Get Off of Twitter

 

Who Are These People?

Do you get that impression? You’re listening to a podcast where they’re talking about this minute’s controversy. The podcaster laboriously stakes out a position in the center. “That’s reasonable,” you think. “I disagree but I can see how he’d get to that conclusion.” Then the podcaster goes on to say “Therefore the people who worship Trump as the twelfth Imam are wrong.” Wait, what? These pundits aren’t ever arguing with me, or with someone with an intelligent, nuanced opinion. They’re always arguing with Twitter.

“Don’t read the comments”. That’s the advice that every internet columnist has received since 1995. You only get garbage from the comment section; the internet lets every crazy mask their identity, so they can say mean and awful things to you without consequence. But every columnist needs to get stories somewhere. So they hang out on Twitter, where every crazy can mask their identity and say mean and awful things to them. That makes sense.

Twitter Removes All Nuance

When Twitter debuted many people, myself included, couldn’t understand why you’d limit people to 140 characters. Despite the confusion of us fuddy-duddies, that was the format’s genius. Brevity, as they say (and who is this who says it?) is the soul of wit. If you’re forced to make your joke in that limited space you’re forced to make it punchy. That makes the place ideal for proposing games like #SitcomsBetterWithShatner or #IsActuallyAMuppet.

That punchiness makes it extremely difficult to frame a cogent argument. You can’t marshal supporting evidence, you can’t soften offense, you can’t provide any of your logic, just your conclusion. You might as well debate by waving protest signs at one another. Somehow everyone who argues with you is an idiot; shouting slogans. If you do read long-form disagreements, well, those people are more intelligent because they’re in the pundit class; they’re providing supporting evidence. Which is the effect and which is the cause?

You are what you read. If you want to be able to make intelligent arguments, you have to read intelligent arguments. If you want to grunt like a caveman, you sign up for Twitter. Good news: you’ll get better at making pithy and sharp statements. Bad news: everything else about it is bad for you.

Nothing that Happens on Twitter Matters

This is the whole #OwnTheLibs bit. You’re sharing your dank memes. Great! You’re getting views and retweets and omg IowaHawk liked your tweet! But are you accomplishing anything?

When I was in second grade the teachers (probably to get a moment’s respite) took us out to the soccer field to play Capture the Flag. After the game, she rounded us up and said:

I saw people out there going for the other team’s flag. Good! I saw people out there trying to save teammates [this was a freeze tag variant]. Also good! And I saw people sitting on the line, sticking their toes over and pulling them back saying “you can’t catch me!”. That is not good.

That rankled because I was in that third category. All that kid is doing is preventing one opposing kid from moving around. Since both teams lose an effective player nobody gains. (Being in the lower rungs of any athletic ranking ever, I was probably still providing a net benefit to the team, but it was years before I figured that out.) What’s worse: we never got to play Capture the Flag again, so I could never try the other strategies. That part still rankles.

This is a message for all the Twitter Warriors: the dragon slayers who go out there and flame people they disagree with on Twitter, you’re not getting anywhere. At most you’re distracting other people. At worst you’ll fall afoul of the dreaded Twitter Mob and lose your job. Worth it?

The Tyranny of the Alert

Hold on, before I write this I have to go check my notifications. One new comment to read. Hey, waitaminute, where did my train of thought go? Better hit refresh on those notifications to make sure I’m not missing anything. Now, where was I?

I could dress this argument up with words like neurotransmitter and acetylcholine and classical conditioning but I’d be faking it. This is practical psychology. By which I mean I made it all up, so read with caution.

You’re only ever thinking about one thing at a time. If I’m writing a post in this tab and writing code over there then I’m having to switch gears at least a little passing from one to the next. “Now what was I trying to do here?” If I’m listening to a podcast in the background too then I find I’m missing most of the conversation while I’m writing something, or reading something, or doing anything more complicated than washing dishes. You make anything else you’re doing less effective each time your mind jumps to “ooh, new notification! Let’s see if anyone is talking about me!”

Wanting to be noticed is a fundamental human desire. It covers ballpark streakers looking for their fifteen minutes of fame, obsessive A students, and just about the entire dating market. Strictly from a male perspective if a girl sees you and smiles it lights up your whole day. Notifications play into this.

