Is Twitter a Breeding Ground for Thoughtlessness and Contempt?

Glenn Reynolds announced via his USA Today column that he has deleted his Twitter account.


Glenn Reynolds announced via his USA Today column that he has deleted his Twitter account.

All social media have their issues. The “walled garden” character they create is the antithesis of the traditional Internet philosophy of openness. They are actually consciously designed to be addictive to their users — one company that consults on such issues is actually called Dopamine Labs — and they tend to soak up a huge amount of time in largely profitless strivings for likes and shares. They promote bad feelings and bad behavior: I saw a cartoon listing social media by deadly sins, with Facebook promoting envy, Instagram promoting pride, Twitter promoting wrath, Tinder promoting lust and so on. It seemed about right.

But as someone who spends a lot of time on the internet and whose social media experience goes all the way back to the original Orkut and Friendster, I think that Twitter is the worst.

In fact, if you set out to design a platform that would poison America’s discourse and its politics, you’d be hard pressed to come up with something more destructive than Twitter. Twitter has the flaws of the old Usenet newsgroups, but on a much bigger scale.

As someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter, I’ve certainly seen a lot of poisonous discourse. But, having long consumed it mostly through curated lists on TweetDeck, I get a rather high concentration of really smart folks sharing useful insights and links. Still, Glenn has a point when he compares it to older alternatives:

Even the “blogosphere” of the early 21st century, in which independently run blogsites posted items on news, and responded both to Big Media stories and to each other, was more like traditional media in some respects than like Usenet or social media. To read content on blogs, readers had to go there. To interact, bloggers had to read each other’s sites and decide to post a response, generally with a link back to the post they were replying to.

If you didn’t like a blog, you could just ignore it.  A story that spread like wildfire through the blogosphere still did so over the better part of a day, not over minutes, and it was typically pretty easy to find the original item and get context, something the culture of blogging encouraged.

As James Lileks wrote, ”The link changes everything. When someone derides or exalts a piece, the link lets you examine the thing itself without interference.”

Bloggers often encouraged their readers to follow the link and “read the whole thing.” In addition, a story’s spread required at least a modicum of actual thought and consideration on the part of bloggers, who were also constrained, to a greater or lesser degree, by considerations of reputation. Some blogs served as trusted nodes on the blogosphere, and many other bloggers would be reluctant to run with a story that the trusted nodes didn’t believe.

In engineering parlance, the early blogosphere was a “loosely coupled” system, one where changes in one part were not immediately or directly transmitted to others. Loosely coupled systems tend to be resilient, and not very subject to systemic failures, because what happens in one part of the system affects other parts only weakly and slowly.

While there’s a certain “get off my lawn” quality to we oldsters lamenting the good old days, I share Glenn’s nostalgia for the state of the blogosphere as it was from roughly 2002-2006. There was a communal quality to it that’s long since disappeared and there was indeed, at least among the blogs that I followed, a tendency to “follow the link” and “read the whole thing.” And, in the days before aggregators (most notably, Gabe Rivera’s memeorandum) we tended to read one another, link one another, blogroll one another, and otherwise engage in a way that still happens on Twitter but not nearly in the same way. That, in turn, led to considering bloggers with opposing viewpoints as actual human beings with whom one could have respectful conversations in a way that Twitter allows but does not as strongly incentivize.  (And, indeed, makes next to impossible for those with high followership, simply because of scale.)

Over time, various pressures transformed the best blogs into essentially independently-published magazines. The incentives were to crank out ever-more content but also to do longer pieces rather than the Instapundit-style short excerpts or summaries with a “Heh, indeed” or “Read the whole thing.”  And most were reading the same aggregators and reacting to mainstream stories rather than one another.

Tightly coupled systems, on the other hand, where changes affecting one node swiftly affect others, are prone to cascading failures. Usenet was one such system, where an entire newsgroup could be ruined by a spreading flamewar. If a blogger flamed, people could just ignore the blog; when a Usenet user flamed, others got sucked in until the channel was filled with people yelling at each other. (As Nick Denton wrote, the blogosphere “routes around idiots” in a way that Usenet didn’t, because if didn’t depend on the common channel that a Usenet group did.)

Twitter is more like Usenet than blogs, but in many ways it’s worse. Like Usenet it’s tightly coupled. The “retweet,” “comment” and “like” buttons are immediate. A retweet sends a posting, no matter how angry or misinformed, to all the retweeter’s followers, who can then do the same to their followers, and so on, in a runaway chain reaction.

