Twitter is really important for understanding our present political and cultural moment, and it’s really bad for American democracy.
Three-and-a-half years into a political era launched and sustained in large part by the social media platform, these two (related) views are indisputable. But pinpointing precisely what is so politically and culturally pernicious about Twitter can be challenge, in part because its awfulness has multiple dimensions.
There is, to begin with, its impulsive, hyperbolic, and viral character, often rewarding people with a nearly instantaneous, enormous global audience for making sweeping or extreme pronouncements on events — “that big explosion in Beirut was definitely a nuclear weapon!” — in a spirit of uninformed, visceral reaction. That makes Twitter one of the greatest mechanisms ever devised for spreading conspiracies and misinformation. It also makes it one of the greatest mechanisms ever devised for spreading disinformation — intentionally misleading and false claims spread by bad actors to sow mayhem and confusion for a variety of malicious aims.
Then there is Twitter’s facility for encouraging tribalism or what is often called the “siloing” of information. People can and do curate their feeds to ensure they hear and interact only with ideas and arguments that reinforce what they already believe, and dismiss anything that might prompt them to question it. Though for many the term “dismiss” is too passive. That’s because they also seek out the most extreme versions of ideas and ideologies they detest in order to reinforce the prejudices that prevail within their own meticulously curated digital world. They band together with allies and then go in search of monsters to destroy.
But what if the causality runs just as much in the other direction — not from tribalism to ideological conflict, but the reverse? What if certain people, at least, are motivated at bottom by a …read more
Source:: The Week – Tech