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This Game is Bad for You

By Shamus
on Tuesday Mar 27, 2018
Filed under:
Column

 
 

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. In fact, I did write about this a long time ago. This essay has been sitting in the drafts folder for over a year. I keep meaning to publish it, but then I chicken out. This has been in my “rainy day content” queue for a while nowI’m not suddenly braver today, I’m just out of regular content..

See, the point I want to make has the stench of moral panic about it, and I hate, HATE moral panics. I hate when people start whining about how some awesome new thing is killing us, or corrupting our children, or problematic, or whatever. I’ve lived through periods where middle-aged dunces got themselves worked up over Dungeons and Dragons being Satanic. Rock and Roll is turning teens into hedonists. Videogames are “Murder Simulators”. Smartphones are giving us ear cancer and making us antisocial. I know how obnoxious it is when old people get worked up about New Things.

And yet here I am, 46 years old and wringing my hands over a New Thing.

I don’t want to start a moral panic over this. Instead let’s call it a Moral… “Unease”? “Mild worry”? “It might be good to keep an eye on this”? Whatever. I want to worry about a new thing but I want to do it in a chill and non-confrontational way.

The point is, there’s a game everyone is playing today and it really is bad for you. Having played this game for eight years I can tell you first-hand that it really does impact the way people behave and perceive each other. And I’m not talking about in-game behavior, here. I’m talking about real, lasting consequences in the real world. I’m talking about a game that can actually change the way you see other human beings, and how you treat them. It’s a game that’s genuinely harmful and continues to impact your thoughts and behavior, even after you stop playing it.

The game is Twitter.

“But Shamus, Twitter isn’t a game!”

Right, right. I mean obviously it’s not an actual game. But hear me out.

The Mechanics of Twitter

Welcome to Twitter. Here's a ginormous bandwidth-sucking stock photo of smiling millennials that has nothing to do with the service.

Welcome to Twitter. Here's a ginormous bandwidth-sucking stock photo of smiling millennials that has nothing to do with the service.

Twitter isn’t a game, but it does have some game-like mechanics. It has a system of positive and negative feedback, and it has an implicit goal. It rewards certain behaviors and punishes others, and this feedback drives behavior. Just like the score in Asteroids tells you your goal is to kill ships and asteroids – and not simply to fly around in circles dodging stuff forever – the mechanics of Twitter push you into behaviors you might never otherwise engage in. They also intensify the existing social rewards for negative behaviors. While not part of the deliberate design of the system, these behaviors are actually kind of insidious.

On Twitter, followers and re-tweets are your reward currency. Just as Pac-Man encourages you to eat stuff to accrue points, Twitter encourages you to say things that others will want to repeat, with the ultimate goal of growing your followers.

On paper, this sounds like a brilliant system for encouraging people to say healthy, intelligent, witty, or clever things. If I’d never used Twitter myself, I would incorrectly predict that this would create a system to reward positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. In theory, it sounds like a system that would create harmony and encourage understanding.

And to limited extent, it does. If you say things that are negative, obvious, stupid, or obnoxious, people aren’t likely to share your thoughts. The system is a lot of fun and works basically as intended…

Until you introduce politics.

I'm sure blue cheated. I mean, the only other way he could win is if he was better than red, and that's impossible. I've been cheering for red for years!

I'm sure blue cheated. I mean, the only other way he could win is if he was better than red, and that's impossible. I've been cheering for red for years!

And just to be clear: When I say “politics”, I’m talking about partisan politics. Red v. Blue. Democrats vs. Republicans. (Or whatever the teams are called in your area.) Right vs. Left. Commies vs. Capitalists. Us. vs THEM. Good guys vs. bad guys.

Let’s say there are two factions on Twitter who are embroiled in a long-standing cultural debate: the Purple Team and the Yellow Team. They’re not fighting about which Pokémon is best, or the pronunciation of gifFor technical reasons, it’s actually pronounced “Jiggity-jeff”.. They’re fighting about real-world political stuff that’s deeply personal.

I’m sure you’re already aware of the pull in Twitter towards groupthink. That’s where you’ve got two warring factions. Let’s say we (everyone on this site) is a member of the Purple Party. One day I say something snarky about Yellows and some of them unfollow me, while Purples retweet the joke and I get more Purple followers. If I play to one side like this then I’ll get more followers. More retweets. More engagement. In the game of Twitter, my “score” goes up.

