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.
What’s next? Are we over the smartphone boom and the newest social networking app already?
We live in a ‘next’ society. We need something new every couple of months. As the chips get faster, so too do our consumption habits.
We long to get over what’s staring us in the face so we can move on to the next dopamine hit. No one wants to wait. No one wants to cope with their boredom. Phoneless, people would rather zap themselves instead.
Facebook is in a hurry to beat out Snapchat and recreate the Prisma app. Twitter dropped Vine. We’re all treating things like we get treated at the DMV; like cogs in a queue we can’t skip, made to feel suppressed and unimportant. Next in line!
Just because we’re in the industrial revolution of computers doesn’t mean we need to speed up all behaviors. Myopia is killing long-term thinking and shortening our appreciation for what already exists. What happened to celebrating small victories and supporting the Internet of niches–or did the Internet mainstream everything (re: MIA)?
The Zeigarnik effect wants us to replace anticipation with actions we can’t even remember afterward. You accomplished XYZ, but what does it all mean?
When we slow down, do our thing, and let other do their’s, life meets us halfway. We can’t all do each other’s work, out copy each other and live each other’s lives. What’s next is sticking to the real you.
Rumor has it that no one–neither Microsoft, Disney, Salesforce, nor Google–wants to acquire Twitter. The common fear though is that the ‘media company’ as we know it today is going to change regardless of its new owner.
While it’s not clear how Twitter would disappear, or how your profile would renew, some of Twitter’s longest and most passionate users like Navneet Alang, find it hard to imagine a life without looking through the lens of the blue bird. Below are some of the highlights from his think-piece on the cultural and neurocognitive impact of Twitter.
On tweeting daily into the empty box:
Twitter has colonized my mind. Almost every day for just under a decade, I have checked the site, have tweeted, retweeted, been subtweeted. My mental map is the frontier surrendered, and Twitter is the empire. To become occupied by a social network is to internalize its gaze.
On tweeting out loud and developing an audience:
But a decade on, I still find myself thinking in the terms of Twitter: how each absurd, mundane happening in my life might be framed so as to be alluring to my audience, a potential employer, a date, or new friend. I still always carry my followers with me. In fact, I can’t get rid of them. They are like a ghostly companion, ever at my side. It isn’t just my tweets that have changed, but the way in which I relate to reality.
On the external impact of Twitter and other social networks:
We are always being reconfigured from the outside in. Just as the book shaped thought in a particular way, so too do the many facets of digital, each in their own way.
We might be nearing the death of Twitter but not the extinction of our inherent publicness–people still want to be influencers, celebrities, curators, and content DJs including myself. Twitter fulfills the natural urge to share and be reshared. It’s too culturally important to lose, despite all the nastiness, bullying, and offensive material, especially during this election.
Why doesn’t Facebook acquire Twitter and replace its tardy trends with live, real-time Twitter-fueled relevancy? It appears that everything good ends up in the walls of Facebook. Twitter’s plateau could spell the end of its elasticity as an open social network, proving that what matters isn’t always popular.
One of the benefits of Snapchat is that your content disappears so that nothing can be used in your digital eulogy. On the other hand, your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts are going to be around forever. And that’s how most people will remember you.
Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo is giving people a chance to visit their own digital funeral at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to review the type of social media posts people would see after they pass away.
According to BuzzFeed’s senior writer Doree Shafrir who experienced her own ceremony:
“All of my tweets started scrolling on a screen in front of me as though to say, you know, here are some words of Doree’s to remember her by – tweeting about wearing a dress to a wedding with pockets or Justin Bieber. And I thought, oh, my God, if I did die – God forbid – right now this is what people would see.”
She also notes that Facebook is the only service right now where you assign someone to manage your page after you die.
Your legacy is wrapped up in Tweets like your life’s bumper sticker. So be wary of what you say. Conversely, you can leave no trails behind and just use Snapchat or go off the grid altogether like Cal Newport.
Instagram is Twitter without the words. Speaking in images removes the friction of writing, which is intimidating for most people. People want to express themselves in the simplest and quickest way possible on the visual web.
Instagram takes the best of Twitter, most notably its immediacy and the ability to follow both friends and influencers. It also adopted Twitter’s glossary of hashtags and @ symbols.
The only threat to Instagram is VSCO which reminds me of the early days of Instagram with its strong artist community, grid, and myriad filters. But I get the feeling that VSCO sees Instagram more as a friend than a foe, using Instagram’s 300 million active users to markete its presets and software through the ever-popular #VSCOcam hashtag.
Twitter, Instagram, and emerging apps like VSCO all complement each other. Each tool is vehicle for sharing information across each other’s networks. But the fact remains: Twitter’s growth is withering and Instagram is blowing up. All the meanwhile, Facebook is just competing within itself.