I have been
wasting my life away posting with glee and mirth for nearly two decades now. I have participated in most types of modern online communities — chatrooms, forums, boards, mailing lists, social networks, instant messengers etc, just about anything newer than a BBS. Big fucking whoop, I know, but I must mention it for the sake of what I propose in this post: Twitter is literally the worst.
Not that it’s flawed on purpose, obviously. No one but a gaming journalist sets out to make the worst product possible, after all. But its various features cobbled together from various social sites. It seems to me that they’re at odds with each other.
For example, non-anonymous posting theoretically fosters good posting (whatever that means in each given community), as it gives an incentive in the form of the reputation attached to an identity. Yes, it’s a non-material and vaguely defined incentive that would make Pavlov weep, but it’s real nonetheless. Real enough that it helps keep people with unpopular opinions quiet, which when taken to an extreme fosters cliques, clubhouses, circlejerks and other bad things that start with ‘c’. It’s an obvious fact that people gravitate to others with whom they feel a similarity, even if it’s in something as fickle as which videogame has the best soundtrack or somesuch, but such divisions being entrenched leads to the c-words instead of wide debate.
The biggest advantage of anonymous posting in this regard is to curb this excessive gregariousness. Either by limiting identity to short time intervals or doing away with it entirely, this reputation incentive to conformity and cliqueism vanishes, but the glaring problem is that it also takes the incentive to post decently away as well. I don’t think it’s any great revelation that full anonymity brings up trolls and shitposting in general. The mere fact that unpopular ideas are more likely to be voiced gives an incentive to arguing in bad faith. Tho it potentially allows for a wider range of opinions, anonymous posting ends up curbing debate in that respect.
And it seems to me that Twitter combines the worst of both worlds.
The non-anonymous aspect carries the adjunct reputation system, but the complete lack of informational structure ruins it. Discussions are indexed solely by time and by who aimed it at whom, which ruins any chance at discourse since debates become just chit-chat, feeding the non-anonymous tendency towards circlejerks. Another big part of the informational structure problem is the old 140-character limit, as it favors soundbytes and snark over actual arguments. In other words, the non-anonymous aspect, rather than encouraging content creation, encourages shitposting instead.
The anonymous part is more subdued, since you only share as little personal information as you want and anyone can use as many accounts as they want, and they can theoretically voice any opinion they want while surrendering just as much privacy as they want to. However, that lack of informational structure again ruins this point. Since there’s no real debates, only chit-chat, dissenting voices are often shunned or ostracized. And the weak point of anonymous posting plays into this as well, since it really is awfully easy to disrupt any conversation, productive or not.
The end result is that Twitter is anathema to debate. Its very format incentivizes fallacies, cliqueism and just plain old shitposting. Which in retrospect shouldn’t be a surprise: it’s just a micro-blogging tool, for fuck’s sake. It’s desined for shitty jokes and pictures of food. Yet it has grown far, far too big for its own good, and people try to use it for public discourse, with disastrous results. Never before has that old macro comparing arguing on the internet with the Special Olympics been more true.
My honest opinion: completely give up on arguing using Twitter. It’s only good use is short-form comedy. It’s like old unmoderated chatrooms, but splintered into millions of little tiny individual chats, and this division reinforces the noise instead of the signal. You found that rarerest of species, a Twitter user that actually wants to debate? Ask to do it somewhere else. E-mail, forum, hell even 4chan by this point has a better signal-to-noise ratio.