Twitter Is a Living Nightmare Full of In-Jokes and People Who Are Too Loud and Too Rude

From a column, “Twitter Is Real Life,” by Charlie Warzel in the New York Times:

For the better part of a year I’ve been hearing the same refrain. Friends, colleagues, peers and respected pollsters have cautioned: Twitter is not real life.

What they’re trying to say is that the political opinions expressed on Twitter don’t usually match the opinions of people in America at large, both in intensity and proportion. Most often it feels like a warning from members of the Extremely Online media to itself. . . .

The “Twitter is not real life” people have a few solid arguments in their favor. As the Times analysis shows, the politically hyper-engaged and more radical tend to share opinions on Twitter. Similarly, Pew Research polling from last year showed that those on Twitter are “younger and more likely to be Democrats than the general public. Most users rarely tweet, but the most prolific 10% create 80% of tweets from adult U.S. users.”

Still, the notion that Twitter isn’t real life is untrue. There’s the obvious literal sense. Twitter is a real-world platform and is used by very real humans. . . .

One way to read my “Twitter is real life” argument, then, is that elites’ opinions aren’t in step with America, but it doesn’t matter because they’re more influential. That Twitter is dominated by political and media elites who have outsize power and that the narratives they write 280 characters at a time dictate our political reality. There’s a slice of that argument that’s true. The conversation that takes place on Twitter often programs the media; that commandeering of broad voter attention sets political agendas and grants certain candidates outsize power. . . .

For politics, Twitter is a living nightmare. It’s overly simplistic, and too prone to flattened discourse and protracted, useless fights. It’s full of in-jokes and cliques and factions and a small number of people who are too loud and too rude. It’s messy as hell with glaring problems that don’t have a whole lot of good fixes.

Sounds a lot like real life.

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