Of course the first thing I’d do after writing a post where I make the claim that I don’t use Twitter is to start using Twitter.
I’m a contrarian.
Even to myself, apparently. Speaking of myself, feel free to find my Twitter @Chris_Van_Trump, because my penchant for handling all my “serious” online business under my actual name continues unabated.
It’s an interesting platform though, I have to admit. Having conversations on Twitter hearkens back to what I imagine it must have been like in the age of telegraphs; brevity is key.
It’s also not one of my strong suits.
Thing is, I’ve been observing Twitter for quite some time. It’s a good place to get the general pulse of exactly how people are deluding themselves lately. I don’t have any real followers to speak of, of course, so most of the things I tweet are effectively just cast into the digital aether, but I do tag posts occasionally and I have at least some evidence that people read them. I’ve had a couple conversations with people who are considerably more active on the platform than I am, and a few of those discussions actually felt as though actual communication might be happening.
Rather than what appears to be the vast majority of “discussions” on Twitter, which is to say two people standing in the middle of mobs of followers screaming their version of events at each other while simultaneously decrying the other side for doing so.
Kinda reminds me of Congress, to be honest.
I’m also playing Twitter’s version of Russian Roulette, of course. I’m following people whose opinions I find interesting, regardless of their personal politics. What that means is that, eventually, I’m almost certain to run afoul of one of the various blockbots that are employed by people too fragile to be subjected to the horrifying abuse of dissenting views. I expect I’m probably not more than one or two more follows away from seeing the people I’m following spontaneously block me.
Which I suppose is going to be part of what I discuss in what will otherwise be a fairly rambling mess of a blog post: Twitter’s abuse policies.
Or, rather, the lack of functioning versions of such. The thing is, Twitter seems to have no idea how to run their own platform. At least not successfully. I mean, what they’ve created is a huge international shouting match, a place where people of all creeds, all colors, all ideologies can come together and insult each other.
And it’s about all the platform is really good for.
I mean, what else can you do with Twitter? Flash mobs? Please. Flash mobs stopped being cool about thirty seconds after the first flash mob happened. You can keep track of your friends, but you can do a better job of that on Facebook already. You can post pictures, I suppose, but again, Facebook and Instagram, and Snapchat if you want to reduce the chance of someone later using that picture against you. The social media ecosystem is growing increasingly complex, and that means specialization is going to be the order of the day.
Twitter’s entire market niche is people verbally shitting on each other. That’s it. That’s what it’s for.
“Twitter harassment” usually amounts to one of two things. Either people are disagreeing with you, or people are cussing at you. Frequently both, obviously, but having someone call you an asshole isn’t the end of the world, and you should welcome the opportunity to refine your own views on pretty much anything.
Alternately, of course, if you’re a delicate hothouse flower of the social media scene, you can just erect a blockbot and never have to hear from anyone who doesn’t tell you nice things ever again.
And yes, that outfit makes your ass look fat.
Now, if someone starts sending you threats, that’s something else entirely. Pretty much anything short of that should be fair game though, at least if Twitter wants to survive as a company.
And looking at the plunge their stock price has been taking, I’m not entirely sure that they do.
Twitter peaked about about $60 a share. It’s currently trading around $16. Facebook had their share of growing pains after their IPO as well, of course, but they wound up more than doubling the value they launched at. Twitter has more than halved theirs.
Part of it, I’m sure, is the struggle to monetize Twitter. Facebook’s format gives access to vastly greater amounts of metadata, more space for ads, more ways to shift the attention of their users. Twitter is talking about some of the same methods, which almost certainly won’t appeal to a vast segment of their users, since their users are mostly looking for opportunities to yell at each other, and having Twitter try to decide who they should be yelling at just won’t tickle their fancy in quite the same fashion.
But the rest? The management is seemingly rather opaque, they ban and suspend people (controversial types and conservatives, mostly, or controversial conservatives like Milo Yiannopoulos) for purely ideological reasons, they team up with abusive progressives (I’d say you should take a look at Randi Lee Harper’s Twitter history, except that you can’t now since she’s trying to hide her nasty habit of telling people to kill themselves, all while crafting programs to protect people from the horrors of dissent), they manipulate the hashtag system to effectively restrict conversations, and in general seem to be flirting with the idea of picking sides in the Culture Wars without the realization that they’re not a player.
They’re the battlefield.
Twitter shouldn’t be picking sides, they should be maintaining the equivalent of the Geneva Conventions with ruthless dispatch. The rules should be clear, the judgement impartial, the consequences both swift and terrible.
But the rules shouldn’t forbid fighting. The rules shouldn’t forbid argument, dissent, foul language and general asshattery. The rules should forbid genuine abuse, and solely that. Abuse of the system, and abuse of individuals.
Yes, that means that people who make threats, and people who use Twitter as a propaganda front for things like ISIS should be banned.
Beyond that? Anything goes. Call each other names, say that ideas are stupid and people who believe them even stupider. Craft your hashtags, toss your truth bombs, do whatever it is that makes you happy. Spread your message, be it conservative, liberal, statist, libertarian, or any combination thereof.
Just be prepared for aggravation.