Unlike blogs, little to no thought is required (the character limit discourages it), and in practice very few people even follow the link (if there is one) to “read the whole thing.”  The “block” and “mute” functions on Twitter are intended to protect against Usenet-style flamewars, but to the extent that they work, they also put people in bubbles of similar thinkers, which tends to encourage the spread of misinformation so long as it matches the thinkers’ prejudices.

I more-or-less agree with Glenn’s assessment here. While I’ve curated the lists I follow precisely to avoid the idiots, the retweet function leads to a lot of low-quality viral content. Snark is valued more than substance and I must admit to frequently re-tweeting myself without following the underlying link.

Oddly, President Trump himself has contributed to a lot of this. While I don’t follow his Twitter account, one simply can’t engage in political—or even foreign policy/national security—Twitter without getting an inordinate amount of his content in one’s feed. Mostly, this is in the form of quote tweets where people append snarky, virtue-signaling comments of their own atop the President’s. It’s rather exhausting.

Then again, the Trump effect has damaged media writ large. I’ve cut way down on listening to my favorite foreign policy podcasts, for example, because they’ve become so predictable. 45-60 minutes of “Trump is so awful” gets exhausting even when one agrees that Trump is indeed awful. Indeed, because Trump is inevitably the subject of pretty much every post, it’s been hard for me to muster the energy to blog the last couple of years. It all feels so repetitive. And futile, since those inclined to oppose the President are just having their views reinforced and those inclined to oppose him seem oblivious to evidence.

Worse yet, the heaviest users of Twitter are journalists and political operatives. They tend to have lots of short episodes of downtime — waiting on hold or in line for a congressional hearing, say — and fill them with Twitter. There’s a big psychic reward to issuing a bon mot — usually a put-down — and being cheered for it by your friends and political allies. But the end result is a lot of off-the-cuff meanness. Few tweeters even follow the links they retweet to read beyond the headline. And spending hours a day in this environment can’t help but affect their other work.

Some say the sharp partisanship we see on Twitter from allegedly objective journalists is a useful revelation: Finally, we’re seeing their true selves. While there’s some truth to that, I also think that Twitter actually makes people meaner and less thoughtful. People I’ve followed both on Facebook and Twitter are generally much meaner on Twitter, where they’re in the political arena, than on Facebook, where their friends and family are a big part of the audience.

These are interesting observations and there’s something to them. While I have many more conversations with fellow national security professionals on Twitter, Facebook is the venue where I have the best exposure to Trump supporters. By “best” I mean that, because they’re people I went to school or went to war with, it’s much harder to dismiss them as bigots and jerks.

I don’t mean to give Twitter all the blame, as our political discourse has been getting worse for some time. But it does seem that its decline steepened sharply around the time Twitter appeared.

This isn’t a call for banning Twitter. But it is a suggestion that maybe our time is better spent elsewhere. Since I got off Twitter, I’ve filled the downtime I used to fill with tweeting by going what I did pre-Twitter, reading novels on the Kindle app on my phone. It’s better, and I’m happier.

Because I have so much valuable interaction with others in my field on the platform that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere, leaving Twitter isn’t a serious consideration for me. On balance, I don’t find it nearly as much “a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt” as Glenn.

I do, however, share his closing concern that it can be an unproductive time suck. Whereas blogging often led to my writing longer-form essays that I published elsewhere, Twitter often gets my instant reactions to news and unfolding conversations out of my system in a way that leaves behind no meaningful work product. I need to do better at striking a balance on that front.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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.

Comments

  1. For all the preening in his column, I seem to recall that Reynolds’ original justification for leaving Twitter was due to its alleged, albeit unproven, bias against conservatives, something which quite honestly seems to me just the 21st Century version of the old conservative canards about media bias. A canard that is even harder to take seriously in an era when Fox News Channel is basically nothing more than a propaganda network for the Trump Administration.

    In any case, I tend to agree that the value of Twitter, or any other form of social media, depends on how one uses it. Admittedly, it is easy to get sucked in by the trolls and the idiots and thus create the time suck you refer to. That’s one reason I too have been relying more in recent years on Twitter Lists that tend to filter out the noise. Nonetheless, much like Michael Corleone after the casino attack in Godfather III, I still find myself get sucked into what are ultimately dumb arguments with people I’ll never meet, many of whom are either obvious trolls or people not worth wasting time on. I do what I can to avoid that, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    I do, however, share his closing concern that it can be an unproductive time suck.

