So, You Want Twitter to Stop Destroying Democracy

from Wired

A SPECTER HAUNTS the Discourse, and it’s the sense that Twitter is bad for you. There’s certainly been some chin-wagging about this—on Twitter itself (in one of its usual ironies) and in spaces like this one, where I’ve argued that the platform’s very design promotes toxic use. But claiming to quit Twitter only to come slinking back is a time-honoured tradition; numerous users embarrassed themselves by proclaiming Elon Musk’s inevitably abortive takeover to be the last straw, only to find the site’s allure impossible to resist.

More alarmingly, powerful and influential people—call them “epistemic elites”—seem to be among the most terminally online, and it’s having an effect on the rest of the world.

As a scholar who’s spent much of the past decade arguing that Twitter is “real life” and that harassment on the platform is a major social problem worth paying attention to, I fear a monkey’s-paw finger has curled in the wake of such advocacy. Taking online discourse seriously is important; letting it become your only window on reality is dangerous, and when powerful people do so it threatens democracy itself.

As is so often the case, however, this is more a structural problem than a question of individual virtue or willpower. “Mindfulness” won’t fix what Twitter broke. Mitigating Twitter’s harms is less about badgering people to use the platform less (though that would reduce the collective psychic burden of mass doomscrolling) and more about ensuring that influential individuals—namely academics, journalists, and politicians—stop using the platform in particular ways. Abstinence-only policies don’t work for anything else, and they won’t work for Twitter, but harm reduction is worth seriously considering.

So, getting some of them to step away is advisable. But how might one do this?

More here.

Posted in Social Media and tagged , , .

11 Comments

  1. Twitter is something that I have a love-hate relationship with and it’s something that I will find myself endlessly scrolling on for over an hour if I don’t catch myself doing it. Staying away from it also really won’t help in the long run either. It is intentionally designed to keep you on the app and there are many upsides and downsides to using Twitter. You never really think of an apps or social media presence unto you realize that it is starting to affect real life in a sentence and for some specific people Twitter can sadly become a reality for people. This was definitely shown through the pandemic where viral tweets and many other things going on the platform effected the pandemic. There’s also the side of people who are cancelling other people over many different things such as the things they may have said in the past or things done in private. Even people discussing Politics on Twitter somehow have an effect on real-life politics that can affect people not even on Twitter itself. The things that are said on Twitter on a day-to-day basis are usually misconstrued and interpreted in different ways so you may have two completely different people reading the same statement and thinking different things which can lead to drama and is a driving factor in Twitter’s viral tweets which everyone on the app can see. The toxicity found on Twitter is dangerous to society in all but many people fail to realize that even myself being a hypocrite for engaging on the app for so long.

    • I have the same relationship with Twitter; it’s an endless loop of time every time I open it. I do agree that through the pandemic, it became apparent that there was a large spread of false information and news. I have seen how Twitter affects politics in some cases, even during the presidential debates; It was something I noticed. I do think the constant reposting and spread allow for the twisting of words and misconstruing of information.

  2. Currently, I find that most people don’t get their news information from the newspaper or from television but instead from their phones. Twitter has proven to be the biggest source of information for myself and many other people. Twitter of course like every other social media outlet does have many positives. For instance, I personally have found the trending page on twitter to be a very easy place for myself to find out about new news happening all around the world. However, the biggest downside like mentioned in the article is the toxicity that revolves around twitter. Many users on twitter can be ruthless towards other people just because their opinion does not align with the others. People on this app verbally abuse each other on the daily just for the fun of it. For example, cancel culture has become a big reality for many people. If someone does not agree with another, they have been known to use tweets as a means of affecting another person’s life. People have been known to find out the employers of certain users and use their tweets to get them fired. In general, it can be a very dangerous place if you are not careful with it. People need to start understanding that twitter is not a place to spill your deep opinions on. Slowly but surely in my opinion people need to start using twitter less or at the very least tweet much less. That way the app can be a place of leisure and not one of constant worry. The article also made a point imploring to “stop making twitter a job requirement”. This message resonates with me as I find myself agreeing with it completely. I find that employers looking for people with a big social media presence on twitter to be ridiculous. Most people in the workplace above sixty do not even have social media so it proves to be an unfair disadvantage towards them when looking at t a job. As for people in my generation, if there is a growing movement to abandon using twitter a lot then surely employers have to follow suit.

