Brief note on Twitter

I hate Twitter sometimes. Just got involved in quite a long political discussion, and realised reading back that I contradicted myself several times — not because I had contradictory opinions, but because the format of Twitter requires one to lose all nuance and speak in broad absolutes.

I have noticed that I very, very rarely actually say anything of worth on Twitter, and am questioning more and more why I have an account at all. I think it’s actively harmful to political debate, and it certainly makes me say stupid things. I think it encourages polarisation and black-and-white thinking.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who I’m only in touch with through Twitter, who I would miss enormously were I to quit it. But I don’t have the self-restraint not to get into political discussions…

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6 Responses to Brief note on Twitter

  1. I try to avoid political arguments on Twitter anyway. I do find it enormously helpful and worthwhile in other ways: It’s my biggest resource to plug my blogs and books, for example, and I find it very useful as a makeshift blog reader/IM client. it’s exposed me to people and perspectives I never would have been able to find on my own. It’s also, like you said, the only way I regularly keep in touch with many of my friends. I guess one solution would be to get a bunch of us together on some shared IRC or similar chat service, but nobody seems to be able to agree on a shared platform so more often than not I find myself reliant on Twitter anyway.

    Basically until something better comes along, Twitter seems to be the best way to keep in touch with everyone all the time, and it has its uses besides. And we’d all miss you terribly too :-)

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yeah, you’re one of those I’d miss. It’s frustrating, though, that it’s a format that seems designed to breed aggression and depression…

  2. Susan says:

    Ah, I hope you don’t leave Twitter entirely — it has almost replaced RSS feeds for me so if nothing else I would like you to continue posting links to your posts so I don’t miss anything. And I also like to “see” you chatting, and there’s probably a psychological study of perceived intimacy that explains that but anyway….

    I do understand the feeling that “anything I say will prolong an argument that will just frustrate myself and everyone else,” and I know that’s draining and you are right to want to limit it. Is it worth composing a generic reply you can use for political discussions that fits the character limit? Something like, “Debate about this issue doesn’t fit this format, and I need to conserve my energy. If you’d like we can take it to email.” Or something similar? You an also drop the last sentence entirely depending on the person, because honestly, you are not obliged to reply at all. Especially if that kind of debate is draining your energy. Your priorities should be yourself and the work; arguments on Twitter come in third by a very large margin.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I would definitely at the very least keep the auto-tweeting of my posts up, but again, you’re one of the people who I’d miss were I to stop tweeting.

      And the problem is, the kind of people with whom it’s most difficult arguing are precisely the same people who won’t take a reply like that as an answer.

  3. andrewducker says:

    I don’t engage with pretty much anything that takes more than one tweet to say. The format is distracting, and I just find the whole process too frustrating.

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