    No kidding. I’m on Twitter primarily as a way to communicate to fans. If they weren’t there, I wouldn’t be, either. I’ve stopped using Facebook altogether and never got into Instagram. The signal to noise ratio makes all social media injurious to a properly-functioning brain. In mainstream media the signal to noise ration might be 1:1 but in social media it’s 1:100. On a good day. At some point you just have to realize you’re eating way too much sugar and not enough real food.

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  3. grumpy realist says:

    Heh. I’ve gotten a bit more into Facebook, but that’s partly because I’ve joined a financial/pay-down-debt group. Quite small, very positive, and we all keep trying to send good vibes to each other. Most of the other Facebook stuff I ignore aside from friends talking about DIY projects and pix of children/pets. (All of my international friends seem to use Facebook more for travel pix and foodie pix. We chat a lot.)

    Twitter? Never touched it, and have no inclination to start. I must be getting old, because the idea of something where I keep telling people where I am and what I’m doing just gives me the chills. How many of people who use Twitter were brought up by helicopter parents and never got over it?

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    When Twitter first came out I signed on and used it for a specific purpose – coordinating a dozen people who were all attending the same trade show. It was moderately useful for that. I haven’t found it to be useful in any way since. Quick takes and Hot takes and the instantaneous response are worse than worthless, they are actually harmful to discourse. Take this as “Get off my lawn”, if you want, but in the word of my eternally wise mother “If [insert friend’s name here] jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

    FWIW, here are how I rank news sources:

    New York Times – Long form journalism, huge staff, limitless collection of stringers around the world, journalistic standards

    The Atlantic – More editorial in nature than NYT but some of the same strengths

    NPR – Long form journalism in radio format, journalistic ethics, fairly large pool of reporters and stringers

    Specialty Blogs – TPM, OTB and a few others. Intense focus on a narrow band of issues but are only useful if you have a thorough background on general issues.

    Washington Post – Even a few years ago I felt they engaged in BothSiderism to ludicrous extents, in an effort to protect their home town sales. (It’s always safer for a news organization to report what “Dems said” or what the “Repubs said” than to take a side on whether the sky is blue or up is down.)

    —– Grey Zone —-
    Comedians – Starting with John Stewart, certain comedians have become useful sources for learning about issues. John Oliver, Samatha Bee and Trevor Noah lead this pack. But… comedians.

    Network TV News – They spend billions of dollars a year on expensive location footage and give literally 12 seconds to major issues. Not really useful, but may not be actually harmful. I made a conscious decision not to watch when I was in my early twenties and only regretted it a few times, and those were in the twentieth century. Since I now can get video of anything important from the internet, I don’t feel there is any useful content from this source.

    Cable News other than Fox – I used to like CNN when I stayed in a hotel. Major news of the day with some depth repeated every hour or so, and few in depth special reports. Now, as near as I can tell, it’s mostly panels of people whose jobs it is to appear on panels and talk about whatever is put in front of them. No real experts, no real discussion of major events.

    —– Actually Harmful ——
    Facebook – What can I say, if you get you get your news from a bot you are asking for trouble

    Twitter – see comments above

    Fox News – Nothing more needs to be said than that a number of studies has shown that people who watch Fox are actually less informed about purely factual items than people who don’t consume any news media whatsoever. That’s quite an accomplishment.

    Bringing up the rear are all the lunatic web sites out there, both political and ones that are simply stupid-making, like anti-vaxxer, creationist, and flat earth sites.

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  5. KM says:

    While there’s a certain “get off my lawn” quality to we oldsters lamenting the good old days, I share Glenn’s nostalgia for the state of the blogosphere as it was from roughly 2002-2006. There was a communal quality to it that’s long since disappeared and there was indeed, at least among the blogs that I followed, a tendency to “follow the link” and “read the whole thing.”

    That’s the selection bias and nostalgia filter hitting hard. Back in the day, access to the internet was more limited (dial-up if you were lucky in some parts of the country) and blogs were things you had to be in the know about. Your average Joe still thought having an internet anything was super peachy keen and would definitely help boost your career / life / sales instead of just assuming it was a basic part of your daily life. Readership would have be limited to the truly interested instead of the causal observer that stumbles across the site. If you went to a site like this back in the early 200’s, it was because you really cared about the subject, wanted to learn more and discuss it with peers. You didn’t show up just to sh^tpost or get some lols as that would have been a waste of your precious internet time (possibly limited by data usage or time).

