The impulsiveness, the cliques, the gossip, and the ego — the Twitter cesspool can be fun, entertaining, and darn-right toxic.
Unlike Instagram, Twitter brings out the worst in people through the abuse of words. In short, it is ‘The High School We Can’t Log Off From.’ Writes New York Times columnist Jennifer Senior:
A few years back, the sociologist Robert Faris described high school to me as “a large box of strangers.” The kids don’t necessarily share much in common, after all; they just happen to be the same age and live in the same place. So what do they do in this giant box to give it order, structure? They divide into tribes and resort to aggression to determine status.
The same can be said of Twitter. It’s the ultimate large box of strangers. As in high school, Twitter denizens divide into tribes and bully to gain status; as in high school, too-confessional musings and dumb mistakes turn up in the wrong hands and end in humiliation.
Unlike Apple, Facebook, Google, and Pinterest, Twitter bucked the Silicon Valley trend and kept Alex Jones’s account live. Twitter thrives on breaking news and its divisiveness.
Clay Shirky, one of the shrewdest internet theorists around, has noted that the faster the medium is, the more emotional it gets. Twitter, as we know, is pretty fast, and therefore runs pretty hot.
Yet despite all the negativity, Twitter may be the world’s most important social network even if it’s the least profitable. And while some of its users abuse the public microphone, others use it just to talk, teach, and share their work for the benefit of others.
The race to the bottom begins when what you think you know, you know. I am once again reminded of this Seth Godin quotes from All Marketers Are Liars:
The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.
The stuff we want to hear sticks.
Confirmation bias and stereotyping are just the appetizers. Beware a blind spot, or better yet, the ostrich effect.
Biases are shortcuts. The truth never expires.
ORIGIN: The notion of cognitive biases was first introducted by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s. Their research paper, ‘Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases‘ in the Science journal has provided the basis of almost all current theories of decision-making and heuristics. Professor Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 after further developing the ideas and applying them to economics.
According to research done by data scientists at MIT, it is humans, not bots, which disseminate false news.
The study began with the 2013 Boston bombings when Twitter spread inaccurate rumors about the aftermath of the events.
The three authors of the study then took it upon themselves to dig deeper into the fake news phenomenon by examining tweets of 3 million users from the years 2006 to 2017.
Blame the humans, not the machines
The overarching result is that false news spreads faster than real news because people on Twitter are more likely to retweet novelty. Said MIT professor and researcher Sinan Aral, “We found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, bots accelerate the spread of true and false stories at the same rate. False news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”
Sensationalism stokes retweets. In fact, “false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.”
MIT scientists believe misinformation also runs rampant on Facebook but is harder to detect because it lives in the echo chambers of a walled garden: FB groups, private posts, and direct messages (re: dark social). Because of Russia’s election meddling in 2016, both Facebook and Twitter are finally taking efforts to improve their platforms for better veracity detection. Fact-checking is more vital than ever.
Humans are suckers for captivating but erroneous news. Some people even refuse to let go. As Mark Twain so wisely noted, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” The good news is that the truth never expires, even if it takes longer to percolate.
Going to work to answer emails won’t make you a better emailer, just as another five minutes on Twitter won’t improve your social networking game. Email, Twitter, and incoming messages drain our cognitive fitness.
Twitter is a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It drives both optimism and pessimism at the same time. It foretells the future, flashing signs of progress along with inevitable doomsday. One tweet can drive markets and shift national conversations.
Most Twitter users are consumers that use it to discover great content and breaking news. Others abuse the platform to stoke an agenda.
Checking Twitter is the fastest way to monitor the pulse on society. At the same, avoiding it will make your happier and healthier — you may even get your mind back!
Twitter changes how the brain works. It hijacks your attention with the facade of novelty, consumed and quickly forgotten. But your trash may be someone else’s treasure. There are gems to be found even in a dump.