10/3/16

Twitter, social media, and the most basic of human emotions

On Twitter, Hate Speech Bounded Only by a Character Limit

Jim Rutenberg takes a look at the mind-boggling lack of civility and decency on social media. In this case, he focuses on Twitter, though any social media will do. In fact, it goes beyond social media to simply commenting on articles on any 'news' site. One of the worst of these is the Todd Starnes section of FauxNews ... but for the moment, that one is another story.

Rutenberg opens with what is the readily apparent:

If you go by what some Twitter users have to say, it’s a wonder I can string together a sentence. I don’t know how I ever manage to get myself to the office given what a “dumb ass” I am — a Jew, no less, and someone who soils his pants out of fear of a Trump presidency. And if you don’t believe that last bit, someone using a pseudonymous Twitter account was kind enough to provide a graphic photograph of the supposed soiling, but not his or her actual name, because it’s just so much easier to hurl bile while cowering behind anonymity.

Yep.

But Twitter is floundering a bit.

Twitter is seeking a buyer at a time of slowing subscriber growth (it hovers above the 300 million mark) and “decreasing user engagement,” as Jason Helfstein, the head of internet research at Oppenheimer & Company, put it when he downgraded the stock in a report last week.

There’s a host of possible reasons for this, including new competition, failure to adapt to fast-changing media habits and an “open mike” quality that some potential users may find intimidating.

But you have to wonder whether the cap on Twitter’s growth is tied more to that most basic — and base — of human emotions: hatred.

It courses through Twitter at an alarming rate, turbocharged by this year’s political campaigns and the rise of anti-immigration movements that dabble in racist, sexist and anti-Semitic tropes across the globe. And this is to say nothing of its use by terrorist recruiters.

Perhaps it is possible that the level of hatred - which reaches the level of threats - has begun to wear out not only the recipients, but the ones who propagate it as well.

I doubt that last; that would require too much self-awareness; and much less self-absorption.

Sadly, we also see this in many of our elected officials, at all levels of government - look at Trump's twitters, for example - but especially at the local level. Incoherence and irrelevance of thought processes are so prevalent, we could call it 'tabloid mentalities.' Or, just like a couple of ghetto chicks going at it on the Jerry Springer show.

Is this the new American Way? Or has it been there all along, and social media just brings it out in more visible format, than the more traditional Copper Kitchen/Barista/local church/local service group gossip fests.