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The virtues of Twitter Moral self-improvement is still possible

Don't tell Stephen Fry (MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

Don't tell Stephen Fry (MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)


November 16, 2022   6 mins

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen a cartoon of a stick figure hunching feverishly over a computer. A voice calls: “ARE YOU COMING TO BED?” The response comes: “I CAN’T, THIS IS IMPORTANT… SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET.”

I’ve thought a lot about it in recent weeks, as various prolific tweeters struggled visibly with the strain Elon Musk is putting on their psyches. For those habituated to viewing every gesture in moralised terms, the coming of a Republican-endorsing, vaccine-undermining overlord such as Musk poses an urgent dilemma. How best to respond? Or more accurately: how best to be seen to respond?

Long-term Twitter addict Stephen Fry has left for alternative provider Mastodon, spelling out “GOODBYE” in Scrabble letters before deactivating his account. Further down the Twitter food chain, others are also performatively announcing imminent departures and urging others to do the same. Perhaps inspired by Remembrance Day, elegiac posts are being offered in memory of more innocent times when people were good and Twitter was like a village — full of quirky enthusiasms, restaurant recommendations, and photos of dogs. Of course, possibly like most villages, it was also full of porn, racism, and bullying, but nobody seems to recollect that.

More tenacious types are expressing their objections to Musk through heavy-handed mockery of him, like rebellious schoolboys ribbing their headmaster. Still others are explaining laboriously why they won’t, after all, be leaving Twitter. Of course they despise Musk — that goes without saying — but equally, their Twitter “communities” need them. And in any case, they can’t quite grasp how Mastodon works, and they’re damned if they are going to give up their 4,796 hard-won followers and start all over again.

In the Financial Times, meanwhile, Janan Ganesh explained “the real reason to get off Twitter”: namely, it’s too full of low-status losers being ironic and twee. Over time, he argued, exposure to this contagious atmosphere tends to affect the characters even of powerful people, sapping them of aspiration and making them look diminished in the eyes of onlookers. Ganesh himself escaped ages ago, and advises others to do the same.

It seems to me that Ganesh’s former Twitter experience probably says more about the self-ironising middle-class intellectual bubbles he was in at the time than any universal experience on the platform. But this is hardly the point. He is certainly right that whatever sort of atmosphere the Twitter algorithms are currently providing for you, it’s bound to be contagious — that is nearly the whole point of social media. But equally, this and a few other core facts about the platform’s structure present a unique prospect to the average user that is, in my view, under-explored.

For all its undoubted flaws — in fact, perhaps because of them — Twitter has long offered its users an unparalleled opportunity to become a stronger, more resilient, more psychologically acute person. I think of the platform as a testing ground for the soul’s development; a crucible in which self-aware types can purge themselves of their baser metals. The advent of Musk won’t change this opportunity, and in fact his coming onboard may well increase it. If genuinely interested in moral self-improvement, those angsting over cosmetic guilt-by-association with Musk should stop worrying about it, and simply plunge further in.

In the old days, to improve yourself you had to get out into the world in order to start your hero’s journey — or, at the very least, read a George Eliot novel. These days you can just log on as HotRiotGrrl52031 and begin a modern knight’s quest all of your own. For a start, Twitter allows you to observe the psychological lures, thickets, and snares that tend to entrap others. Watching others navigate the platform is a bit like watching the protagonist in The Pilgrim’s Progress: will he escape the Slough of Despond, the Hill of Arguing Furiously with Strangers, or the Pit of Humblebragging?

Social media occupies a weird intermediate space between talking out loud and composing an email — casual enough that authors can be stunningly uninhibited, but also much less ephemeral, leaving a record for others to scrutinise and endlessly regurgitate long after you’ve forgotten what the hell you were ever talking about. The ubiquity of the smartphone — particularly during all-day drinking sessions and all-night existential crises — offers a constant temptation to tweet your most urgent-seeming thoughts into the void, without a firm idea about who you are really addressing. Is it your followers? Your boss? Your crush? God? Your Mum?

