An amateur psychiatrist’s perspective on what might be wrong with Twitter:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Twitter provides an equal voice and a platform for cowards.
  6. Twitter trains people in the art of concision. Sometimes this is brutal concision.
  7. Twitter might be shaping our real lives. University students unions have considered ‘blocking’ various speakers from debating at them. This is unfortunate.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.





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