Over time, I become a Purple talking mostly to other Purples about how stupid Yellows are. You know this one, right? Lots of people have noticed this already.

So the mechanics of Twitter pull us towards groupthink. That’s bad, but lots of sites do that. At this point a lot of people are going to link to this video by C.G.P. Grey about anger germs:


Link (YouTube)

That’s a really good video, but Grey is talking about anger-inducing ideas and I’m talking about the system that delivers those ideas and what it does to the participants. People aren’t just passive consumers in this system. They are changed by it, and unlike Grey’s germ metaphor, being infected doesn’t make you immune, it makes you more susceptible to increasingly virulent anger-ideas.

Automated Confirmation Bias

Take your outrage generator with you so you never have to risk calming down.

Take your outrage generator with you so you never have to risk calming down.

Let’s say I notice a Yellow moron who says something shockingly, stupefyingly ignorant. Something so hilariously clumsy and uninformed that they accidentally make a point in my favor. I can share that. My fellow Purples will love it. We can laugh and enjoy a sensation of smug superiority. Tweets by idiot Yellow become a kind of currency. Whoever can find the most stupidest Yellow things becomes king of the Purples.

Over time, the image of the incoherent, uninformed Yellow becomes our default image of all Yellows. It’s how we see them. Every day we’re treated to hilarious images, memes, and screenshots of dumb Yellow comments. We don’t see the smart things they say. We don’t see their witty, calm, and engaging members. For us, Yellow is an army of enraged, uninformed, tone-deaf imbeciles.

And on the other side of the divide, Yellows are doing the same thing to us, building up a false image of what Purples are like and how Purples think, based on the behavior of our most obnoxious and stupid members.

I hear you saying, “Yes, Shamus, everyone knows what confirmation bias is.”

Except, that’s not what this is. Confirmation bias is when I see a news story on television about someone from the Purple Team who got caught in a scandal, I think of it as an anomaly. Then I see an Yellow caught in a scandal and I think “Man, that’s just how they are, always doing scandals and being corrupt. Dang Yellows.” Confirmation bias happens inside your head. It’s something you have to do to yourself.

Back in the good old days... Actually things sucked then too. They just sucked in less sophisticated ways.

Back in the good old days... Actually things sucked then too. They just sucked in less sophisticated ways.

Twitter is like owning a television that only shows me scandals by the Yellows, and acts of virtue by Purple. I no longer have to go to the trouble of fooling myself. We’ve invented software to automate and industrialize the process, and then added a scoring system so that the masses will constantly bring it fresh fuel. It’s a system of rules with the emergent property of creating a continuous flow of crowd-sourced propaganda. We’ve gameified tribal bigotry.

Shamus, you’re engaging in false equivalency here! One side is CLEARLY worse than the other!

How can you be sure of that? Do you hang out on the Yellow message boards, go to the Yellow news sites, follow the Yellow celebrities, and read books by Yellow thinkers? Or do you hang out with your fellow Purples and allow the group to curate your Yellow News for you?

And even if you are the sort of person who carefully balances their information intake to avoid social-media distortions, you have to remember that other people don’t. They are acting on the best information available to them, and from their point of view Yellows are great people with a few bad eggs and Purples are an army of vile jerks. In truth, it doesn’t matter which side is objectively worse because both sides are looking at conclusive evidence that their side is in the right and the other side is dangerous. It’s nice that your enlightened perspective enables you to see the truth, but it does nothing to stop the rage-war. Do you intend to convince the Yellows that they’re really the worst despite the evidence staring them in the face? Good luck with that.

There is indeed terrible injustice. I’ve seen people I love and admire as creative individuals endure horrible, vile abuse over the most innocuous things they said. I’ve seen people I respect say obnoxious and uninformed things about other people I respect. Yes, it’s nasty out there. But if both sides exaggerate the faults of the other while remaining blind to their own faults, then your virtuous behavior can do nothing to balance things. The feedback loop will continue to enrage them both.

