Dec 062010

I confess, I’m a bit of a twitter tragic.

There’s something about the almost real-time engagement with likeminded persons which reminds me so very much of the early days of the internet, building relationships online, discussion forums and genuine debates, IRC (internet relay chat) and so on that I find very appealing.
There is also the darker side of the online medium, which is anything but social. The propensity for the ideological demagogues in the ether to launch vitriolic attacks against anyone they perceive to be their ideological opposites, from the anonymity of a pseudonym and safety of an unknown and virtually unknowable location. Personal attacks, aimed at the individual, not the individual’s beliefs, which in and of itself is not only bewildering in its irrationality, but illogical in its context. Insult & abuse of the individual, simply because it’s possible to put whatever one pleases into the ether, via a medium like twitter, without fear of retribution. Absolutely mindless stuff. One has to ask, what are these people doing with their time, apart from libelling – dare I describe it as defaming – people they don’t know, refuse to make the effort to discover, and will never meet in real life? Certainly not productively earning a dollar. To what purpose? Self-aggrandisement? That seems the only possible reason. I have thought that for some, it’s the expression of an inferiority complex or out of intellectual fear of the one being attacked. One has to ask about the personalities of those so inclined if that’s the high point of their existence.
I have twitter running under my normal suite of software during my average working day, with the little notification windows popping up from time to time. 90% of what I see is absolute garbage, especially issuing from the #auspol hashtag. Now, I’m a proponent for the individual’s opinion being sacrosanct to the individual. We’re all entitled to hold whatever opinions we choose on any subject. We’re not obliged to accept opinions of others simply because they feel ours to be faulted. We should, if called upon, be capable of defining why we hold a given opinion, but at the same time, not obliged to do so as a means of providing the other with what amounts to some perverse form of sport. The art of rational discussion and debate between adults requires skill, a willingness to engage and a certain level of common courtesy. What is the point of putting one’s opinion into cyberspace, fully anticipating opinions both like and unlike, if one is not prepared to engage those opinions? This petty modus operandi of the mindlessly inept of replying to every tweet with an acerbic ad hominem which means nothing to anyone, not even the author strikes me as the epitome of futility and waste. If one wishes to only read like opinions, then put a monitor up to a mirror and read back one’s own?
Of course, I fully realise why the mindlessly inept do what they do. It’s all a part of claiming ownership of a specific part of what they see as their private stomping ground. A virtual pissing contest, where the loser is expected to retire from the pissing wall. Thing is, it never works. Oh, yes, the continual pissers will note the absence of someone they believe they’ve abused into oblivion as some sort of virtual victory, however the reality is completely different. The rational person won’t sit around being pissed at, more probably will simply ignore the pisser. The beauty of twitter in that regard being that no-one knows when you’re on & when you’re not, until you put something into the medium. It’s very easy to appear to not be ‘there’, when in fact you are ‘there’ all the while, which makes the exercise of pissing up the virtual wall to see who can go highest, irrelevant. In the final analysis, just how valuable is a piece of virtual real estate where all the thoughts are identical anyway? Such places always atrophy. On IRC, conversely, one could always tell who was online, when and in what channel or room. No hiding possible for the socially challenged. Perhaps that’s why the ideologically challenged prefer the vacant space which twitter provides, and explains to a certain degree the habit of these types to cheer each other on. Misery loves company, apparently.
There are also an extraordinary number of users of online media, whatever format, not necessarily twitter, who simply do not understand the basic protocol of rational discussion between adults, or the definitions of logical fallacy. I’m sure there are places of rational discussion on twitter, but I’m yet to find one. That’s more than likely due to the medium itself. It’s completely unregulated, save at the individual level. There are no rules of engagement and anarchy is the order of the day, every day. So, one has to ask, what is the purpose of twitter as a means of engagement? I don’t see any. If there is one, I’d really like someone to point it out. What is the purpose of even attempting engagement when potential interlocutors are only interested in how far up a wall they can spray their particular brand of ethereal urine?
Yes, I like twitter. It’s a fun medium to spend the odd ten minutes in and perhaps sharing a chuckle or blog post address in. As for its usefulness as a genuine social medium, to use the vernacular, it’s a big, fat #FAIL.

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