In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis writes, “Friendship (as the ancients saw) can be a school of virtue; but also (as they did not see) a school of vice. It is ambivalent. It makes good men better and bad men worse.” The same could be said of Twitter.
One thing I like about Twitter is the way it can intertwine friendships. Any time I follow someone new, I find myself startled when I don’t just start seeing their tweets, I start seeing their conversations. If I follow two people who interact with each other, I become privy to those exchanges. If I follow Ross Douthat, I not only find out what he is thinking, but I find out what he is thinking about what Alan Jacobs is thinking.
Lewis would have appreciated this aspect of Twitter because friendship, in his view, is not best enjoyed in isolated pairs. He writes, “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” Lewis illustrated this by describing the recent death of his friend Charles Williams. He not only mourned the loss of Williams, he also missed what Williams brought out in others, such as the way that J. R. R. Tolkien laughed at Williams’s jokes.
According to Lewis, sharing a mutual friend with another person didn’t mean you got less of that friend, but more. “Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend” (The Four Loves). In this respect, Twitter can be an enhancement to friendship—especially a virtual friendship—by allowing others to bring out in another person what you cannot.
Yet with this glimpse into the intimacies and chummy circles of others comes a heightened version of another phenomenon that Lewis called “the Inner Ring.” Relationships consist of circles within circles, and we humans are powerfully motivated by a desire to be “on the inside.” Read the rest at First Things.