The Internet is all aflutter about the future of Twitter. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bought the social media platform for $44 billion. Many liberals fear the twitter-sphere may soon become a conservative medium. It will be the new Fox news, where ideas may circulate freely without being canceled.
Twitter is a platform on which members can post mini-messages of 280 characters (a tweet) on their personal pages. These postings also appear as tweets on the pages of followers. Thus, those with thousands of followers (which so many try to do) will have a vast number of tweets appearing on their pages that far exceeds their capacity to absorb them.
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However, the goal is not to read all tweets but to monitor a personal page for interesting tweets, pictures and memes. The Twitter experience is like constantly reading headlines to get a general idea of what is happening inside each person’s Twitter world.
Twitter has definitely impacted the world. Public figures use it to announce monumental things, programs, candidacies and decisions. The Trump presidency revolved around his tweets. However, Twitter has also joined the cancel culture, and its algorithms send conservatives to Twitter jail.
Is It a Victory?
By buying Twitter, Mr. Musk puts all options on the table as he promises a “politically neutral” digital town square. He will open up the “black box” of artificial intelligence tools and algorithms that many claim discriminate against them.
Many rejoice over Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter as a victory for free speech and public discourse. On the left, liberals frame the debate as opening the door to undefined “hate speech” and “misinformation.”
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However, in addition to the message, the debate should also be about the medium. It should address the platform’s harmful effects. This perspective is missing much to the detriment of the nation.
The Medium Delivers the Wrong Message
Twitter is not just any social media site oriented toward the frenetic intemperance of postmodern lifestyles. Its problem is being a superficial medium for the functions it has assumed. Complex issues should not be discussed through 280-character impulses. Announcements should be surrounded with decorum so that people might give them the importance they deserve.
The Twitter platform is everything that is not needed in today’s frenzied culture. Its 280-character mini-messages cannot delve deeply into the matters of the day. America needs serious commentary, not shallow remarks. Things should be pondered over time, not glossed over in seconds. People need to slow down and not rush through the day’s news.
Everything about Twitter invites people to irreflection, superficiality, rashness and selfishness. The platform capitalizes on the moment’s sensation and ever greater desires for more stimuli, likes and retweets.
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A Portal for Inappropriate Content
Another problem with Twitter is its content. Many see the new management of Twitter as a victory for the conservatives who suffered censorship on the platform. Mr. Musk promises to open up Twitter to all who wish to tweet.
Indeed, the new Twitter may serve to spread the conservative message better. However, it is also a portal for most inappropriate content, obscene images and vulgar memes that corrupt their viewers and drag down the culture. The nature of the medium allows such things to appear on the screen instantly as posts and reposts circulate freely.
Thus, any celebration of Twitter’s new management must also recognize that bad content circulates on Twitter in addition to good. Such content harms young and old alike as they navigate cyberspace’s dangerous shallows.
Mr. Musk’s emphasis on “free speech absolutism” does nothing to address the immoral content that drowns so many people. Many others are addicted to the dopamine rush caused when users receive likes and retweets from others. The freeing of Twitter may have some limited benefits to the conservative cause. However, it also means an even broader uncensored license for all who will use it for immoral or stimulating messages and images.
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Much Ado About Nothing
However, the most important reason why the new Twitter is much ado about nothing is the emptiness of the Twitter world. The shallow messages of social media cannot compare with social relationships in a community. Its pithy messages can never be a forum for real discussion. The dopamine rush of its likes is no substitute for happiness.
Twitter is so characteristic of these hollow times. The tweet is but a flitting shadow in the lives of countless individuals who waste their time in irreflection. The platform feeds those stimulus-driven lifestyles that prove to be exhausting and meaningless.
Free or censored, Twitter offers little to this world in crisis and suffering. The world needs the much deeper platforms found in the family, community and Church to help lost and wandering souls find their ways in the postmodern wasteland. These are the things that no tweet can replace.