Meanwhile, the deracinated, truncated text scrolling before your eyeballs, shorn of detailed information about the author or their context, can make you equally confused about who or what it is you are reading. Into this epistemic vacuum can easily rush credulity — as can fantasy and projection. Unconsciously disavowed, your own inner fear, guilt, envy, and shame can get placed by an external source: a celebrity you hate, say, or that annoying dickhead you ended up arguing with for three days about Brexit between trips to Tesco.

Of course, to notice these things properly in others — and God forbid, in yourself — you need to keep your wits about you. The late philosopher of language Paul Grice assumed that, in order to work out what other speakers mean by their words, you should work out “the purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged”. He also apparently thought that by far the most common purpose of speaking or writing was to have “a maximally effective exchange of information”. He thought we should interpret others accordingly, as aspiring truth-tellers, operating in good faith.

Had Grice been on Twitter, he would have surely revised his theory. For many users, informational exchange is only the incidental pretext to more important things like self-aggrandisement, covert attacks on imagined enemies, and consolidation of social power. In terms of psychological richness, then, Twitter-watching offers a panoply of fascinating characters to rival anything Dickens, Austen, or Eliot could come up with. There are aggressors advertising victimhood; grifters advertising blogs about anti-grifting; fragile souls being grandiose; cruel people preaching kindness. There is also an absolute tsunami of empty sentimentality over other people’s pets, partners, and kids — dead, nearly dead, or just plain cute. The Taoist-style challenge for the observer is simply to notice these things as they are, rather than to get caught up emotionally or wilfully in any of them. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. It’s also pointless judging anybody else for what, after all, are just human traits to which we are nearly all subject. And that’s hard too.

Difficult as these challenges are, they pale into insignificance once the watcher becomes an active participant and starts tweeting herself. Pretty much all of Kipling’s If applies here, with a few extra stanzas for luck about switching your phone off at night and muting replies. Here is the real test of your mettle. Here be the real dragons, though once again they are mostly dragons you conjure up yourself.

In my experience, fuelled either by actual engagement from strangers or by the lack of it, the imagined gaze of the public will accompany your every tentative remark, joke, or diatribe. If you imagine a pitilessly critical gaze, then that’s what you will feel and respond to. Ditto if you imagine a warm and admiring one. Either way, this can send you mad if you let it. We’ve all seen the phenomenon of initial moderates becoming more and more extreme in their online performances, depending on what they believe they are loved or hated for by others.

And never mind your imaginary critics — past a certain point of visibility and follower count, the real ones can drive you stark staring bonkers as well. I speak from personal experience, of course. I first joined Twitter in 2015, encouraged by prevailing academic culture to seek what is known grandiosely in the trade as “impact” for my research. My tweets, and the horribly repressed blog posts about fiction I wrote to accompany them, made about as much impact as a raindrop would on the surface of the sun. Back then, any engagement whatsoever would do. At least someone out there knew I was alive.

Since then, it’s been quite the journey to my 96K followers, and I no longer have to worry about lack of engagement. But if you think that along the way I’ve never sneered defensively, mocked maliciously, flounced off touchily, or posted ill-advisedly when drunk or premenstrual, you’d be dead wrong. As Carl Jung might have said, it’s essential not to let your ego get too close to your Twitter analytics — and yet so very hard to do.

Inevitably, your online persona will become a site of projection for others: idealisation or denigration or both, sometimes from the very same tweeter, on different days or even hours. The only way to cope with the potential for interaction with your own weaknesses is to constantly remind yourself that they are not really talking to you — and, for that matter, you are not really talking to them. The intended audience is always somewhere else. None of this is personal.

These, then, are just a few of the condensed life lessons available to you when you log on. Should you succeed in learning them well, you will be a modern-day superhero, able to keep your dignity and sangfroid online when all about are losing theirs. Of course, hardly anyone around you will recognise this fact about you, each being caught up in their own personal dramas. But that’s Twitter, and indeed life, for you.


Kathleen Stock is an UnHerd columnist and a co-director of The Lesbian Project.
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Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Quite superb from Kathleen (again!) A non-twitterer myself, but fully recognise the smorgasbord of humanity she lays before us. I do use other social media sites, specific to my interests, and what she describes plays out on pretty much all of them. In effect, Twitter is probably just the most universal version of the greatest mirror held up to humanity in our history.