Getting a like on your comment (or post, hint hint) is a positive experience, you get feedback that people have seen you and like something you’re doing. The problem here is that your modern social media markets refined, partially-hydrogenated fame. Likes can be achieved with minimal effort. You tweet something harsh and a thousand people pat you on the back. Why would you bother doing anything more difficult? This is mental diabetes.

Rumors with a Lightning Quickness

There is one legitimate benefit of Twitter: News travels fast on it. People don’t stop to proofread their tweets. If you’re trying to spread news people can almost instantaneously read, digest, and forward your news. Newspapers scoops have an inordinately short half-life. Gotta get it out there quick or someone will beat you to it.

And therein lies the problem too: When a mass shooting happens you get one story on the first day and another story afterward. Inevitably the second (true) story contradicts the first one in every detail. People rush to get the story out, they publish any rumor they hear, no time for fact-checking, there’s news in the making! If you’re tweeting out “I felt an earthquake just now” that’s fine. You probably felt it. If you’re tweeting out “This is why we need common sense gun control” that’s asinine; there’s no way you have all the details you’d need to make that statement in the twenty-three minutes since shots rang out.

These aren’t the days when it took you a month of sailing before you found out the king was dead (and long live the king!). Even so, the frenetic pace that Twitter enables costs entirely too much accuracy.

Get Off of Twitter

Count it all up. What benefits do you get from Twitter? Jackanapes shouting crude and awful things at you. The inability to have anything like meaningful discourse. The belief that everyone arguing with you is an idiot. The illusion of accomplishment. Straight psychological sugar. News so quick it’s wrong. And the precious opportunity to be a crude, idiotic, perpetually-wrong jackanape yourself.

Why are you still using that thing?

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  1. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: What’s worse we never got to play Capture the Flag again so I could never try the other strategies.

    I don’t think it matters; none of the other strategies are as effective as recruiting a knurly English guy.

    • #1
  2. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: couldn’t understand why you’d limit people to 140 characters.

    I always thought it was a packet size thing or a database field size thing.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I mainly got onto Twitter to play with micro-poetic forms.

    • #3
  4. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: But are you accomplishing anything?

    Is there anything to actually accomplish?  I am not going to let you smuggle meaning into a cosmic nihlist hellscape.  It could collapse the whole universe, are you mad?

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    One of the fingers-on-a-blackboard moments in my life is when I read a headline that starts “Twitter erupts over [insert event].”  Non-news creating alleged news.

    Pundits of whatever stripe seem to attach more importance to Twitter than the average person. Thankfully.  They like to think the number of their “followers” is important and that the petty battles they wage matter.  Neither is really true.

    • #5
  6. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    A-bloody-men.

    • #6
  7. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: What benefits do you get from Twitter? Jackanapes shouting crude and awful things at you. The inability to have anything like meaningful discourse. The belief that everyone arguing with you is an idiot. The illusion of accomplishment. Straight psychological sugar. News so quick it’s wrong. And the precious opportunity to be a crude, idiotic, perpetually-wrong jackanape yourself.

    Yeah, you don’t need Twitter to get all of that.

    • #7
  8. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad:

    Count it all up. What benefits do you get from Twitter? Jackanapes shouting crude and awful things at you. The inability to have anything like meaningful discourse. The belief that everyone arguing with you is an idiot. The illusion of accomplishment. Straight psychological sugar. News so quick it’s wrong. And the precious opportunity to be a crude, idiotic, perpetually-wrong jackanape yourself.

    Why are you still using that thing?

    Most people can’t and won’t triumph over the lizard brain.

    • #8
  9. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: couldn’t understand why you’d limit people to 140 characters.

    I always thought it was a packet size thing or a database field size thing.

    Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter:

    We were limited until 2005-2006 when SMS took off in this country and I could finally send a message from Cingular to Verizon. And that just crystallized — well, now’s the time for this idea. And we started working on it.

