Opinion | Can We Please Get Over Our Twitter Obsession Already?


That’s to not say that Twitter doesn’t matter in any respect. Precise individuals are on Twitter, in any case — legislators, journalists, celebrities, school professors — and they’re usually speaking about actual issues, reacting to police brutality, the conflict in Ukraine, inflation, the Jan. 6 riot. We’re speaking to at least one one other in addition to witnessing conversations amongst highly effective folks — and even entering into these conversations ourselves. It may be fascinating. As Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight founder and author, put it (on Twitter, naturally), “The elite-to-elite interactions are what make Twitter distinctive.”

And that’s truly simply my level: The “elite-to-elite” interactions held on Twitter will be edifying and provoking, and might spur folks to actual motion, however on-line politics works when it’s tied to offline efforts — getting obsessive about Twitter itself is simply getting in your individual means.

Twitter can also distort political actuality. When you spend quite a lot of time there, you might be probably seeing different individuals who tweet so much, a bunch that doesn’t symbolize actual life. So that you would possibly vastly overestimate the quantity of people that help, say, packing the Supreme Court docket and underestimate the quantity of people that don’t vote in any respect. (I’ve by no means, for instance, met a “tankie” in actual life, however they yell at me on Twitter pretty usually.) Twitter customers additionally will be extra adverse than the overall inhabitants, and negativity spreads quicker on the platform than positivity. American Twitter customers are additionally prone to be Democrats, and people Democrats are extra liberal than non-Twitter-using Democrats at that.

And generally Twitter lends itself to the unlucky Extraordinarily On-line angle, which I outlined a couple of years in the past as being deeply enmeshed in web tradition and believing that occasions in that milieu — like trending subjects on Twitter and viral Fb posts — matter within the offline world, too. Donald Trump’s win in 2016 wasn’t because of his Twitter account, however as I’ve argued earlier than, a part of what I believe contributed to his loss in 2020 was his obsessive deal with Extraordinarily On-line topics (Russiagate! Part 230!) that probably had little to do with what folks predisposed to vote for him cared about (the financial system, crime, et cetera).

Elon Musk is Extraordinarily On-line, too — as evidenced by his untethered Twitter habits, randomly insulting senators and saying he’ll put cocaine again in Coca-Cola — however he’s additionally an individual whose work issues offline. His firms Tesla and SpaceX are prone to have much more impression on how on a regular basis folks reside their lives than Twitter ever will. It may final for one more 10 years or may simply go the way in which of MySpace (bear in mind MySpace?). And as for his concepts for the place to take Twitter, Musk sounds, to me, like a really rich one that is flawed about what free speech means within the context of a non-public platform, however, hey, he’s obtained firm on that entrance.

I believe that the response to Musk’s deal to purchase Twitter is probably extra telling. When you suppose his buy is a harbinger of doom or a signal to start out a reality and reconciliation fee about so-called previous manipulation on the positioning, perhaps that’s not likely about Elon Musk. Possibly it’s extra about you.



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