Hugh Bryant
HB
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Can’t remember who said it but:

‘To become an empirical thinker you must first cease to be the hero of your own narrative’.

Not an injunction followed by anyone on Twitter so far as I can tell.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Hmm, this probably goes a long way in explaining why I’m struggling with my doctoral research at the moment.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

No one striving for a doctorate should have any audience whatsoever. You have made a series of bad life decisions, but it might not be too late.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Someone once suggested to me that a PhD candidate will have more casual readers (maybe 30?} peruse their 280-character musings on twitter than serious people will have interest in reading that candidate’s dissertation. The very dissertation that projects the candidate’s full sense of self-worth when concluding decades in school.

It is a heavy day when a PhD candidate realizes this truth so far into their academic career and, indeed, their very lives. Cynicism and sarcasm is the inevitable result as the candidate rants on twitter, “I’m smart and have something important to say, dammit, and people need to listen to me!”

Yes, the academic system is broken as it churns out more PhDs than the world has need of. Most dissertations outside of STEM should barely (if at all) qualify that person for a master’s degree if we’re really being honest with ourselves about the quality of the output.

In short, degree and professional certification inflation coupled with coddling contributes to the narcissism found on twitter.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Likewise, an excellent essay.
As another non-twitterer, I am simply astonished by its popularity, but now, at last, I know why!

Richard Pearse
RP
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Very true (I’m also a non-twitterati , but still I fear it’s going into the tank), and Kathleen is surfacing here (unherd) as a reliable lure to read articles with her name on them. Her following description is as straightforward as it is painfully accurate:

“ For many users, informational exchange is only the incidental pretext to more important things like self-aggrandisement, covert attacks on imagined enemies, and consolidation of social power.”

Alas the temptation of this is difficult to resist – hence the possibility of self-knowledge and improvement (speaking for myself here- not casting aspersions at any other commenters).

Bottom line – no one is gunning for you personally ((except as it was in Ms. Stock’s case, and likely those with big followings who were eliminated by the erstwhile folks in charge) – no one will ask to be your buddy or put you in harm’s way.

It can be the Wild West, the State of Nature or analogous things, but being there won’t change your life, although you can use the experience to resist the temptation of self-aggrandizement and and the grandiose self.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Social media is a soap-box for impassioned idiots. Twitter deals in certainties. For that reason alone, it should be avoided.
Thinking does not require too much intelligence. Thinking is a skill, like wood-carving; it can be learned. Humility, patience, honesty, a sense of humour; all those are far more important aids to the craft of thinking than masses of grey matter. No brain, however large, can smuggle thoughts past the wall of a brittle ego.
The basis of thinking is an ability to embrace inner conflict. If you wish seriously to think about anything, you have to dismantle your own comfortable ideas, and argue against yourself. Nobody goes on Twitter, or on to any social media, to rubbish their own ideas.
Twitter does not lend itself to nuance, or to doubt.
That’s the basis of an adversarial legal system; both sides in a case slug it out and try to make dirt of each other’s position. And, obviously, swap the lawyers, and they will easily tomorrow argue against their own position yesterday.
That seeming cynicism and amorality leads to lawyers being culturally derided as unprincipled by the hoi polloi.
The same hoi polloi who would convict you by accusation, on social media, if they could.
However, it also points up how principle itself is an impediment to thinking. And Twitter itself has a surfeit of quivering principles.
If you’re truly thinking, there can be no sacred cows.
If the principle is a good one, it will survive being beaten up. 
But this ability to hold opposing ideas in suspense, and to attack your own position, is beyond many people nowadays. It’s certainly beyond a platform like Twitter. It’s not that people have suddenly became more stupid since e.g. the 1970s, but we do now live in a culture of cookie-cutter secular commandments. It is the age of bug-eyed, derivate, sloganeering certainties. Everyone “believes!”; everyone falls in line with their group; everyone derives their personal identity from their group mantra; everybody has a slogan; nobody thinks any more.
The problem is that everyone thinks they already are thinking.
How to spot non-thinkers:
(i) Slogans – anyone repeating fashionable, or group-think, slogans. The vapid / bitchy bromides you find on Twitter. Not a thought in their heads. As Orwell noted:
“… modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. 
People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning – they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another – but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you – even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent – and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.”
(ii) Conviction – anyone who is certain and who never wavers. Probably should be sectioned.
Interestingly, (iii) fluency itself is the enemy of thinking. In this short interview near the end of his life, Heidegger notes how a “new care” must be “brought to language”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qouZC17_Vsg
He’s right. That carefulness and rigour often is weakened by eloquence. Long pauses, honesty, cul de sacs, untidiness, a sense of incompleteness, and constant self-doubt, are the cornerstones of thinking. I used to enjoy debates in college, but some of it was a form of culturally-sanctioned middle-class aggression which in part depended on punning wordplay. You could pour eloquence, like Derridian sauce, over the gaps in your argument, but you were often spoofing, to win the game. It often had very little to do with true thinking. Boris Johnson did this all the time, and he knows well what he’s up to. Behind the carefully-curated buffoonery, “the Yeti” (his college nickname) is a clever guy, possibly one of the smartest blokes in British politics. Social media generally is like this – it exalts and rewards shallowness and ad hominem attacks. If you really want to have interesting debates, join a debating society or enrol in a philosophy degree.
And as Camus said, nothing is true which forces you to exclude.
One wonders what Heidegger would make of a culture that flees, outraged, from the patience and the doubt of thinking, as if in triumph.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Brian Laidd
BL
Brian Laidd
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

