Andy Greenwald, in a post that’s really about the show Louie, diagnoses the tweetosphere:
“We live in an era of opinions. In the Internet economy — in which I am a loyal and grateful participant! — loud voices are more than just currency, they’re coal. The Outrage Industrial Complex burns all day and all night with Twitter as its blistering engine room. A constant stream of fuel is necessary to keep the entire enterprise afloat, and so any event, be it the collapse of a government or the cancellation of a sitcom, is greeted with a near instantaneous torrent of reaction. Though the appeal of the virtual yawp can be undeniably intoxicating, I’m gradually finding it less and less tolerable. It’s no secret that nuance and doubt are rarely retweeted, but as Twitter has metastasized, its vaunted panoply of voices has grown more strident and, oddly, more unified — not in their positions but in their ravenous insistence on having one. It’s become less a conversation and more a crusade. Being silent is far worse than being wrong.”
This is my experience as well, though I’m not so sure about that last bit. I stay silent on a lot of things, partly because of my job, and partly because I don’t necessarily want to burn along with the rest of the coals, or whatever Strong Feeling I have about something has already been expressed by someone else, and better than I would have. And I don’t feel judged for this.
The one kernel of truth I find is that, if anything, having been silent, it makes it all the more apparent when I’m not. And then it’s not so much that I’d be coal, but something far worse: fresh meat. To some group of folks or other, I’d have the Wrong Opinion which would instantly render me a Bad Person, and they would let me know. A lot.
Freddie deBoer, in a post that’s really about reading, seems to get at this:
“You’re doing it wrong” is the internet’s truest, most genuine expression of itself. For whatever reason, the endless exposure to other people’s minds has made the vague feeling that someone, somewhere, is judging you into the most powerful force in the world.
Silly, isn’t it? I know it’s real people behind those tiny avatars, but they’re so removed, there’s no real idea of who they are. And even if you also know them personally, the Twitter experience is so ephemeral, yet perceieved sins seem to last forever.