We Need to Talk About Twitter

I don’t like social media. While I have a presence on all of them, I am only moderately active on LinkedIn … and like almost anyone, I only use Instagram to waste time. Facebook? I don’t engage. Google+? Is that still a thing? Tumblr? I’m not a transsexual adult performer so I don’t really use it. Twitter? Ah yes. Twitter.

Of the (current) social media big three, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter it seems only Twitter is capturing the continuing polarization of the country. Granted, FB is a dud to me and my IG feed is mostly pit bulls and cats, so maybe it’s just as divisive and I don’t see it. To me Instagram is pretty innocuous and harder to politicize (not impossible, just harder) and Facebook is pretty much the social media equivalent of the most dysfunctional, and drunk, Thanksgiving dinner in history.

But Twitter? Well, it’s truly the last bastion of the lunatic fringe.

I joined Twitter in 2009 and was an ardent supporter at the time. Back then the logic was “Facebook is for people you USED to be friends with and Twitter is for people you SHOULD be friends with.” I honestly believed that … in 2009. Now? Not so much.

Sure, Twitter and I had some fun, like live tweeting during the first airing of Sharknado back in 2013; reading tweets of people discovering there was a movie about a tornado … full of sharks … ah yes, that was hilarious.

While there are some funny Twitter feeds (@FloridaMan@KimKierkegaard@TheTweetOfGod) there are a ton of unfunny ones that play to either side of the political spectrum … and the fringe groups contained therein.

Twitter seems to have morphed from a fun and playful place to a charged and alienating place. Scrolling through Twitter these days is about as much fun as having a root canal … without Novocaine … and the promise of Vicodin.

To be honest, I just don’t think Twitter is the best place to espouse a political ideology, discuss international political agenda’s or terminate high-ranking public servants (but since it is social media you can bloviate, bully and lie). I’m also not convinced it’s the most reliable news source for journalists to corroborate stories. I understand the need for immediacy in today’s media saturated, rapid fire, 24 hour news cycle but maybe everyone needs to take a second before tweeting.  

I do struggle with the first amendment as it relates to Twitter (and on other platforms). No matter how despicable or completely insane I may think a group or persons ideology is (that’s right, I’m looking at you Alex Jones), I do think they have a right to say what they want to say (provided it is not threatening). These people and groups (aka, the lunatic fringe) have ALWAYS existed but the internet, and Twitter especially, has provided them with a bigger megaphone. 

That’s not a good thing.

The best thing about the internet is also the worst thing, it gives everyone a voice and it gives everyone an audience. That’s quite a quandary … but not necessarily one I think worth sacrificing.

I’m not  convinced it’s Twitters (or others) responsibility to silence the lunatic fringe. However, I do think it would be in our best interest to ignore the lunatic fringe … ya know, the way we used to.

A version of this was published at TheLatest.com, August 16, 2018