Farhad Manjoo Totally Unplugged from Twitter if You Don’t Count the Constant Tweeting

CJR's Dan Mitchell has a tiny quibble with a recent viral NYT thumbsucker. 

CJR’s Dan Mitchell has a tiny quibble with a recent viral NYT thumbsucker.

SO MANY WRITERS HAVE PRODUCED ”I went offline, and here is what I learned” stories that they became a tedious cliché years ago.  Cliché or no, however, those stories had one thing in common: the writers of them all actually went offline. Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for The New York Times, took a different tack. He didn’t go offline at all: he just said he did, in a widely discussed column. Manjoo wrote about what he learned from his two months away from social media, and dispensed avuncular advice to his readers about the benefits of slowing down one’s news consumption.

But he didn’t really unplug from social media at all. The evidence is right there in his Twitter feed, just below where he tweeted out his column: Manjoo remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times, perhaps more than 1,000. In an email interview on Thursday, he stuck to his story, essentially arguing that the gist of what he wrote remains true, despite the tweets throughout his self-imposed hiatus.

Manjoo’s response is rather unpersuasive:

Manjoo objects to that characterization. “I think it’s clear that I meant I ‘unplugged’ from Twitter as a source of news, not that I didn’t tweet at all,” he wrote.

But he had written, quite plainly, that he had “unplugged from Twitter,” not that he had used it only to post news stories. Reactions to his column on Twitter make it clear that many readers took him as his word.

But also: He didn’t use Twitter only to post news stories. He retweeted news stories from others and commented on others’ tweets about the news on most days during his period of being “unplugged.” In February, he retweeted Sean Hannity, commenting: “You gotta read this thread, it’s amazing.” He was clearly using Twitter to follow the news—albeit less so than he had been before starting this experiment.

But apparently his employer is buying it:

Times spokesperson said the paper doesn’t view his assertion as a falsehood, and won’t be issuing a correction.

Well, if nothing else, Manjoo has demonstrated what he set out to demonstrate: that social media can be quite addictive.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James Pearce says:

    But apparently his employer is buying it

    Well, it is hard to fathom that the NYT would actually let their technology writer totally “unplug” from Twitter for two months to generate content for one column. All that influence, squandered.

  2. Michael Corleone put it best.