It’s no secret that Twitter’s enforced brevity means people boil down their arguments to their simplest possible forms.
People of all backgrounds and worldviews espouse simplistic, binary opinions despite these people being fully aware of how complicated, complex, and nuanced the world really is. Issue X is brilliant. Person Y is satan incarnate.
It’s this refusal to ever admit nuance - to see it as a rhetorical weakness - that means people end up arguing and blocking each other over things they’d probably agree on if they had a conversation about it over coffee.
But being fair, understanding and even handed gets fewer likes and retweets. Just like Facebook and Instagram encourage us to show a glossier version of our real lives, Twitter rewards us for taking extreme positions that may only partly reflect our real opinion. We’ve all become columnists in the world’s worst newspaper.
And probably around 80% of the negative sentiment on Twitter could be avoided if people picked their battles better. Do you have a reason to care about a certain issue, or are you just getting involved because you love the drama? If it’s the latter, why not stop and ask yourself if it isn’t better not to tweet about it at all.
A few nights ago, someone had a go at me on Twitter, asking how I could possibly claim to know anything about technology if I asked a question “like that.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, as I hadn’t asked a question. I calmly probed further, and found out he had completely misread one of my tweets and was picking on me for something I hadn’t said.
For some, this could have turned into war, with him unable to back down and me unable to let go. We’d have ended up blocking each other or having a performative battle in quote-tweets for hours. But no, he realised his mistake and apologised. I ‘liked’ his response, and that was it. Refreshingly simple!
How about in 2019, we all learn to think before we tweet?
Ask yourself: Have you over-simplified what you want to say to put character count over nuance? Could you reword it to avoid confusion?
Is that tweet you’re about to reply to worth your time, or could you just ignore it and get on with your day? The answer is almost always the latter.
Oh and if this message somehow gets to Jack Dorsey, removing retweet and like counts from public view would help immensely – there’s less pressure to 'perform’ for approval if you don’t know as much about what your audience thinks