As an epistemologist, it is refreshing to read such an informed comment.

Claire D
CD
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Only just read your post, which is excellent, thank you.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Steve I love this. So true… “Twitter is probably just the most universal version of the greatest mirror held up to humanity in our history”.

I don’t use Twitter, FB or any of them. This sort of thing is as far as I go, and not too much of this. It’s just a waste of life. Do we seriously think we’re going to change anyone’s mind? And do we care if we do or not?

That, as Stock says, leaves self-aggrandisement and virtue signalling, which don’t really matter to me. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me here – as they don’t know me.

DenialARiverIn Islington
DenialARiverIn Islington
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I recognise many of the traits outlined here from my own time posting on ToL. Once I realised that some of my posts were deliberately designed specifically to provoke others whom I considered “opponents” rather than for anything truly constructive or informative, I stopped. After all, I was wasting my time on people that I was interpreting through text and who might be quite different from that perception in real life, with no real possibility of actually changing anyones mind about anything! I have to admit, it took me quite some time to come to that conclusion and I reckon that backsliding at election time is a distinct possibility……

Jeff Butcher
JB
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

I stopped using Twitter when I realised that rather than being a diverse smorgasbord of opinion it was actually really just a shop window for writers like Stock and so called ‘opinion formers’ – basically an extension of the publishing industry. It’s full of people flogging their latest thing in a crowded market place under the guise of ‘community’. You’re just another punter, and there’s a sucker born every day folks! It also a phenomenal waste of time.

John Roseveare
John Roseveare
1 year ago

This summer I sat on a beach reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch. (For the first time: I’m 62 years old). Despite Kathleen Stock’s thought provoking essay, I’m not convinced my time would have been better spent on Twitter. Eliot’s characters are given the opportunity to fully explain themselves in their own terms. As readers, we then find ourselves reflecting on our own emotional responses to the various fictional trials and tribulations afoot. Like sensitive souls being grandiose. My feeling is it would take a very long time onTwitter to achieve the same thing: Twitter seems to get stuck in the crawling weeds of shrill, lazy, mind-already-made-up rhetoric.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  John Roseveare

There is no doubt in my mind that your time was, and anybody else’s would be, better spent reading a book, especially Middlemarch, than going on twitter.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

Unconvinced. Doesn’t come close to persuading me to join twitter. To paraphrase Abe, twitter is large scale idiocy, of the people, for the people and by the people.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It’s a cesspool. There may be worse places, such as 4chan, but the veneer of respectability and influence that Twitter holds make it somewhere I’d rather steer clear of. With 4chan there are no pretensions.

