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December 03, 2018

Glenn Reynolds: I Deleted My Twitter Account Because It Was Making My Life Worse

And exposing me to the worse that other people had to offer, I think he means.

I deactivated my Twitter account about a week ago. I was partly acting on impulse, because the social media site had just, for no obvious reason, "permanently banned" someone I follow, something that seems to be happening more and more. But I was also acting on my growing belief that Twitter is, well, horrible.

All social media have their issues. The "walled garden" character they create is the antithesis of the traditional Internet philosophy of openness. They are actually consciously designed to be addictive to their users — one company that consults on such issues is actually called Dopamine Labs -- and they tend to soak up a huge amount of time in largely profitless strivings for likes and shares. They promote bad feelings and bad behavior: I saw a cartoon listing social media by deadly sins, with Facebook promoting envy, Instagram promoting pride, Twitter promoting wrath, Tinder promoting lust and so on. It seemed about right.

[I]f you set out to design a platform that would poison America’s discourse and its politics, you'd be hard pressed to come up with something more destructive than Twitter. Twitter has the flaws of the old Usenet newsgroups, but on a much bigger scale.

Even the "blogosphere" of the early 21st century, in which independently run blogsites posted items on news, and responded both to Big Media stories and to each other, was more like traditional media in some respects than like Usenet or social media....

A story that spread like wildfire through the blogosphere still did so over the better part of a day, not over minutes, and it was typically pretty easy to find the original item and get context, something the culture of blogging encouraged.


Twitter is more like Usenet than blogs, but in many ways it's worse... The "retweet," "comment" and "like" buttons are immediate. A retweet sends a posting, no matter how angry or misinformed, to all the retweeter’s followers, who can then do the same to their followers, and so on, in a runaway chain reaction.

Unlike blogs, little to no thought is required (the character limit discourages it), and in practice very few people even follow the link (if there is one) to "read the whole thing."

Reynolds notes that "journalists" and "pundits" are among the heaviest users (and therefore abusers) of Twitter, probably enjoying how very little work they have to do to "keep their visibility up."

But laziness teaches further laziness, and people get addicted to the fire-and-forget style of twitter, where you don't have to actually read an article and certainly not the original documents it may have been based on.

Just add your own one-second-of-thought tag to the tweet and launch it out into the world and sit back and wait for your like-minded partisans to cheer you for your Outstanding Twittering.

And of course none of those people will bother to read past the twitter headline either. But at least they'll have an excuse -- Jonah Goldberg tweeted this out!!!

He must have read this before retweeting it, right?

Or... wrong.

Twitter is like a game of Information Dominoes, where the dominoes have already been laid out for you on the gym floor, and all you have to do is tap one on the top to send dozens of lines of dominoes tipping over.

And yet no one along this path of viral transmission of information seems to give any thought to the consideration, "Maybe I ought to ascertain this viral claim is true before coughing it out all over the world's face."

The only way to stop this pandemic of falsehood is to correct and retract, and the only way to find out if you need to correct and retract (assuming you don't do the work yourself, which, let's face it, our lazy "Information Elites" never do), is to actually read the evidence presented by someone who did do the work.

But a lot of these people, like Jonah Goldberg, don't have the time to just read the digest of someone else's work either, and are quite happy to leave a completely-false tweet out there, infecting more people with a lie.

Tim Pool makes a good point about the media's -- and media allies like Jonah Goldberg's -- practice of SCREAMING OUT fake news and then whispering the correction.

He makes a very insightful point: This creates two different realities, one believed by those who saw the Fake News, and who think that's real, and another reality by those who saw the Fake News and also the retraction or debunking, and who thus know the original claim was false.

The media creates divisions and hatreds in our societies -- almost deliberately, though I think a lot of it is just due to partisan pique and a complete unwillingness to admit error -- by not giving their corrections and retractions the same SCREAMING promotion they gave to the Fake News.

Now, when people talk about the NPR story, there'll be people who only read the headline -- the headline Jonah Goldberg retweeted out to his 100,000+ "followers" -- and they will think those saying that news item is false are crazy or lying.

It's not good for society when two camps have contradictory beliefs about the basic facts they build their worldviews on -- and those who do this deliberately, or who are churlish and grudging about correcting LIES they pumped out to the world (albeit unwillingly) are adding to the strife and division they write one column every two weeks decrying.

It would be good if we could all agree on the facts, wouldn't it?

But for that to happen, those who promote fake news have to be a lot more honorable and candid about also promoting the correction.

And it would also be nice if those who swear to be Congnitive Light-Workers would actually prove this by reading articles and original documents from time to time, instead of just hitting the "Retweet" button with the mechanical fury of a misfiring industrial robot.

Oh well, I'm sure Jonah Goldberg has learned his lesson and apologized for the dismissive sneer he gave to someone trying, correctly, to correct the falsehoods he was spreading.

I'm just sure.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 06:41 PM

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