I’ve tended to steer clear of full blown arguments on the Twitter.
Initially skeptical about the whole medium- the name is silly, and 140 characters? what can you possibly say in that? – there’s an addictive aspect to it which I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on.
I treat it like a mix of – for professional reasons – a kind of informal wire service, notifying me of what is going on, especially economically and politically, as well as being a casual passing conversation.
It is, now I write it down like that, an odd mix.
NZ comedian Michelle A’Court recently described it as like being at a party: you can dip into or out of conversations as you like, move on when you find them boring or offensive or you spot something more interesting.
Oh, and there’s often someone starting a fight somewhere.
I’ve tended to steer clear of those. Firstly, my own rule for online arguments (which I know I haven’t always stuck to) is take whatever you would say to someone face to face, and try to tone it down by around 15% or so.
Face to face, a smile, a lift of the eyebrow, or just the tone of voice, can soften words which, on the screen, look stark and harsh.
Also, some people are just arseholes behind a keyboard.
The other reason is sheer time management. A ruthless application of the LTS Rule is necessary when dealing with social media.
There is this addictive, compelling quality to online arguments. It isn’t just Twitter – it happens on Facebook, it used to happen on usenet. The bullshit is still bullshit, it just goes by different names.
Not all participants get sucked into it, but those who do tend to make Robert Maxwell look like a piker when it comes to going overboard.
To adapt a Douglas Adams concept, Twitter becomes a kind of Total Lack Of Perspective Vortex and otherwise intelligent and charming people completely lose it.
There’s been a recent meltdown on the NZ Twitterzone: if you don’t know about it, don’t worry – the details are very boring and in any case there will probably be another one along shortly.
The dignified, as Paul Weller once warbled, don’t even enter into the game.
If you want to know, though, feel free to search “twitterarti”.
Go ahead. Block yourself out.
This particular meltdown was a bit more meta: it was triggered by a story by a journalist who wrote a piece a month or so back about the ‘Twitterarti’ – a piece which caused some deep resentments amongst folk who spend a lot of time on the medium. Somehow – I have no idea how, I haven’t analysed it closely and I have no intention of doing so – it mutated into a row over gender politics and it all went horribly wrong.
The only observation I’d make is that if you’re taking any criticism of Twitter interactions as a personal attack, then perhaps you’re wrapping up way too much of your identity and self-worth in the medium.
As for arguments online generally: they work fine on less emotional topics. I’ve had some great, and often quite fiery, discussions over monetary policy and the like in various forums*.
Get into something with more emotional hot-buttons – and anything relating to gender issues is guaranteed to have plenty of those – and it is Meltdown Ahoy. Any discussion is just not going to end well.
It is bad enough discussing such issues in real life. On the line? Hoo Boy.
It does get like the piece quoted above about arguments online: the T-Rex-With-An-Erection mix of surreal fury.
There’s another aspect of online discussions which makes these things worse.
To return to Michelle A’Court’s analogy of a party, someone having a casual discussion at a social gathering can make a verbal statement, be challenged: the matter can be discussed and people are perhaps more inclined to modify their initial position.
Online, any initial position is written down. there’s something less movable about a written statement than a verbal one.
This is particularly so because there is always someone going “but you said […..fill in slightly loose or flippant or ill-thought comment here].”
Avoid, mostly. As written here a week or so back about the Rugby World Cup over-kill: perspective is all.
Anyway, here’s the Jam, for those who have picked up on the allusions to their final single during this post.
- No, you get a life.