    • I agree that with you that the trending page on twitter is an extremely easy place for most people to get their information. However, I believe that this is the extent of its use as a distribution of information, as you said it can be very toxic and very misleading to the general public. The most effective way I think that twitter can be used is as a way for people to be introduced to topics which they will later develop a position on later once they have researched and understand the topic better. I disagree with you that the issue revolves around people just needing to use the social media platform less but instead twitter itself needs to adapt in order to protect its own users from being misled. Twitter has already done this as it has banned many popular figures who were seen to be spreading misinformation to millions through Twitter. This will be the most effective way to manage twitters impact on the population because people will continue to us twitter or at the very least move their focus to a different social media like TikTok. I think simply saying that companies should stop making a twitter presence a requirement is not realistic at the moment because for a writer to be relevant and get their name out there they need to be on twitter where the most amount of people will see it. Instead, I think the focus should be on how we treat these writers when they are on twitter, people need to understand that a writer’s twitter is still opinion, even if it does not say Op-Ed at the top of it. If people can make sure they separate the hard facts that these writers are talking about and their opinions on the issue at hand, then the general public will be able to have a solid discourse in America.

  3. Since the pandemic, social media has begun to expose its toxic and dangerous systematic structures, raising concerns due to its grave influence on the minds of millions each day. With discourse, flooding feeds regarding celebrity scandals, news, and rants, Twitter has become a petri dish of chaos. Users partake in a commodified and content-based system, aiming to grasp the attention and validation of others, in an effort to gain more influence. This toxic practice has been widely adopted by various academics and politicians, sparking concern for many. Most individuals solely believe Twitter is a form of public virtual interaction, rather than an algorithmic tool that replicates a part of the real world, failing to comprehend its societal effects. Our author emphasizes that due to its strong societal effect, individuals cannot allow it to be their only source of information or news, as content on the app is often commodified for an ulterior motive, not necessarily to inform. Twitter’s system and algorithm must undergo a new set of rules when regarding the political arena.
    Twitter thrives off of its snappy high school-like drama, drama which has been coined by influential figures such as academics, scientists, congressmen, and even the president, as a tool of persuasion. These figures have honed in on their toxic virtual presence, sparking arguments and discourse, and spreading misinformation to gain favorability. Most notably, in 2021, Twitter was one of the numerous platforms which allowed the then president, and his followers, to attempt to instruct the Congressional Campus. The insurrection was rooted in non-restricted misinformation and extremism shared on platforms, with a lack of consideration of the complexities of the situation or the consequences of an insurrection. The main issue with the insurrection, today, is that it may inspire other extremist movements. Could Twitter be used by other groups to cultivate another attack on US democracy? If so, the mere lack of restriction entirely threatens the stability of our democracy. Those in power knowingly spreading misinformation to gain more power, money, influence, etc, threatens the very foundation of the nation. Americans can not be utilized as ploys for cash grabs, yet platforms such as Twitter have allowed it. Some Americans politically participate solely on what they have absorbed from their feeds, often plagued by persuasive false information, as was seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal of the 2016 election. In an effort to combat a recurrence, there needs to be change.
    While freedom of speech should be practiced on Twitter and all other social media applications, it is also important for the platform to hold politicians and regular users accountable. Twitter users should not be able to spread extremist ideologies nor false information. Politicians should be subject to following a level of professionalism and conduct when utilizing social media. Politicians should not be allowed to provide misinformation, extremism, ideas of authoritarianism, nor bicker with their peers on the app. As seen with January 6th, such misuse can have detrimental effects on both the political structure of the nation but also on society as a whole. Politicians must begin to adopt compassionate uses of the app, to connect with those they represent, answer questions, and share their goals, rather than taking advantage of the app for profit, at the expense of the political power of its users.

  4. Twitter is a tool that I believe can be used effectively but as with most tools if not used effectively it can end up doing more harm than good. Twitter is very good at keeping people up to date with what is currently happening in the world as it updates almost instantly with the news. While the information is very easy to digest for the average person, that also seems to be the problem as many people confuse people commenting on the news of the day, with actual facts. I think that Twitter can be useful for letting people be aware of what is happening day to day but is largely ineffective in educating the population on the complexities of different situations. This is increasingly important as the world becomes more complex every day and therefore it is important to understand these complexities to develop well educated opinions on modern topics. This flaw in how twitter, and other social media sites as well, work shows in modern “cancel culture” as people jump on people after seeing something that they had done wrong. The mob mentality that is present on twitter can be extremely dangerous as it can ruin careers or even entire lives. The issue is not that people are being held accountable however, the issue is the manner in which they are being held accountable. In most cases of people being canceled, they would have faced little to no repercussions for their mistakes but instead they are shown only in their worst moments. People on the internet also forget that they are real people and say things that would not be acceptable in real life. This is concerning as it becomes more prevalent and could start becoming part of a new society where people are unconcerned with people even when they make mistakes.