Andrew D
AD
Andrew D
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Agreed. A sewer under new management is still a sewer

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Perhaps Mr Musk would consider ‘culling’ 50% of the UK Civil Service, after he has finished with Twitter?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Yes, all those civil servants get in the way of cabinet autocracy nearly as much as Parliament does. No more checks and balances on half-wit think tank spawn like Truss, that’s the way forward lol

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

An interesting take by the author on the usefulness of Twitter. One of the great blessings of my life is that I’ve never been tempted to use social media (unless the comments section of Unherd counts as social media).
As an aside, am I the only one seeing an advert for “The Owo Residences” on this and other Unherd articles? I’ve seen this ad for the past two days. I’m a paid subscriber and I thought one of the perks of paying for access is you don’t get hit with advertising.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Alongside others, i’ve made attempts to prevent Unherd becoming Twitter-like by commenting as such on posts which take the type of knee-jerking (and other-jerking) approach. Thus far, if we can be regarded as a ‘community’, i think we’ve been successful (alongside the moderation by Unherd, perhaps) in preventing any wormholes from opening into the void.

Long may it continue.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Even on Unherd comments it’s quite easy to fall into a reactionary wormhole sometimes. But, as Stock says, one should realise it’s not personal but a very very strange way of interacting. We used to have local pubs which worked much better at this.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I like your analogy of the Pub. Sadly they are few and far between in England these days, but seem to going strong in the Irish Republic, despite the appalling lockdown they had to endure.

David Ryan
David Ryan
1 year ago

Well, yes we still have a few. But the Covid lockdowns did put a dent in pub culture here (I suppose they put a dent in just about everything really)

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  David Ryan

You suppose correctly.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  David Ryan

As did the fact, which you ignore, that younger generations, long before covid, were drinking less and going off boring pubs anyway. Pubs are never as fun as their biggest fans imagine them to be – they cater for a certain type of blokey extrovert with a drink problem and an unsatisfactory home life. And thats fine, but for heaven’s sake stop holding such places up to be special, they’re not.  

Betsy Arehart
BA
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Probably because in pubs you saw, heard, smelled, and touched (well maybe not touch) those you were conversing with. Real People. What we have now are Minds In Cyberspace.

Alexis Richardson
Alexis Richardson
1 year ago

Twitter is best understood as an online game. You win by scoring more points – followers – than other players. You add followers by making moves in the game – tweets, replies, likes, retweets. The bigger your engagement the more other players you reach. These other players can amplify your play and/or add to your followers.
Like other such games it is a multiplayer world or if you like, a simulation. As such each player account takes on its own persona in the game. Your followers are based on your persona – so to keep scoring high you must maintain the same role play even if it is a fiction. This is what leads to the toxicity of Twitter as a social medium.
I am not sure how Musk’s plan to verify users will affect this. If Twitter stops being a game where fake and real persons interact, it may become a lot less fun. Although maybe also less toxic? Turning it into a content and commerce platform may be a great thing in the long run. But people who then want a game will find it elsewhere.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago

Sorta like in Monopoly the game is to accumulate all the pretend money? In Twitter the game is to accumulate Likes and Followers?

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

These, then, are just a few of the condensed life lessons available to you when you log on. 

And eventually when that particular social medium or website becomes the preserve of unpleasant and spiteful people the lesson becomes even more straightforward – log off.
Some websites (etc.) start off well and display thoughtful comments, then they become captured by a particular world view and move, eventually, to denigrating those who display ‘ wrong think’. Include me out of these mob sites.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yeah I recall my first experiences of discussion forums on the internet (was it as far back as the nineties – I’m not sure) when I ventured into sites about politics and discovered the delights of being ‘flamed’ if you disagreed with the mob. Unherd comments expressing disagreement are quite tame compared to those days.

Bob Bobbington
Bob Bobbington
1 year ago

Really enjoyed that. Thanks, Kathleen.

John Snowball
John Snowball
1 year ago

I have never had a Twitter account. When I first came to know of it several years ago, it looked for all the world like a forum for people who are far too fond of their own opinions.
Stephen Fry has flounced off? Says it all really.