One Hundred Punch Man

If I say something snarky about Yellows, then a hundred Yellows will lash out in response. To them they’re trading barbs with someone on the internet. I insulted them, and now they’re insulting me back. But from my perspective it feels like I’m being mobbed. Twitter is a world where throwing a punch means you get a hundred punches in reply.

Help! All I did was express my opinion and now I’m being flooded with hate!

It makes me feel like the oppressed underdog fighting the masses. This means I can feel comfortable hitting harder, fighting dirtier, and calling for like-minded people to join me. Because I’m outnumbered, right? I’m the victim. The underdog. Heck, if you look at my enemies you might even conclude I’m the hero.

The next day I see some sass from an Yellow and shoot back with some snark of my own, oblivious to the fact that I just joined a massive dogpile on one person, and they’re now going through what I went through yesterday.

The Cycle of Outrage

This isn't the cycle of outrage. This is actually just the cycle of mild annoyance.

This isn't the cycle of outrage. This is actually just the cycle of mild annoyance.

Bob is in a bad mood. Some Yellow-party wonk just said something completely insulting and unfair about Purples. So in an attempt at catharsis, he lashes out on Twitter. He says something equally cutting about Yellows. He gets retweeted, some Yellows see it, and they respond in kind. Suddenly Bob has a hundred insults from strangers on his timeline and he’s feeling worse than ever.

However, one or two of the responses go beyond mere insults. They reveal a horrible, ugly arrogance and hatred towards Purples. Out of his hundred angry responses, Bob screenshots these three or four and shares them with his followers. “This is what we’re fighting against!” he tells people. Purples rally to his side. They encourage him, they retweet him, they follow him. His score goes up and he finally gets the affirmation he was looking for.

And on the other side, a Yellow sees all of this happen. Annoyed, they seek catharsis. They lash out on Twitter…

Twitter Should Do Something!

When your only tool is a banhammer, every problem looks like an egg.

When your only tool is a banhammer, every problem looks like an egg.

People keep complaining that Twitter needs to “Do Something” about abuse. Well, they have. They tried. Sort of. They have some sort of quasi-curation designed to filter out “low quality Tweets”, which in theory should help you avoid being hounded by anonymousAs in: No established persona. A young account with no followers or profile pic, which suggests this is possibly someone who is starting over with a new account after being banned. trolls. Some people claim it’s helpful. Other people claim it doesn’t do a damn thing. It’s impossible to say who is right because everyone has a different experience.

The problem isn’t that Twitter doesn’t care, the problem is that the basic mechanics of Twitter create a no-win scenario. A social media Kobayashi Maru.

Twitter is a world where people speak in abbreviations, memes, movie quotes, and where sarcasm is more common than punctuation. It’s a world where people use outrageous hyperbole for comedic effect, and where people communicate in images that mean different things to different groups. It’s a world where people speak countless languages and come from different cultures and all have different ideas about where you should draw the line between abusive behavior and “they were just speaking figuratively”.

There are over 330 million of these people using the service. That’s 39 times the population of New York city. Do you have any idea how many moderators it would take to really police that many people? And then how many managers and HR reps it would take to make sure they’re all enforcing policy correctly? Twitter has been losing money since the service was switched on 12 years ago. That’s a long time to lose money, and it means they probably don’t have the funds to hire literally thousands of moderators.

I wanted a picture of 330 million dim bulbs, but this is as close as I could get.

I wanted a picture of 330 million dim bulbs, but this is as close as I could get.

People see vile hate in their Twitter feed and don’t understand why Twitter can’t just get rid of it. What they don’t understand is the sheer terrifying scale of the problem. People post over 500 million Tweets a day.

But even if they did somehow come up with enough money to hire the army of moderators required to personally investigate every dispute, it still wouldn’t solve the problem. Instead of saying vile things to people they want to harass, trolls will goad their targets into saying vile stuff and then (ab)use the moderation system to get them punished. To the harasser, Twitter is a game. Making people miserable is how you win. Strong moderation doesn’t stop the game, it just changes the meta.

