August 20, 2019

SALENA ZITO: The perils of trading social interaction for social media.

I often say that what happens on Twitter isn’t a reflection of American life in the real world.

The facts mostly back that up. Last month, a Pew survey showed only 22% of U.S. adults say they use Twitter. Twitter users skew younger, identified more as Democrats, are more educated, and have more money than the other 78% who don’t use it.

Experiences back that up as well. Halfway through a 16-state backroads trip across the country, I’ve had many people — both conservative and liberal — tell me that if they use Twitter, they don’t use the social media platform in the way we assume they do.

They mostly observe. And what they see often makes them not want to jump into the discussion.

They also worry about how Twitter is used as a blunt force weapon to punish those with unpopular views, diminishing a healthy discourse to debate differences. They are not wrong.

The Twitter experience gives people pause about expressing their views on anything, because anything these days, even a cat video, is just one keystroke from becoming a political hot potato.

This is not a small problem. We should be able to have a normal political debate.

You could write a book on this.

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