Twitter is Internet road rage.

by: The Dust Council

Last Updated: 2019-Aug-08

Social Media Syndrome

I've created, deleted, and re-created Twitter blogs about a dozen times and for some reason I never learn my lesson. Twitter is something I want to like. But there is something about it which turns nearly everyone who uses it into a complete bastard. There is nothing more hazardous than following someone I like or find interesting.

Twitter is analagous to mostly strangers holding up bumper stickers at each other in one hand, with a middle finger extended on the other. Nuance is scarce. Words are rarely chosen carefully in the interest of advancing discourse: what seems to be far more fashionable is blunt sloganeering, snark, and hatred, constructed to please one's own audience. I honestly wonder if given the millions of Tweets, anyone has ever changed their mind because of something they've seen on Twitter.

Twitter is like road rage on a massive scale. And while the Internet has always had cruel, rude, destructive people, Twitter seems to turn even the best meaning people into unpleasant, cantankerous boors.

The more followers one has, the greater this tendency. Twitter users like to applaud and retweet people who are better at abuse than they are, and it interesting to watch how many nice folks have turned to performative hatred and snark because they attract followers. It is interesting to see how many people applaud and amplify abuse, as if there is some endgame in which generalized nastiness wins.

The format of Twitter's character limit makes any substantive debate or argument difficult, if not impossible. It is exactly the opposite format we need to untangle the increasingly complex problems which plague our civilization.

On Twitter, this premise (that any problem is complex) is by itself laughable, because Twitter users appear to be convinced people that the world works in a very simple way, that humans and their motivations are simple, and the solutions are simple, if only whomever they're blaming for the fiasco of the modern world would simply burst into flame following a mob-encouraged fusillade of abuse.

I try to avoid people like this, but to no avail. Politics — in particular — intrude on the feed of nearly every person I follow on Twitter, and this results in the exchange of insults and hostility which changes no one's mind but guarantees things will continue to spiral out of control.

I would have thought that the most obvious thing you learn as a child is that most people embrace hatred out of a sense of righteousness, misguided or not. When did we give up on that imparted wisdom and embrace and feed hatred under the banner of "my cause is just?"

It is also telling that most of the same people who complain about the polarization of society, online hostility, harrassment, mobs, and the grotesque dehumanization you see online, tend to hypocritically engage in the same, often within seconds or minutes of making this point.

Abusiveness, insults, and hatred does not change minds. It simply does not work. Almost universally, people will deliver flamboyant soliloquys about how they stand on principle and how the derision and disdain from critics would never move them to surrender their principles.

And I cannot figure out whether people are really so foolish to believe the same is not true of their antagonists and detractors, or whether they've given up and employ abuse, insult, sarcasm, cruelty, and dehumanization purely as performance art for their followers, without any hope of advancing an idea, persuading another, or improving the world.

This is true of much of the Internet, but it seems particularly concentrated on Twitter. I will never get used to the incivility of our age.

To all of the decent, kind-hearted folks of the world: may you never become popular on the Internet. I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by ego, sanctimoniousness, and hate.

Social Media Syndrome

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