  5. The article is mainly about Twitter being an awful source for news and such. In the article, Katherine Cross discusses how many celebrities and journalists are using Twitter in a negative way. These people create fake news and information just to get their quick shine of attention. The problem is that many twitter users aren’t mindful about where they get their information from. But to be honest, I don’t blame these users. Tweets on Twitter can become trendy and spread rapidly, no matter the source. That is why it is so difficult to tell whether the news is false or not. When one thing gets trendy on Twitter, that is what everyone talks about. Everyone ends up being too emotionally attached to the tweet that they don’t take the time to think about who made the tweet. I’ve had multiple instances where my friends would come up to me with bizarre news and they would be too caught up that they don’t take a second to think if it is true or not. One example I have is when my friend urgently told me that a massive meteor will hit earth. I was skeptical because I only listen to reliable news sources like the New York Times or even Wall Street Journal. When I asked him where he got the news from he said RapTV, which an unreliable media company on Instagram that is known for their bizarre news coverage. Like I mentioned earlier, these journalist and celebrities publish false information to create havoc or controversy just to get their quick moment of fame or attention. I do not think much can be done to stop these journalists from publishing. It would be difficult to limit how much they say and what they say because they do have freedom of speech. Social media is becoming a news source for people, but it does bring up a bigger question. Is social media becoming an issue? Just the other day I was reading an article from Pew Research that about half of American adults get their news from social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and so on. As social media becomes more integrated into our lives, it will make it difficult to regulate fake news coverage. The best solution to combat this would be to start teaching kids in school to think about where they get their news from. Throughout High School I was told to use Wiki as my main source and to be wary of biased news outlets. For the new generation, this won’t be enough. They must now be told to not get all their news from social media and to be wary of trending tweets or ‘stories’ on Instagram. They must even start teaching this to kids at a younger age. Many kids in elementary school already have access to phones and social media. Therefore, it makes them more susceptible to fake news coverage. Social media is rapidly becoming the main source of news for many people, but that is not a bad thing. Users must be mindful and educated about where they should get their news from.

  6. Many people rely heavily on social media for their news and information; this article discusses how Twitter is one of the worst sources for any factual information. Celebrities and tabloids use Twitter to enable the continuous spread of false information. The issue is most Twitter users are bound to find these things and believe them, it isn’t so much their fault, but they respond and continue to spread what they see. People end up liking what they read and share because it’s important to them, or they want the person who tweeted it. I’ve seen cases where someone posts something about a celebrity that isn’t true, and they start a chain reaction that eventually reaches outside of Twitter, and it only creates more issues. I am guilty of sometimes believing what I’ve seen on Twitter, but since I find it hard to believe some things I know, I like to google it before reposting or sharing it. It’s not as easy to stop this from happening because it’s social media and people have the right to post what they want. And as time has gone on, people are using social media more for their news, which brings up the issue of how much we should trust social media and what will happen to these news platforms. Most news platforms have taken themselves onto social media to broaden and expand their audience. The only thing is that these users should be aware of what they’re reading and make sure sources are credible.

  7. In my opinion, Twitter has gotten too big and too powerful. People look to twitter for all things from news to entertainment, and many times the line between those two is blurred. The viral nature of such a platform leads people to say things on the app which are outlandish in a hope to gain some traction, retweets and be seen by lots of people. This is how misinformation spreads and it is something that I feel like a lot of people have been victim to, especially since 2020. Politicians seemingly can get on the app, say whatever they please, and have it be heard by the masses. The addictive nature of twitter also means that people spend hours upon hours reading people’s opinions online rather than actually conversing with someone in real life. This has two affects, first it means that twitter is now a news source and the primary way that people obtain information. We were always taught in school that we need to be citing credible sources, however now on twitter, random accounts can be the source of news for many. The second issue is that people are more bold online. People are less likely to hide racism, misogyny or another other beliefs they have which would be detrimental to society, and therefore more of these crazy ideas are being put in the air for others to pick up and follow. I agree with the arguments made in this article that twitter can’t be stopped, but hopefully can be controlled. I believe there do need to be restrictions placed on twitter journalism. News sources cannot spew their opinions all over twitter, they should simply report news and let people come to their own conclusion. The same can be said for politicians, some of which spend more time on the app than actually doing their jobs. Another idea that I liked from the article is to stop making it a job requirement. This allows people to choose to be on twitter rather than feeling a need to in order to stay afloat in their careers. Twitter can be a toxic place, and limiting use rather than restricting it seems to be the way to go.

