Culture

Is Twitter Losing Its Influence?

Across the pond, my friend Damian Thompson asks in the Daily Mail whether the world’s obsession with Twitter is waning:

The once invincible Twitter doesn’t want to face up to the truth. It’s not just teens and hipsters who are fed up with tweeting. So are middle-class, middle-aged folk who, five years ago, were constantly checking their Twitter feeds during dinner parties.

Why? The novelty has worn off, as you’d expect. Also, Twitter is becoming seriously annoying. For lots of reasons.

Although Twitter is no longer cool, it’s infested with people who think they are.

You know of whom he speaks: the snarky children, the self-proclaimed experts, the slander-mongers, the faceless hacks, flaks, and partisans. In other words, Twitter.

Even more galling, Damian writes, is that Twitter is a perpetual outrage machine that can and has had devastating effects on people’s personal lives:

First, there’s that unpleasant plague of anonymous and cowardly people who use Twitter to malevolently troll their enemies.

Such abuse can be deeply distressing — carried out in a way that the troll wouldn’t do in their everyday ‘real’ lives. Indeed, in some, rare cases, it can lead to self-harm or suicide — particularly if children are targeted.

The tendency toward cruelty and abuse, what I like to call “Internet-induced psychopathy,” is a function of several things. One is that the increasingly totalitarian nature of “social” media forces people to become witch-hunters. Since the masses have proved that they can use “social” media to destroy lives, people are always on the offensive to throw the mob’s attention away from themselves and onto other people. Hence the ceaseless accusations of “racism,” “sexism,” etc.: people are constantly trying to “prove” themselves worthy of acceptance into Polite Society so that they won’t be cast off into the hinterlands.
Twitter turns people’s lives into a constant game of electronic asymmetric warfare. Uttering an unapproved opinion on Twitter can lead to mob-induced unemployment, among other things. Is it worth it? Not to me. It’s fun to chat a bit and debate and to advertise your own writing and such, but I hope we will eventually move away from this tool of real-time social destruction.