But to me, at least — and, yes, I acknowledge I’m at the age where I’m losing the battle to keep up with technology — the negatives outweigh the positives. So much on Twitter is frivolous or self-promotional. It can bury you in information. Because people often use Twitter to react to events instantly, they can say some awfully stupid things, as Roddy White, the Atlanta Falcons receiver, did after the George Zimmerman verdict, suggesting in a tweet that the jurors “should go home and kill themselves.”
With its 140-character limit, Twitter exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder: Nothing can be allowed to take more than a few seconds to write or read. [Paul] Kedrosky may prefer Twitter, but I really miss his thoughtful blog. I recently heard Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, bragging that the pope now has a Twitter account. Once, popes wrote encyclicals; now they tweet.
What I object to most of all is that, like other forms of social media, Twitter can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life. For several years, Douglas Kass, the investor and CNBC commentator, regularly tweeted his investment thoughts; with 63,000 followers, he was one of the most popular investment gurus on Twitter. Recently, however, he decided to stop because he had received so many inexplicably nasty messages. People who opposed his investment views denounced him in the foulest language imaginable. “I received several life-threating tweets,” he told me. “I concluded it wasn’t worth navigating the sharks to find the good fish,” he added.
I agree. Blogs surely can be hateful, but it seems to me that the nastiness on blogs is less personal and more performative, whereas hateful tweets are addressed to one’s personal account and can be motivated not just by what the objects of their ire say on Twitter, but by anything about that individual and/or her opinions that someone doesn’t like.
But, then, what the hell to I know? I have a Twitter account, but I opened it only to ensure that no one else grabbed the handle “Historiann.” (Nevertheless, I have Twitter “followers”–followers destined to be disappointed, I’m afraid.) What do the rest of you think about Nocera’s analysis of Twitter?
Besides: once the Vatican opened a Twitter account, didn’t that make it seem kind of over?