Yes, people can and do use “Abuse Report” type systems as a weapon. I’ve seen it happen. A couple of friends of mine were having a go at each other on Twitter. She dissed a show he liked. He said something snarky about her favorite show. She replied with an obvious (within this context) comedic threat about hunting him down. She knew it was a joke. He knew it was a joke. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. But she talks politics on Twitter, which means she has enemies on Twitter, and they reported her for making “death threats”. Sure enough, she was slapped with a three-day ban. The system to prevent abuse became another tool of abuse. Expanding Twitter’s moderation team and mandate will also increase the incidents of weaponized rules-lawyering.

Ninety percent of everything is crap. This applies to people trying to be witty on Twitter. They see a stand-up comedian or a John Stewart style political comic and they try to imitate the joke format. But the tone of voice is lost on Twitter. They overlook the self-deprecating angle that makes the joke able to reach across political lines. Because they only have a limited number of charactersAnd they’re probably typing on a phone., they can’t give it the proper comedic framing before delivering the punchline.

The thing is, this person has no idea they’re terrible at comedy. Click on a trending hashtag sometime and see how many nonsensical, run-on, out-of-context Tweets you see. Then realize that every one of those people were trying to say something that made perfect sense in their head.


Link (YouTube)

This presents a problem for you if you want to moderate hundreds of millions of Tweets. Sure, some Tweets are CLEARLY monstrous, grotesque abuse that have no place in civil society. I agree. The problem is that there’s a lot of shades of grey between that point and harmless jokes, and the masses will rules-lawyer you to death if you try to figure out where to draw the line. Everyone will keep exhaustive track of slights and punishments, insisting you need to be “more fair” to their side.

Do you think that a corporation can somehow wade in and mediate all of these millions of shouting matches between emotionally charged groups who all see themselves as misunderstood victims? When people on both sides are experiencing the “strike with one punch, receive a hundred in reply” user experience?

Even if the folks running Twitter could hire an army of moderators large enough to handle this load (hard to imagine) and even if every one of those people was perfectly impartial and fair (clearly impossible) and even if there was a simple set of rules that could make a clear distinction between abuse and satire (even more impossible) and even if the moderators had the wisdom and consistency to enforce those rules across all groups in all languages across the globe (this is getting silly) it wouldn’t solve the problem, because the only weapon Twitter has is a banhammer.

If someone is being abusive when posting under an established identity, being banned is not going to magically alter their personality. They won’t suddenly develop empathy, question their life choices, or even feel bad about their behavior. They were just silenced in the middle of (to them) an “argument”, and they’re going to want to jump right back in. How much worse will they be when they return five minutes later as an anonymous egg?

Clearly the secret to getting everyone to behave is to make them MORE anonymous.

Clearly the secret to getting everyone to behave is to make them MORE anonymous.

It’s a system of justice where the only punishment for criminals is that they have to wear a mask. The punishment will either have no effect, or remove the last of their inhibitions and create a user with a terrible grudge and nothing left to lose.

It would be impossible for Twitter to moderate all discussions, and even if they did it would just add fuel to the fire because it wouldn’t address the core loop of negative feedback that’s creating the agitation and hate. On top of being mad at each other, we’d all be mad at those obviously biased moderators at Twitter who clearly favor the OTHER site. (My fellow Purples have shown me countless screenshot examples of Twitter punishing a Purple for a crime and then ignoring a Yellow in similar circumstances. The evidence is clear!)

I’m not saying Twitter should just give up and do nothing. Certainly there are extreme problem people who can be banned and blocked without creating any serious controversy. Sure, they should do what they can. But people are going to be assholes on the internet, feelings will get hurt, and you can’t fix that with an update to the Terms of Use. I’m saying this in response to the people who screenshot ugliness and broadcast it saying, “OH LOOK. I GUESS TWITTER IS OKAY WITH THIS SORT OF THING.”

Dude. Yes, it sucks. I’m sure if anyone at Twitter had time to look at it they would be offended. But this problem is larger and more complex than you can possibly imagine.

So now you’re saying, “Okay Shamus. You think you’re so clever. What’s YOUR solution?”

Yeah. You think you’re so clever. What’s YOUR solution?

He was asking for it. I mean, just look at that hat.

He was asking for it. I mean, just look at that hat.

Oh, I don’t have one. Yes, people are nasty to each other on Twitter and that sucks. Sometimes it’s even scary. I’m just cautioning against the “we have to do something” attitude. Because if your only options are “Do nothing” and “Make the problem worse”, then doing nothing really is your best option.

