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Twitter doesn’t just seem out of control

It actually is.

Jack Dorsey

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week was stressful enough for him that he published his heart rate.  And that revealed, in the view of many, something worth knowing about Twitter:

What was clarified by the hearing was that 12 years ago Jack Dorsey helped to create a monster that he cannot now control. As Twitter hits its virtual puberty, its digital hormones are raging and its creators are losing the ability to tell it what to do. In fact, in regard to automated bots, even though the company identifies and challenges 8-10 million bots a week, in many if not most cases, it cannot identify what accounts are or aren’t bots, or even where they are located.
David Marcus, “In Twitter, Jack Dorsey Created A Monster He Can’t Control” at The Federalist

Related imageHere are a few other things to know about Twitter that might help put the terrible tweets in perspective:

Thirty-six percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 years old use Twitter, more than any other age group. Usage drops as age increases, with 22 percent of those aged 30 to 49 using the service, 18 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, and just 6 percent of those aged 65 and up. Christina Newberry, “28 Twitter Statistics All Marketers Need to Know in 2018” at Hootsuite  

For some reason, Twitter itself believes that 80 percent of its users are “affluent millennials”; presumably, they are the ones not crushed by college debt. In any event, the Twitter mobs that make headlines and end careers reflect a younger, less experienced demographic than the usual holders of executive power today.

  •  Canadian pop idol Justin Bieber has more followers (104,377,376) than either Barack Obama (102,091,747) or Donald Trump (54,380,571). So don’t count on Twitter starting a revolution; it would more likely start a stampede for tickets. (Stats as of September 12, 2018, 10:25 am EST)
  •  There is some justice in the world: Twitter eats its own. One former mob capo explains,

When my callouts were met with approval and admiration, I was lavished with praise: “Thank you so much for speaking out!” “You’re so brave!” “We need more men like you!”

Then one day, suddenly, I was accused of some of the very transgressions I’d called out in others. I was guilty, of course: There’s no such thing as due process in this world. And once judgment has been rendered against you, the mob starts combing through your past, looking for similar transgressions that might have been missed at the time. I was now told that I’d been creating a toxic environment for years at my workplace; that I’d been making the space around me unsafe through microaggressions and macroaggressions alike.

Social justice is a surveillance culture, a snitch culture. The constant vigilance on the part of my colleagues and friends did me in. That’s why I’m delivering sushi and pizza. Not that I’m complaining. It’s honest work, and it’s led me to rediscover how to interact with people in the real world. I am a kinder and more respectful person now that I’m not regularly on social media attacking people for not being “kind” and “respectful.” Barrett Wilson, “I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me” at Quillette

Reflecting on Wilson’s hard-won life experience, psychologist Stella Morabito offers

What should we make of Wilson’s amazing acknowledgement that people generally signal their compliance with the mob to avoid being targeted by it? Indeed, this is a very human defense mechanism, but it’s only temporary. Mob compliance is a vicious and deadly cycle. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop complying with the mob’s demands. Such refusal is an actual act of bravery.

What to make of Wilson saying he’d “get a rush” every time he smeared someone publicly? Again, a human behavior. Mob participants are spellbound by the addiction of fake adulation, being called “brave” when they collectively gang up on an individual. Doing so reflects emotional neediness and arrested development. This emotional immaturity is fed by a culture with an education system that does not value independent thought.

The value of independent thought has never been less than it is on university campuses today, as The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (September 2018) by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff attests. That may play some role in the sense of righteousness that being a snitch and a bully now engenders. As Morabito notes,

Wilson also describes the social justice industry, which thrives on political correctness, as “a surveillance culture, a snitch culture.” This description is very apt, especially if you recall last summer’s Twitter crusade by celebrity Lena Dunham. She encouraged people to eavesdrop on others’ private conversations to report something politically incorrect to authorities.

Dunham publicly celebrated getting two American Airlines employees investigated after she reported overhearing their conversation in an airport terminal. The employees allegedly engaged in what she called “transphobic” talk. Dunham was modelling the snitch culture so her followers could do same to anyone and everyone.
Stella Morabito, “What To Learn From The Social Justice Warrior Who Was Eaten By His Own Mob” at The Federalist

Dunham’s complaint turned out to be unfounded but familiarity with the Twitter mob made it seem more normal than it would otherwise. Social media may be changing the world more than we think. And we may need some social leadership in fighting back against Twitter mobs. It probably won’t emerge from within because bullies are usually cowards.

See also: Smartphone 10 Conversation 0 We need to be more honest about the addictive nature of the device, for some. A guy on a date is not checking his phone three times in ten minutes because the world outside the restaurant is changing that fast. He is in the grip of an addiction.


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Twitter doesn’t just seem out of control