An amateur psychiatrist’s perspective on what might be wrong with Twitter:
- Twitter incentivises behaviours. Twitter encourages care, wit, cleverness, etc – and it encourages vitriol. Twitter is Pavlovian. It rewards with likes, favourites, retweets and follows. It doesn’t discriminate between good behavior and bad behavior.
- Twitter does not operate universally by normal civil rules any more. Lord of the Flies is about Twitter. It started well, with people bringing real-world manners to conversation on what felt like the village green, but then it started to become a Hyde Park Corner with a zillion soapboxes. The hawkers moved in. Then it became a periodic bar room brawl. Civility gave way to incivility, which isn’t the normal trajectory for a community.
- Twitter users can hide behind the cloak of invisibility. They can be as rude as they like. Twitter gave rise to trolls – people whose sole purpose seems to be to provoke. They take the mood down a bit.
- Twitter also feels like a pub at first, but unlike a pub, some of the people you put quite a bit of effort into talking to might just decide to completely ignore you. Even if you’re calm, pleasant, etc, this can be hurtful. It skews your sense of things.
- Twitter provides an equal voice and a platform for cowards.
- Twitter trains people in the art of concision. Sometimes this is brutal concision.
- Twitter might be shaping our real lives. University students unions have considered ‘blocking’ various speakers from debating at them. This is unfortunate.
- People we admire – or see as heroes – have been disintermediated. “How is it possible that this person who I have held in such high esteem for years is ignoring me?” is a common complaint. This isn’t a value judgement. It is just a thing.
- A lot of Twitter users, after a while, become more interested in what others are saying about them than they are about what others are saying. That’s not a great basis for a community.
I miss the old days.