The problem is that abuse is built into the very mechanics of the system. It’s an emergent result of the mechanics of Twitter when combined with divisive topics. It’s not intended, but it’s there, and I don’t think you could fix it without tearing it all down and starting over with something very different.

When I point out how unhealthy it is to fight on Twitter, my colleagues say things like, “Well, we have to stand up against this injustice.” Or, “We can’t let THEIR ideas go unchallenged.” That sounds reasonable. We’re just fighting for the truth, and that’s a good thing, right?

And yeah, if you’re just looking to make your Twitter score go up, it is a good thing. But if you’re looking to persuade people to your position and gain a better understanding of theirs, it’s a massive failure. The result of every one of these exchanges is that the two sides hate each other even more. Nobody’s mind is changed. Nobody learns anything. Nothing is gained except that Twitter gets the traffic it’s hungry for.

Twitter is a great place to talk about the lighter matters in life, but it’s a terrible battleground for our culture wars. I’d even go so far as to say that Twitter might be a contributing factor in why politics seems a more rancorous now than it did a few years ago. I’m not saying everything is Twitter’s fault. I’m just saying Twitter was gasoline on the fire.

Hang on. Let me check to see if anyone has replied to my snarky condescending generalizations of my outgroup.

Hang on. Let me check to see if anyone has replied to my snarky condescending generalizations of my outgroup.

I’m not going to try to convince you to give up Twitter. That would be hypocritical anyway, since I still use it. And besides, if I ran around saying “You should give up Twitter because it’s bad for you!” then this would transform into a full-blown moral panic, and I have no stomach for that sort of thing. And even if I magically convinced you to give up this useful and fun thing, it wouldn’t do anything to solve the ongoing problem that Twitter is making us hate each other more intensely than ever. The problem is with human nature, and closing your Twitter account wouldn’t change that.

But if you find what I’ve said to be at all persuasive and you’re even the least bit worried that Twitter might be distorting your view of the the world or other people’s view of you, then I hope you’ll at least keep this stuff in mind when using it. Knowing the danger can go a long way to mitigating it.

Fight against confirmation bias. If the world starts looking clear cut, us-vs-them, and good-vs-evil, then you’ve probably drank more social media than is good for you. Behind all those silly names and joke icons are real human beings with real feelings. Some of them are nasty and some of them are nice, and if you condemn all for the actions of a few then you’ll lose your ability to see any of them clearly.

Note that none of this is lifting the no-politics ban in the comments. Sorry if that seems unfair. If you can’t leave a comment without taking a swing at those jackasses on the Yellow team then just give this one a pass. I’ll be back next week with programming posts.

Anyway.

Be careful what you put in your brain, because you can’t really take it out again. I don’t care what your politics are. If you’re good to people, then you’re my kind of people.

Footnotes:

[1] I’m not suddenly braver today, I’m just out of regular content.

[2] For technical reasons, it’s actually pronounced “Jiggity-jeff”.

[3] As in: No established persona. A young account with no followers or profile pic, which suggests this is possibly someone who is starting over with a new account after being banned.

[4] And they’re probably typing on a phone.


 
 
Comments (288)

  1. Daimbert says:

    The biggest complaint I have about this post is that you should have named your factions Purple and Green.

    • Shamus says:

      I thought about using green. (It was originally Orange vs. Green in my first draft.) But there’s an ACTUAL Green party and I was paranoid that people would try to read into that.

      • blue_painted says:

        Orange and Green would not be neutral for any of the Irish!

      • Groboclown says:

        There’s an orange party in Ukrane, too. I tend to stay away from colors, and go to patterns, as no one would want to defend the polka-dot party. We all know those plaid folks are the best, anyway.

      • Raglan says:

        And in the uk there are purples and yellows. You were never avoiding that using colours.

        But everyone knows you are avoiding those american reds and blues so should be fine

        And on an aside i really enjoy these sort of articules that make me think about certain behaviors.

      • Mephane says:

        Fun fact: here in Germany the colors are swapped compared to the USA. Your red is blue here and your blue is red here.