John Snowball
John Snowball
1 year ago

I have never had a Twitter account. When I first came to know of it several years ago, it looked for all the world like a forum for people who are far too fond of their own opinions.
Stephen Fry has flounced off? Says it all really.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
EG
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago

I don’t recognise any of these descriptions of Twitter.
The bit of Twitter I use consists of a group of thoughtful, measured science types who give concise and for me, useful critiques of papers / data. The critiques don’t always agree. This is fun and educational to read. These interactions are generally focused, polite and free of polemic.
Some of these people do have agendas or possibly a better description would be “special interests”. These are obvious to any reader.
For me it is a quick method of getting relatively clean information.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago

Sure – you use it like the early internet. I also bet you and your group of “thoughtful, measured science types” use their real names too. This is the way it should be used. I also bet you don’t have thousands of followers (I suspect you don’t care) or get flamed a lot for expressing your views.. However, I would have thought you would recognise the majority don’t use it that way.
If you don’t recognise any of these descriptions then I think you must lead a very sheltered life.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Three cheers for sheltered lives!!

petal jam
petal jam
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

I also use Twitter like the early internet – message boards, friendly interaction, brilliant source of information, humour, consolation. Preferred the 140-character limit though. Perhaps you find the Twitter you go looking for? Everywhere in life there are people who flame and snark and everywhere in life most people ignore the bits that aren’t obvious cries for help.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
EG
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

I don’t know. What do “the majority” do ? How would I find out what “the majority” do ? Does Twitter publish details of the demographics / interests / activity of its users ? Is this data viewable in the public domain ? Aren’t some / many of these accounts bots ?
No, I don’t post on Twitter unless I am praising someone or something or on one occasion, complaining about crap service.
Like any other social setting, people find and gravitate towards the tribes they feel most comfortable with / have the most interest in. If the chosen tribe proves to be non simpatico you can always choose to leave.
If you choose to post an unsupported opinion on anything in a public domain you must expect to be challenged and sometimes this will be couched in less than polite terms as anonymity encourages people to take liberties.
Does travelling the world with a back pack and significant other by train and bus for 3/4 of each year count as being unsheltered ?

Last edited 1 year ago by Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Stoater D
Stoater D
1 year ago

Posting an unsupported opinion ?
How do you determine if an opinion
HAS support or not ?
So much of received wisdom
is simply false.

Isabel Ward
IW
Isabel Ward
1 year ago

OK, “sheltered” might not be the best word to use – I was not implying you were a nun, merely that you appeared to me sheltered from the ideas being expressed. “Bubble” might be a better word.
“Does Twitter publish details of the demographics / interests / activity” – spot the scientist. No I don’t have this. However, I am acquainted with quite a large number of people of a wide range of political views, age groups etc, the media.and those who use Twitter would recognise these descriptions.
I agree this is subjective. The majority of Twitter users may even use it in a similar way that you do but the “loudest” certainly do not and given the many thousands/millions of “followers” they have I suspect they don’t.
I agree this is subjective. The majority of Twitter users may even use it in a similar way that you do but the “loudest” certainly do not and given the many thousands/millions of “followers” they have I suspect they don’t.

Last edited 1 year ago by Isabel Ward
Phillip Bailey
Phillip Bailey
1 year ago

I realise this add nothing to the discussion, but one of the reasons I subscribe here is the fact that I thought we were all using our real names. But I see pseudonyms creeping in here too… *sigh*

Nikki Hayes
NH
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago

Twitter is undoubtedly a cesspool – but its one I occasionally enjoy diving into for an argument or two. Usually about politics or culture wars- participation requires a thick skin as you WILL be insulted horribly at some stage and possibly threatened. I have a strict policy – name calling results in an immediate block, ignoramuses like that are not worthy of my debating time. Like all socia media, Twitter is what you make it – plenty of people on there never get involved in the scrum of political debate and no doubt avoid the aforementioned insults and threats. I don’t spend a lot of time on there – I allow myself no more than 30 minutes and even that is not every day. I am following what Musk does with interest – and munching popcorn whilst watching lefties throwing their toys out of the pram.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago

Twitter is undoubtedly a cesspool – but its one I occasionally enjoy diving into for an argument or two. Usually about politics or culture wars- participation requires a thick skin as you WILL be insulted horribly at some stage and possibly threatened. I have a strict policy – name calling results in an immediate block, ignoramuses like that are not worthy of my debating time. Like all socia media, Twitter is what you make it – plenty of people on there never get involved in the scrum of political debate and no doubt avoid the aforementioned insults and threats. I don’t spend a lot of time on there – I allow myself no more than 30 minutes and even that is not every day. I am following what Musk does with interest – and munching popcorn whilst watching lefties throwing their toys out of the pram.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

“The world would be a better place without Twitter” – discuss

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Perhaps a question for the All Souls exam?

