And Now It's Twitter That's Evil

from the we-fear-what-we-don't-understand dept

It's amazing how much people fear what they don't understand. Every few years, there's something new to "fear" online -- and it's often backed up by quotes from clueless "experts" who buy into the fear rather than understanding what's actually happening. When the internet was first becoming mainstream in the 90s, there was the hilariously wrong Rimm Report, which had politicians and the media in a big frenzy about how the internet was just a massive den of porn that needed to be stopped. And, of course, more recently there's been similar attention paid to things like violent video games, despite the lack of evidence of any actual damage done to people playing such games. A few years ago, it was blogs that were evil ("an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective"), according to Dan Lyons, who at the time worked for Forbes, and later became famous thanks to his blog

Now, it seems that the main target of today's moral panic is the various social networking sites. Obviously, there's been a lot of trumped up complaints about sexual predators on social networks (despite the fact that, as social networks have become more popular the number of sexual offenses against children has been dropping). However, in the last few months, we've been seeing various weak attacks on social networking from a variety of other perspectives -- often clearly written by folks who haven't actually used the sites in question very much.

There was the claim that girls who used Facebook more often were more depressed, with the implication being that Facebook made them depressed, rather than the fact that those who were depressed may have turned to Facebook to talk to people and relieve their depression. Then there was the ridiculously misleading reports last week, implying that social networks could be harmful to your health, though the real story turned out to be a lot more benign.

The latest is a bit of fascinatingly yellow journalism out of the UK, where a reporter found a bunch of "experts" to opine on why Twitter was only home to insecure losers. There are a bunch of hilarious quotes from people who apparently have never even used the service:
"Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It's a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity." -- clinical psychologist Oliver James

"Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won't cure it." -- cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis

"a way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive. It's like when a parent goes into a child's room to check the child is still breathing. It is a giant baby monitor." -- book author Alain de Botton
The author of the article then goes on to whine about how "mundane" messages on Twitter tend to be -- which is reminiscent of the old complaints about bloggers just blogging about their cats. It's pretty clear that none of these folks have ever really used Twitter -- because they all seem to interpret it as being a broadcast mechanism, rather than a conversational one. This isn't to say that Twitter is right for everyone, but most of the people who find value in it, find value in the conversational aspect of it, not that it "broadcasts" mundane facts of their lives. I know that I've used it to become a lot closer to a number of people, because it allows me not to find out what they had for lunch today, but to converse with them more frequently and with much more depth and insight than I would have had the opportunity otherwise. Sometimes, that's because of direct communications via Twitter, but often it's because of connections created because of Twitter -- such as realizing I'm in the same city at the same time as someone else I'd like to meet. There are still plenty of people who hate Twitter, but it's difficult to take seriously people complaining about it when it seems quite clear they've never even bothered to use it.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: broadcast, conversation, moral panic, social networks
Companies: twitter

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Ro, 23 Feb 2009 @ 6:49pm

    Another ruiner of society

    How about comments on Techdirt. Surely they are just as bad as tweets. I must be leaving this one because of my deep rooted insecurities.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.