    Compare the concept to things like research journals that used to be limited to a select clientele behind barriers you may not even know existed (JStor et al) vs papers now being published online for any ole schmuck to read and have an opinion on. Or how about Facebook back when you needed a college address to sign up? Back when it was in the hands of people you’d think would be prime trolls, FB wasn’t the hot mess it is now because it was limited to people who understood it’s intended purpose and didn’t see a need to subvert it for kicks. You know why you don’t bring kids to a fancy black-tie event? Because they don’t see the value of behaving according to the expected standards of the event if they are even capable of it. Self-selection and community standards have their purpose.

    Once the world opened up to include everyone whenever they wanted to participate, we realized some basic facts of life: not only do true assholes exist and they want in on the fun but people will embrace their inner asshole if you allow them privacy and seemingly consequence-free environments. These people have always acted like this but now they have the ability to behave horribly wherever, whenever. GIFT has been recognized since the very beginning but the more you give access to the average schmuck, the more they will prove to you that they are an average schmuck. Twitter’s purpose it’s to let the schmucks be schmucks and post whatever fleeting thought is running through their head. Of course, it’s going to be a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt – that’s what is in there for a good chunk of the population!

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    I agree with all of that. I add a few things you didn’t name-check like Axios, Politico and Daily Beast, but I suspect you read those as well. Like you I rate comedians as helpful, not for the news as news, but for angles. It’s what comics do – think about things in a different way, with a different goal.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:

    Twitter’s purpose it’s to let the schmucks be schmucks and post whatever fleeting thought is running through their head. Of course, it’s going to be a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt – that’s what is in there for a good chunk of the population!

    Well said. Twitter exists to slap the idealism right out of you and remind you that people are worse than you ever suspected.

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  8. Barry says:

    I find this funny both because Twitter seems made for Glean (‘Heh’, ‘Indeed’), and because he helped to dumb down the blogosphere back in the years after 9/11.

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  9. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds :

    Twitter exists to slap the idealism right out of you and remind you that people are worse than you ever suspected.

    If there’s anything good to come from the upsurge in online filth and bile we’ve seen in the last decade, it will be a permanent reminder to mankind that yes, we’re jerks. All of us, no exceptions. People are terrible in their natural state. The entire point of civilization is to create rules and structure to keep our inherent jerkiness down so we don’t ruin everything. We didn’t create civilization because it was awesome or for progress or even for a laugh – we did it to be able to live in groups of more then one.

    I’m an optimist in that I believe in the inherent goodness of the human soul and that it will shine through if it can. It’s that goodness that made civilization and all its gifts come about – we recognized our jerkiness and built systems to contain it. We understand that we suck and want to be better as a whole. It just that those systems get corrupted and need to be replaced often – kinda like diapers. Twitter and it’s bile are nothing that haven’t been whispered in corners for millennia – it’s just out now for the whole world to see. This too shall pass and be replaced with something else we will be appalled by shortly. C’est la vie, non?

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Twitter is definitely a time-sink.
    But without it we wouldn’t be watching the POTUS obstruct justice and meltdown in real time. For that alone it is priceless.
    I’m pretty discriminate in who I follow; journalists I respect, writer’s, legal experts, a few pundits, (Frum, Favreau, Lovett) F1 and MotoGP.
    Still…yeah, it’s a time-sink.

    FWIW…You might want to check out Seth Abramson’s Twitter feed if you want a big picture, contextual view of the Russia investigation.

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  11. Jen says:

    I remember when Twitter had just started, people were scratching heads wondering what the utility was of people letting others know what they were having for lunch (an inordinate number of early tweets mentioned the most mundane daily detail). It’s now one of the best if not the best source for breaking news (by that I mean, learning of it quickly–quality is something separate).

    I have mixed feelings about it. Of course, it is full of horrible people who hide behind screen names and dish out heaps of abuse. On the other hand, it can be really funny and very entertaining. Like this…if you follow the accidental link created in the Guliani tweet he references.