        Yes, this is a gross over-simplification since we don’t have a two-party system, but the stereotypical parties of each side match this scheme.

        Also, we do have a yellow party, and technically there even exists a purple party but it’s one of those ultra-tiny ones that many people have never heard about.

        • BlueHorus says:

          It’s the same here in the UK.
          I’m pretty sure the USA is the exception here: red is associated with socialism/communism almost everywhere, right? The US is the only country where the red (mainstream) party is the more right-wing one (AFAIK).

          • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

            That’s basically an accident. In the US, for years, the color system was blue=incumbent, red=challenger. In academic work, you’d get blue=right, red=left -but the colors were a convenience. Both parties liveried themselves in red, white, and blue.

            The official story is that in 2000, the prolongation of the election night coverage got everyone to see Red=GOP, Blue=DEM, when it was really still just incumbent/challenger -and the convention stuck. There is some evidence that this isn’t true, and that news organizations may have begun their abandoning of the convention earlier in the Clinton years (possibly as new people came up who didn’t actually know what the convention was). The colors don’t have any deeper meaning here.

            • LCF says:

              It feels weird to me. I thought it would be at least a century, a century and a half older.
              Weren’t the USA Whig party associated with the colour yellow, when they existed?

              • Syal says:

                In 1999 the schools were still teaching us that Red was Democrat and White was Republican, and all the schoolchildren were like “no, I’ve never seen that, that’s stupid”.

              • Shamus says:

                I think the color-coding goes back to at least the 80s.I’m old enough to remember election night in 1984. (I was 13. Didn’t understand any of it. But the grownups were using the TV so I couldn’t play Atari. Bored, I watched the news with them and tried to figure out what it was all about.) Reagan (incumbent) trounced Mondale (challenger). IIRC, Mondale only won his home state. The map on the news showed the one state as blue, and the rest of the map as red. So I think the red / blue goes back at least that far.

        • Tektotherriggen says:

          Same in the UK – red for left-wing (Labour) and blue for right-wing (Conservatives)*. I think that’s pretty standard for most countries and times (red has been left-wing for over 200 years), but apparently America has been stuck on the “wrong” colours since the 2000 election. It still baffles me that one TV show could outweigh decades of “commies = red” symbolism, but there you go.

          * plus yellow for Liberal Democrats, purple for UKIP, green for, uhh, Greens, and various other colours for regional parties.

        • baud says:

          It’s the same in France. Except that since we have a socialist party in addition to the communists, the socialist got pink to go with their rose.

      • Syal says:

        Orange vs. Teal.

      • Reed says:

        Orange and Green are the main colors of the two largest universities in Oregon (Oregon State University: orange and black; University of Oregon: green and yellow).

        These two universities are huge rivals, with a “Civil War” football game every year.

        If you’d chosen those colors, we’d have simply been convinced that you were secretly an Oregonian… :)

      • Mako says:

        Orange and Teal would work, surely?

        // ah nvm, it was already suggested.

    • BlueBlazeSpear says:

      I came to the comments to make sure this was here. Well done.

  2. blue_painted says:

    Thank you for this. At the risk of indulging in groupthink myself, this piece pretty much sums up my own opinion of Twitter, and most if not all social media.

    I can see why this has been in your “one day” pile and I imagine it has been through many revisions to come out this well. I’d be surprised if anyone can align their own Red/Blue preferences to Yellow/Purple, other than assuming that “my colour is your Purple”

    My own bottom line: People are people. Some are nice, some are nasty, most are in between and we all veer from from one end of the scale to other in response to situations and events.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The problem is,if you are in the middle both sides will hound you.”How dare you side with them?They are monsters!”.And thus,you will either slide to one side,or remain constantly the one everyone is against.The worst abuse Ive see was always directed towards those who try to listen to both sides.

      • Raglan says:

        Yeah, im always suspicious of black and white view points. But the real world really does not like people who can see both sides.

        • Olivier FAURE says:

          Oh, so you prefer hispanic and asian points of view? How enlightened of you.

          (yes, this pun is beaten to death; sorry :p)

      • evileeyore says:

        “The problem is,if you are in the middle both sides will hound you.”How dare you side with them?They are monsters!”.”