Guy Aston
Guy Aston
1 year ago

The real danger of Twitter is when people with power believe it represents the views of the people. I firmly believe it is responsible for the impact of so many minority organisations on daily life, taking the establishment in an opposite direction to that of the people. It will end in tears.

Guy Aston
Guy Aston
1 year ago

The real danger of Twitter is when people with power believe it represents the views of the people. I firmly believe it is responsible for the impact of so many minority organisations on daily life, taking the establishment in an opposite direction to that of the people. It will end in tears.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Thank you. If I ever reach 98K followers without going through a fraction of the abuse directed at Sapphist sophist @Docstockk, I’ll think I’ve done good.

Nicholas Taylor
NT
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

I confess that in my brief and infrequent forays into Twitter I have not detected any atmosphere, only vacuum. I have enough to do without scrolling through the random thoughts and blurts of others like those people I see with their phones on the bus, or have to avoid being walked into by in the street. I feel we are drowning in this stuff. Yet it makes me constantly anxious, in case hidden in the garbage is some piece of vital information, as during the Arab Spring that the ‘security’ police are just around the corner with live ammunition. Yet this too is just a twitt into the vacuum, an expression of my own helplessness and fatigue with the constant eruption of instant celebrities and conflicting ‘facts’, and I fear so is Professor Stock’s excellent article. A mirror to humanity one commentor says. Would leaving a number of loaded guns among the toys in a room full of toddlers mirror humanity? I think ‘social media’ mirror something more basic. Now I’m going out to get some air.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

I confess that in my brief and infrequent forays into Twitter I have not detected any atmosphere, only vacuum. I have enough to do without scrolling through the random thoughts and blurts of others like those people I see with their phones on the bus, or have to avoid being walked into by in the street. I feel we are drowning in this stuff. Yet it makes me constantly anxious, in case hidden in the garbage is some piece of vital information, as during the Arab Spring that the ‘security’ police are just around the corner with live ammunition. Yet this too is just a twitt into the vacuum, an expression of my own helplessness and fatigue with the constant eruption of instant celebrities and conflicting ‘facts’, and I fear so is Professor Stock’s excellent article. A mirror to humanity one commentor says. Would leaving a number of loaded guns among the toys in a room full of toddlers mirror humanity? I think ‘social media’ mirror something more basic. Now I’m going out to get some air.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
NS
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

not being on twitter must surely be as exclusive as a hereditary peerage?

Bob Hardy
Bob Hardy
1 year ago

For those who would like to examine digital spaces (‘bubbles’ and ‘spheres’ are excellent metaphors here BTW) in more rigorous detail, they might like to tackle Peter Sloterdijk’s various writings on the subject.. And the subject (medium :-)) of ‘virtual reality’? .. Well the ‘go-to’ there would be Baudrillard of course.. From the perspective of these two cultural critics, what fascinates me is for just how long the predictions of the various …. ‘symptoms’ … of present social media that we are currently suffering from have been so accurately described ..And the fact that Mr Fry (an entertainer that I have a very soft spot for BTW) has left twitter? .. Will this have the same earth-shattering effect on ‘the world as we know it’ as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell’s exit from Spotify’ some time ago (you do all know about this particular global event of course), I wonder?

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Thank you, Sapphist Sophist

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Thank you, Sapphist Sophist

Neil Anthony
NA
Neil Anthony
1 year ago

Anonymity is the recipe to recite the weakness on meanness. On the other hand, the blue check may be the primitive forerunner to human telepathy. Oh well who knows where this rabbit hole will lead humankind… guess we’ll just have to leave it up to Alice and the twits.

Neil Anthony
Neil Anthony
1 year ago

Anonymity is the recipe to recite the weakness on meanness. On the other hand, the blue check may be the primitive forerunner to human telepathy. Oh well who knows where this rabbit hole will lead humankind… guess we’ll just have to leave it up to Alice and the twits.