Here is C. Thi Nguyen at The Raven:
Twitter tempts us with a delicious possibility: that we might find connection with total strangers. On Twitter, we can discover people who share our moral vision—or, at least, our weird tastes in memes. Sometimes it works, and Twitter gives us warm and intimate communities. But Twitter also hands us the perfect weapon to exploit that intimacy: the retweet.
Most of us on Twitter spend our time in some small backwater. We chat with a regular gang, in a space of shared context. We use insider language; we throw around ironies without explanation. Sometimes, Twitter can just seem like a long series of inside jokes.
But Twitter also builds in the tools to rip those inside jokes out of their context, to catapult them far outside their home communities, into distant and unsympathetic eyes. Dunking and shaming often follow. The frequency of context-destruction is no accident. Twitter rewards high-context speech, and then gives us the perfect tool to decontextualize that speech. Twitter is designed to invite our vulnerability, and then punish it.
Read the rest here.
A few quick thoughts:
- I don’t think Twitter is the best place to find “intimacy,” but I get what Nguyen is saying here.
- I no longer comment on Twitter as much as I used to. I still share stuff from Current every day (although a lot of that is done through scheduling programs) and I will occasionally stick my toe in the water when I can’t help myself, but I’ve been through enough battles on the platform to conclude that it is no longer worth using it as a major form of engagement. I used to spend a lot of time arguing, debating, posturing and self-promoting on the platform. When I look back on what I did on Twitter in those days I don’t always like what I see.
- Having said all that, I am on Twitter A LOT. But now I do more observing, curating, collecting and embedding for my ongoing efforts at gathering material for the twice-weekly Evangelical Roundup.
- Twitter does not reward nuanced thinking. Most of the people with massive Twitter followings are pretty predictable. This is what gives them such large followings. Those whose ideas do not fall easily into a political or ideological camp do not usually grow their followers quickly because they are constantly gaining people and losing people. People “unfollow” those with whom they disagree, as if the point of Twitter is to somehow keep their feeds ideologically pure. Many professors fall into this category. (I can’t imagine what must go on in their classrooms). So do those on the Christian Right. The bottom line: Twitter rewards people who sing one note and sing it over and over again. For example, during the Trump years I gained followers rapidly, and then I lost them whenever I said something about abortion, cancel culture, or anything that did not conform to a certain kind of orthodoxy.
- In the end, Twitter is not a place to forge online community. It may be a place to become famous, but whatever intimacy develops on the platform is shallow at best. Having said that, I think there is still hope for some kind of community on the Internet. Stay tuned, in the new year we are going to try to experiment a bit with such a community at Current.
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