T is for Twitter and Too fast and Thoughtlessness and Trouble

Will it improve on the silence?

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo  in WarsawI joined Twitter in July 2007, I’m told. I tried it out for a few weeks, but didn’t “get” it and frankly forgot about it for at least a couple years.

Now I post my various blogs to it automatically through Networked Blogs. I only have about 7,100 tweets. I follow about 1,850 people, and am followed by almost 1,300, but I am genuinely unconcerned about the numbers.

Whereas Twitter, for some people, seems to be the lifeblood for their connectedness to the world. Unfortunately, because it’s so easy, because the message are necessarily so short – like people’s attention spans – folks have made bad choices on the platform:

*In accusing someone of inappropriate financing, a woman shows how she flunked basic arithmetic.
*Bloomsburg University’s Joey Casselberry, a junior first baseman, was thrown off the team after making a racist and sexist tweet about 13-year-old Little Leaguer Mo’ne Davis. To her credit, she asked that he be reinstated to his team.
*SamuraiFrog pointed to a heartbreaking Canadian PSA “where homeless people read mean tweets about the homeless. Those are some heartless tweets written by people who don’t see other people as human beings.” And how much thought was given in the composition of their venom?
*A tweet about AIDS and race gets a woman fired from her job.

In these, and many more examples, the problem is that it was too easy to attempt to be clever and snarky. The key to going viral, I’m told, is to say something everyone is thinking, and say it in a way no one thought of. The above examples were widely seen, but not in the way they would have wished.

The blog post Do We Know We Aren’t Really Thinking? speaks to this:

I am guilty of rushing to form an opinion without thinking through the various sides of the issue, without digging into the details, without remembering that an opinion is just that… This happens both in our personal interactions in our narrow domains as well as in the wider context when we are engaging with larger issues related to… the world.

Perhaps this tendency to form an opinion without thinking is exaggerated today thanks to the 24×7 information-overload we all experience through mass media and social media. But perhaps there is a bigger reason for why we don’t really think properly, why we believe we are thinking when we really are only experiencing thought-sensations.

It seems to me that most of us aren’t even aware that we are not really thinking when we believe we are. It is perhaps because we don’t know how our mind works. We don’t know what it takes to truly think without allowing any interference from other parts of ourselves. For the most part we don’t even know what those other parts are, parts which have a tendency to interfere and influence our thinking process.

There’s a trend in cooking called the slow food movement, designed “to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and peoples dwindling interest in the food they eat.” One appreciates the flavors more when one takes time to savor the food. That tomato sauce you put on the stove for hours tastes better than the stuff you heat up on the stove for seven minutes.

I suppose it would be too much to ask for a slow social media writing movement, about actually spending a moment or three assessing the IMPACT of one’s comment before clicking. Actually, there IS such a mechanism; ask yourself, Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

This is not a new notion. It has been attributed to Sri Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual leader (b.1926): “Before you speak, think -Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?” In the digital age, digital silence – or at least a respite – is often in order.

ABC Wednesday – Round 16

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

17 thoughts on “T is for Twitter and Too fast and Thoughtlessness and Trouble”

  1. People have always said things without thinking, so the only difference is that now they say unthoughtful things electronically, and that can have consequences, as you point out. But the other side of that is that social media has encouraged the speeding up of offence, too: Where once people might have thought about something someone said and then decided if they were offended or not, now they lash out to declare that they’re offended, and then it’s too late for either side to take it back.

    MOST of social media is innocent, often banal, and certainly not in any way offensive or controversial. One good rule is, pause and ask “What would my grandmother think if she saw this?” But, then, that’s precisely the sort of slowing down you mention. No wonder so many people post photos of their meals…

  2. I recently gave up on Twitter. I may eventually give up on all social media, but Facebook, despite its aggravations, has become a pretty essential tool for staying in touch with the people in your life both near and far. I don’t know that I (or they) would be willing or able to put in the work needed in phone calls, emails or snail mail correspondence to maintain those relationships (such as they are).

  3. I needed to hear this, Roger. I spout off, especially if I am offended on the part of someone other than myself. It’s how I was raised, and my mother didn’t teach me the “three little questions.” Life taught me those, LOL, and I learn them and learn them again and… Amy

  4. I am neither a Twitter o Facebook fan. I would have nothing to twit about. I twit already a lot on my blogs !

  5. I am, like you were at first, a Twitter who left the nest soon after hatching, but I didn’t know about distributing a Blog on Twitter, – will have to investigate.

  6. It certainly seems to bring out the worst in people or maybe society is getting nastier, we have had a number of high profile instances of death and rape threats and that is just the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand it can be a positive social medium in all sorts of ways. Maybe everyone should sign your pledge before being allowed on there!

  7. Ah yes Twitter! I use it for blog post notifications and the like, but still do not really GET much out of it, as I do not spend time tweet watching!!

  8. I don’t do twitter, I do facebook, but I like blogger most of all. There is indepth discussion here.

  9. I’ve come to love twitter – mostly for the political stuff. #stopHarper is big in Canada!
    Great informative post as always.

  10. Funny now when I think of it, I also have an account there and only posted once and that was two years ago, never been back and I am pretty sure my password is lost forever as well. However on the other hand I am a facebook user constantly.

  11. Some of my younger friends have asked me to join Twitter, but I have already problems(meaning messes up my equilibrium) with Facebook, so to prevent even more trouble for myself I still do not have a twitter account. My sense is that people do not (not really) take time to get to know people, kindness dwindles too! I am guilty of the same, and have not decided yet what to do about it.

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