Dangerous Twitter

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I love twitting. But it is deceptive. So easy to use but so potentially dangerous.

Twitter has developed into a very interesting social media phenomenon. It is incredibly accessible (anyone with an internet connection and a device/computer can access it and use it in minutes) but also very powerful. You can send a tweet to someone ‘famous’ and chances are that he/she may see it (much more than in previous times where a letter would be probably vetted by some media manager). The flip-side is that anyone can say anything it comes up in their head which is then broadcast in seconds to potentially millions. The ‘retweeting’ feature means that even if you have a low number of followers, some outrageous/offensive tweet can be re-tweeted exponentially and be seen by lots and lots of people who then will comment etc. A frightening case of amplification.

Twitter is also very dangerous of communicating dissent or disagreements. Times I have seen fairly innocuous comments flare up into raging and hurting exchanges. It is difficult enough to show the nuisances of arguing a point without any clues offered by facial expressions or tone of voice, with the limit of a 140 character limit. It sort of goes like this ” I think that X are a bit sensitive to be offended by statement Y” Then someone will respond “What you mean? You heartless person. I have same problem as X” Then I am not heartless, they are exaggerating” “You wouldnt say that if you knew. You arsehole” “Who you are calling arsehole? You dickehead” etc. etc.

There was a case of what I thought was a fairly innocuous response to one of my comments and was picked up by another of my followers and then another that didn’t agree with her and it quickly blew into a full raging argument. it felt like when your relatives argued over Christmas dinner. I felt I had to intervene (and risk the unfollow of some of my followers, that I all liked) but ultimately I felt that perhaps things were said that they wouldn’t have been said if this exchange occurred face to face over a beer.

That is why I approach Twitter with a 10 foot pole, which admittedly makes my tweeting a bit bland but personally I would find it a bit depressing to spend my time arguing with others all the time. I heard (maybe it’s an apocryphal story) that in India some Hindus don’t read newspapers until the afternoon, because they are full of stories about bad events, or criticisms etc. and it is not good spiritually to start the day with that negativity.

I feel a bit like that on Twitter. The internet has always been the refuge of the angry and the disempowered. This is the same on both sides of the political spectrum. Of course there are plenty of ‘burn the witch’ Alan Jones-loving right wing beasts around, but I don’t follow them. I do follow many on my side, but even then I do feel irritated by some and their attitude and their seemingly completely tunnel vision. One example is the tweets about the ABC, especially ABC24 TV channel. I do agree that the 24 ABC channel sometimes seems like more of a publicly funded FOX News than a balanced news channel (how many times do we need to hear the biased opinions of ex Howard minister Peter Reith?) however the persistence some have about tweeting about its bias seems a bit obsessive. While they are right that there is a bias, what’s the point of continuing watching the channel, be outraged and tweeting about it all the time?

Same is with social media ABC reporter Latika Bourke. Now, I also have misgivings about some of Ms. Bourke’s interpretation of the events in Canberra. I do think she seems to concentrate on the shortcomings of the government rather than the opposition, and her reporting can appear somewhat shallow (which could be the medium she’s using) but the invectives from some twitters I think has been excessive. As the social media journalist, and on twitter all the time she appears to attract all the opprobrium of all twitters angry about the press gallery in general.

Clementine Ford in an article in Fairfax Sunday paper magazine (sorry, cant find a link) makes a very pertinent comment about the ‘exclusive cliques’ in the internet, and twitter in particular ….who enjoys the kudos of followers but will only pay attention to those he or she considers equals.

Some exclusivity also exists amongst those who are ‘famous’. I don’t talk about the ‘One Direction’ type of famous, but maybe some comedians, journalists etc. that ignore those outside their milieu but respond only to colleagues. This may not be necessarily to slight, but just a way to limit their tweet time to exchanges that they may consider more meaningful. I know this so if I see a comedian live on TV and I thought he was great I won’t do a complementary tweet, because (a) it would be lost amongst the thousands of other complementary (or even fawning) tweets about it and (b) because he will respond only to another comedian tweet. So we can be spectators in the interchanges between journalists, actors etc. talking about books, or a film they liked. A bit like a stranger overhearing them in the next table in a café. Any attempt to join the conversation will be treated in the same way. With the twitter equivalent of a stare, silence and being ignored.

Personally I don’t mind following some ‘famous’ person and not being followed by them, in fact quite the opposite. I noticed that at one stage that Annabel Crabb was following me and I felt really embarrassed. What she would think of my ‘Dad Jokes Tweets’ and exchanges about Melbourne Victory? I felt a bit self-conscious. Every time I tweeted something I thought “what Annabel Crabb would make of this?” Fortunately I think Ms. Crabb unfollowed me so now I can stupidly tweet freely.

I still love Twitter. I’ve stopped talking about it amongst acquaintances and friends, as someone will inevitably proclaims that “I’m to busy to be on twitter” (which inversely means that unlike them, you live a useless and unproductive life to ‘waste’ on such activities) and frankly I am tired to justify myself all the time. I’d rather be tweeting.

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One response to “Dangerous Twitter

  1. Pingback: The day I lost my Twitter innocence – I got blocked | The accidental Australian

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