Twitter: a bonfire of vanities?

Maybe it is me? Maybe it is the people I follow? Am I alone in thinking Twitter is becoming incredibly self-righteous and censorious? Which is pretty ironic when Twitter is seen as a great democratic tool to spread the word, debate ideas and so on.

Take any issue you care to think of like, say, punishment of the UK rioters or David Starkey’s comments or the EDL holding a march or a politician’s statement on the subject of the day. Within seconds of whatever it is occurring, Twitter becomes a storm of hashtag condemnation, usually with obscenities (or the TLA version like FFS). After a while the subject stops trending and all is quiet until the next time.

What interests me is what happens if you ask Tweeters why they are so outraged. I’ve found there are usually three responses:

  • a small number genuinely understand the issue and are truly upset by it
  • a larger number who just re-tweet whatever it happens to be
  • people who need to show how “on-trend” they are i.e. they need their egos massaging. I politely asked one sensitive soul why they felt like they did and was told “F off C@@@” and then they unfollowed me.
I have two observations to make on this:

  1. It seems to me that if you believe in free speech and open debate it is illogical to oppose other peoples’ right to have it too. For example, I’ve noticed that the “Left” turn into the equivalent of the Tory “Flog ’em and hang ’em brigade” whenever the EDL or BNP are mentioned. While I find both the EDL and the BNP to be odious organisations, I also believe that they have every right to make their case and, hopefully, be totally humiliated in public. However, the point is that free speech has to be for all or it is not free and democracy withers on the vine.
  2. If you tweet an opinion to the whole world then you should expect it to be commented on. Sometimes, people will agree with you and other times they won’t. If you can’t enter into polite debate then don’t tweet. If you can’t handle disagreement then don’t tweet.

About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join the real world. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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