Twitter is an interesting place.
On this site you can post a 280 snippet about absolutely anything. When you think about the site, it shouldn’t work. It’s essentially mundane, yet the beauty lies in its simplicity.
You can say whatever you want in those 280 words. With our decreasing attention span, Twitter is a fantastic place to get quick and easy information. There’s only one problem with this.
A lot of the stuff that is posted there is worthless.
280 characters is not a lot. Unless you want to fire out short and sweet tweets, Twitter is not the place to go to muse on the writing of Socrates or Seneca.
The reality is that Twitter is more suited to the sort of quick and easy political propaganda and ramblings we see on an almost daily basis from Donald Trump.
Whenever I think of Twitter now, an image of Trump furiously typing his latest message after being insulted by some segment on CNN springs to mind.
For Trump, Twitter is an easy win. He can get his message out as quickly as possible to his hoards of supporters who will lap it up, and most importantly, there is nothing holding him back from doing so.
Twitter and other forms of social media have levelled the playing field when it comes to getting your message out to the masses.
Gone is the necessity to be a journalist, start your own publication, or hand out flyers in the street. Now you can simply create a Twitter account with an email address and tweet to the whole world.
The barriers to entry that were previously present to partake in political discourse are a thing of the past. Anybody, no matter how wild their views may be, can air them freely and reach more people than ever before.
This has created a significant problem, one which we are only beginning to realise the implications of. That is, who you listen to and the content you consume is more important than ever.
Twitter and other social media outlets have allowed us to disseminate information without any checks and balances.
Anyone, no matter there qualifications or background, can take to social media and preach to the masses whatever they want. Gone are the days when you had to physically speak to other people to get your message across. Now, all you need to do is open social media accounts and you can say whatever you want to a far bigger audience.
This has led to one of the main problems we face in society today, information overload. There is so much information on the web, it’s ridiculous. Type in a search result in Google and you will be provided with page after page of entries.
No reasonable person is going to sift through every result until they find one that is reputable. That’s not how we work as a species. If we can find something quickly and easily we are going to take it over putting in the hard yards.
The same is true with Twitter. It’s much easier to scroll on the site, find something you agree with, follow that person, and lap up the information without checking whether any of it is actually factual.
This is the reason we have seen fringe movements such as the Flat Earth Society return to the fore in recent years. Twitter offers the people that purport this long debunked theory, a platform free of barriers to entry to express their views.
All they have to do is open an account and start posting. It really is that simple. No one is going to stop them and tell them they can’t post their information because it’s not based on anything factual. In fact, the opposite is more likely to happen.
If someone does challenge their views, they are likely to double-down and confront this person. Not only will they face the wrath of one person, but all of those who follow and subscribe to these views.
If you dare to challenge the beliefs of these people on Twitter you will feel the full force of the lynch mob that comes after you.
Twitter has helped to create an environment where people consider their opinions to be more than opinion, they consider them to be facts.
This is dangerous territory we are treading. We all have different belief systems and views on how we should live. There is good reason for this. The fact that there are so many different views on this indicates that there is no one way things should be done.
This is why we have elections every few years. It’s an indication we are aware that there isn’t one ideology or party that has all the answers. If there was, there would be no disagreements politically, and we would have no need for elections.
Twitter has led to a hardening of people’s views. We are more polarised than ever before on the issues that concern us all. We are assaulted with information from various organisations which is not checked in any form before it appears on the web.
Yes, this issue will have existed before. Many political parties used to print and hand out leaflets int he streets, this still happens of course, but there is a huge difference between the two. You are only going to encounter so many people on the street, whereas online, there is no real limit to the amount of people you can reach.
Twitter has levelled the playing field and now everyone has a voice, whether they should have it or not.
The clearest indication of the problem Twitter poses is Donald Trump. The President of the United States uses the platform to regularly send out tweets on whatever he likes.
While some people may say this is a good thing, as we have a President who is willing to engage directly with the world, it creates issues when he is divisive. If people see the most powerful man in the world acting like a spoilt teenager on Twitter, it’s only normal that some people will be influenced by this and do the same.
Politicians love attention, it’s why Twitter is an ideal place for them. Their followers will lap up anything they say, but when you have someone like Trump, who is not a politician, but an insecure, attention seeking narcissist, the problem escalates.
When he uses insults such as ‘Crooked Hilary’ and refers to the media as the ‘Fake News media,' he is legitimising the thoughts of those who follow him. If Trump can do it, why can’t I?
It becomes less and less about facts and more and more about a tribe mentality. If you’re not with us, you are against us. Trump can say what he wants and the likelihood is that the media will pick up on his tweets, publicise them, and spread his views further. People who may not have seen his tweets before will agree with what he is saying, and the cycle continues.
Throughout all of this, there may have been only some minimal fact-checking to see whether what he is saying is truthful or not. But how many people really care whether what he is saying is factual or not? To hear a man in power confirm deeply held prejudices, or provide an easy scapegoat is enough.
We have two issues that come out of this. Firstly, there is the issue of the media reporting on what is newsworthy and what is not. Is reporting on what Trump is tweeting newsworthy? That is open to interpretation, but on the whole I would say it’s not. The constant fawning over what he is tweeting only encourages him to tweet more, because he knows there will be an audience and discussion about his tweets.
Trump is an attention seeker. He craves coverage and publicity. He is like the giant marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. The more attention and coverage he receives, the bigger and bigger he gets. The media should pay less attention to what he tweets, but of course that’s difficult when he’s the President.
This leads to discussion over the meaning of his tweets, like the infamous covfefe tweet. The coverage over this mistyping of the word coverage was ridiculous. The tweet had no semblance of value or importance, but we have multiple news networks losing it over an inane tweet!
Secondly, debate has come to be frowned upon. Politics has become more entrenched and polarised than ever before. There is less willingness to cooperate on both sides. Backing down would enrage the bases of either side, so we have this war of attrition where neither side will back down and work in the common interest.
If things become more polarised, and we become less willing to compromise our views and work together, what will mean for our future?
The premise of this article is that Twitter could lead to the downfall of humanity. While that may seem to be a wild sentiment and one that could turn out to be wide of the mark, it could also be accurate.
Twitter allows anyone to express what they want in 280 characters. Do we really need to know what our favourite celebrities think of their last meal, or what sports stars get up to during their time off?
The answer is no, but we feel like we do.
Twitter has allowed people to share their feelings more than at any other time in history. Their commitment to free speech, while laudable, is rife with issues. It has allowed bullying and online harassment to thrive.
Yet, it has also resulted in mass movements such as #metoo springing up and tackling issues that had long been neglected. If used correctly, Twitter can be a fantastic tool for bringing humans together and connecting at an international level in a way we have never been able to do before.
But, it can also lend itself to the opposite form of connection, where wild ideas and accusations get thrown around and backed up by people across the globe.
Information has never been so widely available and easy to access, and it has never been so easy to consume. There is evidence to suggest this may be hurting our moral compass. That our brains cannot process the information fast enough to keep up with the never-ending cycle of information we are fed.
There is a high chance that by sheer overload of information, we become numb to suffering. I remember being blown away by the events of 9/11, I’m sure many people can remember what they were doing the moment they heard the news. If a similar event happened today would we have the same reaction?
It’s a hard question to answer. I’m not sure I would. Disaster and bad news stories are so commonplace, I have become used to seeing them. This is not a healthy situation. The moment we become desensitised to events such as these, is the moment humanity starts on a slippery slope.
Wherever we go now we are able to consume news at a rapid-fire rate. Is this healthy? Does this benefit us in the long-run?
With time, we shall find out.