    It was really SMS that inspired the further direction — the particular constraint of 140 characters was kind of borrowed. You have a natural constraint with the couriers when you update your location or with IM when you update your status. But SMS allowed this other constraint, where most basic phones are limited to 160 characters before they split the messages. So in order to minimize the hassle and thinking around receiving a message, we wanted to make sure that we were not splitting any messages. So we took 20 characters for the user name, and left 140 for the content. That’s where it all came from.

    • #9
  10. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: Get Off of Twitter

    I am happy to admit that it is literally impossible for me to “get off of twitter.” (That venue shares equal footing in my house with something called Facebook…I’ve never been on either.)

    • #10
  11. Nanda Pajama-Tantrum Member
    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum
    @

    I think I was there for about a week…Here at R> is the place for conversation, no question.  I was part of one that lasted for about 5 weeks, got me a reading assignment or two – and an invitation to write an OP:  Check it out! 

    • #11
  12. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Could not agree more.

    • #12
  13. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I was on Twitter for a few weeks in 2005. It was brand new, and a hip friend of mine told me to go there. But back then it was just what people had eaten for breakfast etc. I didn’t stay. And when it caught fire and turned into what it is now, I went back about 9 years ago, thinking to connect with people from my industry and maybe promote my work. But I still thought it was boring, and once again I left after a few weeks.

    These days it looks to me like a trap.  Careers can be wrecked, sometimes by the tweeter and sometimes by the tweetee. I think anyone who is famous should get off it.

    • #13
  14. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I don’t participate or read either Twitter or Facebook (or any of the other social/anti-social sites), but this bit that I came across, author unknown, seems appropriate to this discussion:

    “Remember, you change the world by your actions; not your opinions.”

    • #14
  15. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I was on Twitter for a few weeks in 2005. It was brand new, and a hip friend of mine told me to go there. But back then it was just what people had eaten for breakfast etc. I didn’t stay. And when it caught fire and turned into what it is now, I went back about 9 years ago, thinking to connect with people from my industry and maybe promote my work. But I still thought it was boring, and once again I left after a few weeks.

    These days it looks to me like a trap. Careers can be wrecked, sometimes by the tweeter and sometimes by the tweetee. I think anyone who is famous should get off it.

    Hillary Clinton came under a lot of snark for having a Twitter account that was so scripted it clearly was the result of a committee. But you know, unless you have Trumpian Twitter Teflon — that is, the ability to say whatever is on your mind and net an increase in support — a boring, focus-group-approved generic-messaging account is probably the safest option for a public figure.

    • #15
  16. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I don’t participate or read either Twitter or Facebook (or any of the other social/anti-social sites), but this bit that I came across, author unknown, seems appropriate to this discussion:

    “Remember, you change the world by your actions; not your opinions.”

    • #16
  17. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I was on Twitter for a few weeks in 2005. It was brand new, and a hip friend of mine told me to go there. But back then it was just what people had eaten for breakfast etc. I didn’t stay. And when it caught fire and turned into what it is now, I went back about 9 years ago, thinking to connect with people from my industry and maybe promote my work. But I still thought it was boring, and once again I left after a few weeks.

    These days it looks to me like a trap. Careers can be wrecked, sometimes by the tweeter and sometimes by the tweetee. I think anyone who is famous should get off it.

    Hillary Clinton came under a lot of snark for having a Twitter account that was so scripted it clearly was the result of a committee. But you know, unless you have Trumpian Twitter Teflon — that is, the ability to say whatever is on your mind and net an increase in support — a boring, focus-group-approved generic-messaging account is probably the safest option for a public figure.

    Same for Chelsea’s Twitter. It was so obvious they were trying to groom her to run for office. I wonder if those plans have been abandoned.

    I left Facebook and do not miss it at all. There’s still a RightAngles account on there, but I’m locked out of it for making a negative comment about feminism (when I tried to log back in, they told me I’d been “reported”), and they won’t even let me back in to delete it.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: Why are you still using that thing?

    Cuz I like the give and take.  And sometimes I learn of interesting things to read.  But my presence there is very sporadic. I spent a lot of time time there before I started spending time on Ricochet.

    My feed is probably different than yours. And I rarely look at my full feed. 

    • #18
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    But… but… I tweet… therefore I am.