    ETA: and honestly, seeing stuff like this? It keeps me going some days.

    https://twitter.com/dodo/status/1069638393062133761

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCRZZC-DH7M

    All we can do is keep on dancing.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    I’ve found that I’ve moved more to twitter of late, since my brothers have become more active on Facebook, posting their Trumpy memes.

    Facebook needs a no-Trumpy-memes option. A this-person-is-family-so-I-can’t-just-block-them-and-I-want-pictures-of-the-pets-and-nieces-but-hide-their-appalling-politics mode.

    Same goes for my best friends brother in law — nice guy, smart as a whip, funny, and with an unfortunate tendency to post every single article from the Onion about Trump to Facebook. It gets boring and repetitive. I want the good stuff, not the boring and repetitive stuff.

    Instead, I just check it way less.

    And poke about on Twitter under an assumed name, with a more carefully curated list of follows.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: I think you underrate The Washington Post, and overrate the New York Times.

    The New York Times works too hard to maintain cozy relationships with Republicans in power, and lets them set and distort the agenda too much (Iraq War 2 is a prime example, as was the focus on Clinton’s emails). Meanwhile, the Washington Post just kind of says “Fvck it” and puts “Democracy dies in darkness” on their masthead and starts calling lies lies.

    When The NY Times is good, they are better than anyone else. But when they are bad… they cause real damage.

    Also, John Oliver’s long segments are the best reported news on television. This shouldn’t be the case, since he is just a comedian, but his staff is excellent.

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  15. Jen says:

    @Gustopher: Can’t you click on “hide posts like this”–I think this helps to train the algorithm. I am a heavy user of the “snooze person X for 30 days” feature, and after doing that a few times with one person in particular, and only responding/liking the pictures of cute puppies and such…I now see far less of the random nonsense that you mention.

    It does take time and effort though, and honestly I’m pretty much over Facebook. Were it not so convenient to coordinate local groups I’m in, I’d probably be off of it for good.

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  16. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Mr. Reynolds was the guy that asked people to run over people demonstrating a police killing. He is a poor choice for lecturing people about civility.

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  17. Kathy says:

    Early on I checked it out adn dind’t quite get it (I still don’t). the use of abbreviations and hash tags and “@” symbols made the posts (messages?) look like an arcane Antarctic dialect. I was left in the position of Lisa Simpson in an old ep where she says of a sign “I understand the words, but the sentence has no meaning.” And so it remains to this day.

    I feel like I dodged a bullet.

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  18. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kathy: Twitter improved a lot since they increased the character limit. There are no more abbreviations and things like that. And people are forced to be succinct. 😉

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  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the chief problem with social media in general and Twitter in specific is that they make it too easy for strangers to jump into other people’s networks uninvited. That is, if Dr. Joyner makes a tweet, I can respond to it, and it will show up to everyone following Joyner, even though none of them asked to follow me. And if some of them respond, it shows up to everyone following me, quickly creating a positive reinforcement spiral of strangers who don’t actually want to talk to each other imposing themselves on other strangers.

    If my response to Joyner’s only showed up to MY followers, I think 90% of the vitriol on Twitter would disappear overnight.

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  20. Kathy says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Maybe so. But judging by El Cheeto, they let any twit Tweet.

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yep. There are a fair number of other sites I check once a day or so, but as far as political blogs go, TPM and OTB are my go-tos.

    I should plug a non-political blog here for people like myself that enjoy knowing way too much detail about obscure things (I’m looking at you, Kathy): futilitycloset.com. In addition to the website they have a podcast, but if you go that route start with the latest ones. The couple that does it had a pretty steep learning curve the first year or so before they sounded more or less professional. If you get hooked, then you can go back and start from the beginning.

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher:

    Meanwhile, the Washington Post just kind of says “Fvck it” and puts “Democracy dies in darkness”

    I agree that in the last two years they have become a much better paper.

    I would still argue, that in terms of raw news gathering ability, outside of US politics they can’t touch the NYT. For the places I know something about (China and Ghana), I can verify their reporting is truly unique for a non-specialist publication.

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  23. EddieInCA says:

    I have a twitter account, but I haven’t tweeted for years, and I only signed up because I could actually get my name. Back in the day, I would sign up for every service soon as I heard of it in order to get my name. I had my name on Hotmail, gmail, aol, twitter, yahoo, netscape, earthlink, and a few others. I never signed up for Facebook because there was no way to grab my name and have it be solely mine.

