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November 3, 2015


But I’m still talking in terms of feel: a biased, decidedly non-precise way of discussing something which emerges from more than 300 million minds. And that’s why I like one theory of what’s changed about Twitter from the Canadian academic Bonnie Stewart. I think it makes clear why Twitter the Company is finding such difficulty attracting new users, especially in the United States. And I think it even helps answer the Instagram question, namely: Why is Instagram (or Vine, or Pinterest) so much more fun than Twitter?

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“The rot we’re seeing in Twitter is the rot of participatory media devolved into competitive spheres where the collective ‘we’ treats conversational contributions as fixed print-like identity claims,” she writes.

In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”

For the left, this is an old habit; as Pat Moynihan said nearly 20 years ago, “[Hannah] Arendt had it right. She said one of the great advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.”

This would later be freeze-dried by Saul Alinsky into Rule #4 of Rules for Radicals, “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

As for the right, well, we just want to make sure that both sides live up to that, in order to reduce the ever-growing danger of Alinsky inequality amongst the left.

But ultimately, the decline of Twitter can be boiled down to just four words: “Has Justine Landed Yet?”