  8. Twitter is a social networking site. To where users broadcast short posts which are called tweets. The tweets are opposed to text, video, photos. We all have heard of Twitter. It’s something that in some way we have a somewhat of a relationship. That we may find ourselves scrolling for hours and we don’t even realize that we have. We know that Twitter has a lot of benefits and bad things to it. One thing that we don’t realize is what a social media app really can do to us. That it can start to affect our real life. There are a lot of people that get their news and information from Twitter. So I think Twitter has such a big power and will be getting more powerful with time. Nowadays there is a thing called canceling people. That comes with if someone says something that people don’t like they would do anything to cancel them. This gets to the topic of politics. Politics is something that people really care about. I like how they state that Twitter ‘s very design promotes toxic use. I agree because I see through time and time. Something like “numerous users embarrassed themselves by proclaiming Elon Musk’s inevitably abortive takeover to be the last straw, only to find the site’s allure impossible to resist.” Something like this after Twitter makes people do. Like before Twitter affects potties in many cases that we may know. Such as during the presidential debate. To which I have noticed. Also I think the constant reposting and spread allows everyone to twist the words or misinformation and say something wrong about information that leads to issues. Like they said “Twitter, but harm reduction is worth seriously considering”. Just like them there are steps just as Stop Making Twitter a Job Requirement. Also Be Careful When Sourcing Pundits From Twitter. It’s Kill the Permanent Twitter Campaign. How they stated that it needs “to be more proactive about banning unscrupulous politicians who try to stoke hatred through the platform.”. That is how powerful Twitter is . Just Donald trump what he was posting on Twitter that maybe he should have been banned from Twitter. That many politicians are banned they said what if people “who want to be politicians but come from outside the existing clubs of power, and for whom Twitter might be a leveler?” . That literally getting to point the Twitter has such a power that can control and destroy democracy.Twitter is toxic and it’s a threat to everyone. It doesn’t matter if we use the app or not, it’s a threat.

  9. Twitter is a platform for social networking. where people broadcast brief messages known as tweets. Text, video, and images are not allowed in tweets. Twitter is a name we’ve all heard. It’s something with which we sort of have a relationship. that it’s possible for us to scroll for hours without even realizing it. We are aware that Twitter has both positive and negative aspects. We are unaware of the true harm that social networking apps can bring to us, for example. that it may begin to impact our daily lives. Many people use Twitter as their primary source of news and information. Thus, I believe that Twitter already possesses a significant amount of power and will continue to do so. There is a practice known as canceling individuals nowadays. This is inevitable because if someone says something that people don’t like, they will stop at nothing to get them retracted. This introduces the subject of politics. People have a strong interest in politics. I like how they assert that Twitter’s basic structure encourages harmful use. I concur since I am a seasoned observer. Like “many users embarrassed themselves by declaring Elon Musk’s inevitably futile takeover to be the last straw, only to find the site’s appeal impossible to resist” or anything similar. After Twitter, something like this forces people to act. Twitter has an impact on bathrooms in many circumstances, as it did before. During the presidential debate, for instance. which I have observed. Additionally, I believe that the frequent sharing and reposting enable everyone to twist the truth and say inaccurate things regarding information that causes problems. Twitter, but harm reduction is something to think about carefully, as they said. There are actions similar to those, such as Stop Making Twitter a Job Requirement. Also, exercise caution when finding pundits on Twitter. The campaign is called Kill the Permanent Twitter. It needs to “be more proactive about banning dishonest politicians who try to stir hatred through the platform,” they said in their statement. That is the extent of Twitter’s power. Donald Trump should have been blocked from Twitter based solely on the content of his tweets. They asked what would happen if people “who desire to be politicians but come from outside the traditional clubs of power, and for whom Twitter might be a leveler?” since so many politicians are prohibited. The power of Twitter to both control and sabotage democracy is literally getting to the point. Everyone is at risk from Twitter because it is harmful. Whether we use the app or not, it still poses a hazard.

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