a lot more control over how we influence people. While thousands may not see or hear it, the things we say and do can and do influence people. It’s just up to us how we use that influence.
Hopefully that leaves you with something to think about as it did for me. If close to a million people could read something you write, what would you say? And understanding the unlikeliness of something like that happening, how will you influence the people around you this week? I look forward to your responses!