    So I’m a luddite in some ways. No Facebook. Twitter account but no tweets. No Instagram. No Snapchat. No Tumblr. No social media, despite that it would be very good for my career. But I’ve managed thus far without them, and see no reason to change.

    Now get off my lawn!

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  24. Mikey says:

    My assessment of the major social media platforms.

    Facebook: Look at my life.
    Instagram: Look at my life, isn’t it pretty?
    Snapchat: Look at my life but only for 21 seconds.
    Twitter: Look at my life and HOLY SHIT WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE

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  25. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I should plug a non-political blog here for people like myself that enjoy knowing way too much detail about obscure things (I’m looking at you, Kathy)

    Me? Well, did you know one of Napoleon’s grandnephews was instrumental in founding the FBI? Funny where Corsican politics can lead, eh?

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  26. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: [Off Topic] Now that is a Futility Closet web post at the very least!

    To my mind, the most “Futility Closet”-like podcast from their series is one from the first year, so it’s a little rough in terms of can-I-take-their-delivery?. It follows their usual format of 15 min or so on a major item, followed by some followup on previous stories and closing with a lateral thinking puzzle. The major item is a body discovered more than a half century ago on an Australian beach. The body itself is mysterious, the circumstances leading up to its discovery is mysterious, and it all reads like something Ian Fleming might have sketched out for a book he never wrote. They came back to it in a few later episodes as more facts are unearthed.

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  27. mattbernius says:

    Because I have so much valuable interaction with others in my field on the platform that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere, leaving Twitter isn’t a serious consideration for me. On balance, I don’t find it nearly as much “a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt” as Glenn.

    This is pretty much my position. Its been incredibly useful to me — especially coming up to speed in a completely new focus area (criminal justice).

    That said, part of the reason its useful is Tweetdeck’s ability to curate content via lists (I hardly follow anyone and almost never use Twitter proper).

    And since I’m a “nobody” I don’t have to worry about people picking fights with me.

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  28. Richard Gardner says:

    I mostly use Twitter for public safety updates, such as road conditions in the winter, and the local fire department. It is good for breaking new, but is sometimes too raw/rough = wrong (but better than nothing). I follow a couple of local politicians who rarely tweet, but nothing national.

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  29. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Now that is a Futility Closet web post at the very least!

    It’s one of the odd facts I know that blew my mind when I found it. There’s a whole branch of Bonapartes in the US.

    I’m not currently looking for new podcasts. Between those I already follow, and the audio books I’ve got in my pile, I’ve more than enough.

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  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: Until I retired about 3 years ago, my answer to people about why I was not on Facebook was that my real life was busy enough that I had no time for a virtual one. Still don’t do social media–posting comments here is about the most social thing I do beyond going out for coffee with a friend once or twice a week. Still, it is mildly amusing to watch a group several people who have gone out to be with each other staring blankly at there smartphone screens.

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  31. Kathy says:

    One thing I like about OTB, is that one can read the comments section, and in fact often get an intelligent conversation.

    The usual comments section on most blogs these days is like an open sewer in a town perpetually afflicted with horrible intestinal disorders.

    From what I’ve read in this post and the comments, Twitter is like an open, ongoing comments thread without any attempt at moderation.

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  32. Tyrell says:

    I do not use Twitter, Instagram, Face Book, My Space, Your Space, My Book, etc. I value my privacy. I would advise parents to monitor their children’s on line activities. Once things like photos get out they can’t get them back. Third graders now have cell phones and iPads.
    Trying to get away from Google is like trying to get away from sales calls.

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  33. Teve says:

    To be more charitable, the GOP is greedy assholes lying to people who don’t know any better.

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  34. Teve says:

    @Kathy: your comments are usually good, and I certainly appreciate them. OTB is the only place I comment, because the commenters here are unusually good. I think this is because liberals want to engage with smart conservatives and have few opportunities.

    I don’t read Doug’s pieces because they’re too wordy and I frequently disagree with James, but they’re not dummies.

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  35. Given that Glenn’s blogging was essentially tweeting, I find this kind of funny.

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  36. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    your comments are usually good, and I certainly appreciate them.

    Likewise. I feel I tend to get too historical too often.

    BTW, and more on topic, sort of, I found this blog on Facebook. I was following someone who was FB friends with Doug, and occasionally there’d be likes to links to OTB.

    I’ve found other interesting people and things on FB as well, like Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast.

    So social media isn’t all bad.

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