Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Death of Twitter

Is likely to be exaggerated.  Perhaps some had hopes that were too high for what twitter could be.  Or that the internet just allows rude people to dominate conversations.  It is easy for me as a white male with heaps of privilege to say that things are not so bad since I have only experienced a modest heap of abuse.  Women and people of minority communities (race, religion, sexuality, whatever) get far more abuse.  I get it. 

But twitter is pretty revolutionary, not in terms of changing the world, but of fostering interactions around the world.  Like any technology, it can be used for good or evil.  For reaching out or for rejecting. 

I have got into heaps of heated arguments via twitter--some where much disrespect is transmitted (in both directions) and much more where the passion is moderated by respect.  I have met so many people via twitter who are sharp, interesting, engaging, friendly, funny, enlightening.  I have had great conversations with journalists in the US and Canada (and elsewhere), former and active military folks who have served in Afghanistan and elsewhere, experts in various fields, friends from high school and college, former students, the occasional 1980s soap opera star, television critics, podcasters, academics around the planet, and on and on.  I have found twitter to be an incredibly useful resource for not only promoting my work and that of my students, but of learning stuff that I would never have bumped into just by reading various newspapers and going to various websites. 

Sure, I have also found myself using the block and mute buttons on a semi-regular basis.  Yes, there is a danger that we craft echo chambers, but we can also create communities of respect.  The national security community that created and then fostered by Twitter Fight Club demonstrates quite well that a little competitive engagement can build a community of engagement.  Yes, some people took it over the top, but they were chastised and some might have been excluded.  But overall, I now feel as I have friends and resources beyond anything I could have reached through ordinary means. 

The twitter universe, even more than real life, is a social construction--it is what we make of it.  So this piece lamenting its death can be something more than a resignation to the ugly realities.  It can be used as a call for more, not less, engagement with respect.  I will remain a twitter evangelist--not that everyone should tweet but that folks who want to be engaged beyond their local area of operations should at least follow people who they find of interest.  The internet is a vast place, and some tweeps turn out to be excellent guides and even compadres.  Even if they criticize the pants I wear.

No comments: