Time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write. Good coffee makes for good writing, I believe, and better coffee makes for better writing. But writing is different now and I have lived to see a couple of changes in the way writing is done, and how reading is done, too. Rolling with these changes can be a bit tricky, and it is not enough now to know your audience, but you also must know the medium as well, for now, the medium in which you express yourself will define the audience that you reach, and most importantly, how that audience will react.
Twitter is the fifty word novel of social media writing. A writer is constrained from deep explanation or meaning and instead goes for the sound bite and the punchline type writing. Twitter is superficial to the point of being nearly meaningless, and before you rise to defend this site remember most commercials on television are make for an audience they know they can reach in thirty seconds, with ten seconds of that being staccato fast disclaimers being spoken in a near whisper. The level of dishonesty and deception that can be delivered very quickly is amazing and is it simple. Writing deeper requires your audience to think about what has been offered, and often it requires time to consider the level of veracity. Also, there are these thoughts:
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
There is a lot to unpack in this quote. Rarely, very rarely, on social media are there those who will consider deeply those opinions they do not themselves hold and hold dearly. Entrenched positions are defended from any thought or idea, or words, that might not perfectly match those being held as the one word of truth.
Humans, particularly those who were raised by television while their parents were preoccupied, were trained to think of good versus evil, all issues black and white, and this is to the detriment of gray areas where both sides meet and build compromise for the greater good. One team scored more points, or killed more of the other side, or had more weapons, or goods, or food, and that side was the one who won the argument, irrespective of the truth. Our American culture reflects this quite strongly in our past, first with the Natives who suffered genocide, then the other colonists who were on the same continent, and finally, the enslaved people who were freed suffered the fate of those who lost. Only great political and cultural upheaval has forced change upon those in power who from profited from this system.
Now, on social media, anger is the weapon of choice. It is not preferable to debate an issue, to look upon all sides of it, no. Now, only anger will do, and once again, those who express the most power, who get the most reactions in their favor, have “won”. No issue is decided by anything short of brute force in the form of the cyber version of pitchforks and torches.
It’s important to remember the users of social media have decided to join a culture where anger is the weapon of choice in interaction between members who disagree. It is entirely within their power to commit to change.
The ability to chance will be drive by the desire to change. The emotional feedback loop, of a group of people continuously agreeing with one another, and reacting in anger to all others, will grow stronger and more resistant to change. Moreover, it will become refined, stronger, with those in the group who are less fervent being attacked by those who are more radical, and the process will continue until what was once seen as fringe beliefs become mainstream.
Compromise and loyal opposition are eliminated quickly in this process, until nothing is left to talk about.
In closing, this is a cultural phenomenon. It can be changed, not without some conflict, and it will require an effort. But as the use of anger as the primary means of communication spreads, we will all become human beings, caught in traffic, impatient to get to where we are going, readily blaming someone for getting in our way, blowing our horns, raising our middle fingers, and still going nowhere.