    It really is depressing, I’ll give you that. But it does give you some perspective. Such as, if low voter participation is seen as a problem then an hour on Twitter will disabuse you of that. There’s a whole group of people out there you don’t want to see the inside of a voting booth. And half them have blue checkmarks next to their names.

     

    • #19
  20. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: Why are you still using that thing?

    Well for one thing, it works a whole lot better on my mobile devices than Ricochet.

    • #20
  21. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I don’t participate or read either Twitter or Facebook (or any of the other social/anti-social sites), but this bit that I came across, author unknown, seems appropriate to this discussion:

    “Remember, you change the world by your actions; not your opinions.”

    This was one of the most annoying things about Facebook. All the people patting themselves on the back, thinking they were “DOING something” just because they changed their avatar to the rainbow to show solidarity for LGBT, and then there was that stupid “Je Suis Charlie”  one.

    • #21
  22. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    and then there was that stupid “Je Suis Charlie” one.

    I liked the idea of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. My problem with it was that it was too late: you can’t stand with the fallen, you can only lie down with them. And that, alas, is what the world has done.

    [ I exited Twitter in 2008, because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and it bothered me that I couldn’t ready every. Single. Tweet. ]

    • #22
  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Am I crazy or is Hank becoming one of the best writers on Ricochet?

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Am I crazy or is Hank becoming one of the best writers on Ricochet?

    Why can’t both be true? 

    • #24
  25. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Am I crazy or is Hank becoming one of the best writers on Ricochet?

    Agreed. You’re crazy.

    (Oh, and also that Hank is doing a great job.)

    • #25
  26. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Am I crazy or is Hank becoming one of the best writers on Ricochet?

    Embrace the power of “and”.

    • #26
  27. Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad
    @HankRhody

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I mainly got onto Twitter to play with micro-poetic forms.

    That’s an excellent use for it; (and also very Arahant-y, natch). You’ll forgive me if I don’t extrapolate your experience to the general case, I hope.

    • #27
  28. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I have come to believe that social media, Twitter especially is one of the current banes of society.  It makes any sort of conversation all about a one or two sentence snark that is all about pawning / owning the other side.   I am really getting tired of the whole glass full of liberal / white guys / etc tears meme.  Podcasts and articles that seem to be about some person nobody has ever heard about comment on Twitter is just lazy.  While I enjoy a good snark or sarcastic comment as much as the next person the constant barrage of this is devaluing the medium.  

    • #28
  29. Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad
    @HankRhody

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: couldn’t understand why you’d limit people to 140 characters.

    I always thought it was a packet size thing or a database field size thing.

    Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter:

    We were limited until 2005-2006 when SMS took off in this country and I could finally send a message from Cingular to Verizon. And that just crystallized — well, now’s the time for this idea. And we started working on it.

    It was really SMS that inspired the further direction — the particular constraint of 140 characters was kind of borrowed. You have a natural constraint with the couriers when you update your location or with IM when you update your status. But SMS allowed this other constraint, where most basic phones are limited to 160 characters before they split the messages. So in order to minimize the hassle and thinking around receiving a message, we wanted to make sure that we were not splitting any messages. So we took 20 characters for the user name, and left 140 for the content. That’s where it all came from.

    Thanks; I think I’ll chalk it up as accidental brilliance. The necessity of making pithy comments wasn’t their intent, but it is what makes the platform what it is.

    • #29
  30. Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad
    @HankRhody

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hank Rhody, Possibly Mad: Why are you still using that thing?

    Cuz I like the give and take. And sometimes I learn of interesting things to read. But my presence there is very sporadic. I spent a lot of time time there before I started spending time on Ricochet.

    My feed is probably different than yours. And I rarely look at my full feed.

    Fair enough. I don’t have a Twitter feed; all the Twitter I get is from other people quoting it.

    My problem is with the way that Twitter fights spill over into podcasts and Ricochet posts. It’s with the Remnant podcasts where Jonah Goldberg isn’t arguing with any opinions that real people have. It’s with the Ace of Spades blog where his humor has degraded into summaries of angry Twitter rants. It’s with people who can’t understand why people call them NeverTrump because the people they listen to never flesh the accusation out because it’s all happening on Twitter.

    • #30

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