        And then I just troll both sides. It’s amazing fun for me.

      • default_ex says:

        Unfortunately true. For most of my life I tried my best to stay neutral to any binary divide in sides. For a little while I somehow managed to do so while being treated with respect from each side involved. The last decade however it has gotten incredibly rough when I try to get back to that. I’ve been told I should make up my mind, real men pick a side (paraphrasing) or to kill myself so many times I couldn’t possibly keep track all because I tried to stay neutral and take in the full perspective instead of the colored perspective of any given side. I recently found myself wondering where did that world go that I seen starting to rise that had a place for neutral parties but had to conclude it was just a short term anomaly.

    • Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, but that’s kind of the minimum. At some point you have to form some opinions, or else you’re just defaulting to accepting the status quo.

      • Kamica says:

        Your opinion doesn’t have to be 100% one side though. You can pick and choose ideas from both sides, because honestly, most of the time, both sides have some pretty good points, and some rather backwards points. I’d argue it’s probably best to not identify as a side at all, but it’s often useful shorthand to quickly address where roughly you’re standing.

  3. John says:

    In the parlance of social media, “John liked this.”

    I don’t have a Twitter account, not for any moral or high-minded reason but because I’ve just never been interested. I have only occasionally regretted it. The last such time was when Twentysided was down. If I’d had an account and been following Shamus I would have known what was going on a lot earlier. I suppose the lesson here, if there is one, is that a Twitter account can be a good and useful thing if you’re careful about who you follow.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      In the parlance of social media, “John liked this.”

      John?I thought everyone was Joe here.

    • Steve C says:

      I also don’t have a Twitter account. I’ve also never been interested. However I don’t have any social media at all. No Facebook etc. Comments on this blog is the closest I have to social media. The reason is because it feels really dangerous to me. There’s too many ways it can be used against you. It exists forever too. The stupid crap that you did in school (stuff that everyone immediately forgot about) could end up haunting you online for years.

      I don’t see the appeal and just see the danger.

      • John says:

        I don’t have a Facebook account either, but my wife does and there are some benefits. It’s a neat way to stay in touch with family, for example. My brothers and I are terrible about this, but our wives are all on Facebook and thus we still manage to learn about our various nieces and nephews. The drawback to Facebook, as I see it, is that the second you get an account you are besieged by friend requests from people you went to school with when you were twelve and only dimly remember. You’d feel mean if you didn’t “friend” them–I hate that friend is a verb now–so your Facebook feed gets filled with junk from people you don’t really care about. The other drawback is that you can’t–or at least I don’t think you can–filter the posts you see from a particular person. I do want to see pictures of my nieces and nephews. I don’t want to see re-posted motivational posters or, worse, re-posted political posters.

        • Joshua says:

          1. You don’t *have* to friend everyone. Most people get over it.
          2. Even if you do, they have an “Unfollow” option. So, you’re still friends but you won’t see a thing they post unless you specifically go looking.

      • CloverMan says:

        Yeah, I got really close to being fired once because my employer didn’t like a comment I posted. I thought it was a meaningless detail (still do, cause it was), they thought it could affect their stock prices. The worst part was that it turned out to be pretty much impossible to delete, despite my best effords. It’s probably still there, a visual representation of my regrets. Made me real cautious when it comes to social media.

      • Cybron says:

        Same. And I’ve never felt like I was missing out, really.

    • Mousazz says:

      Not using twitter myself as well, as well as being politically ambivalent (yet interested; I’ve read articles, forums, etc. from both sides of the political spectrum) this post made me realize just why people have been getting so absurdly invested into politic lately. Take the 2016 US presidential election, for instance – people from both sides expressed exaggerated importance and potential for terrible consequences were the opposite candidate to win the election. I’ve read rhetoric that, if a given candidate wins, the world/society-as-we-know-it will end; or that all the poster’s human rights will be taken away. I always found that weird and overblown, and failed to grasp what got people to be so invested.

      It seems, however, that social media has literally been rewarding them for terrible behavior, getting them to fight against the “others” and constantly getting hounded for everything they said. No wonder they feel so persecuted and apocalyptic…

      • BlueHorus says:

        It’s not necessarily social media’s fault (directly). While they’re probably responsible for not regulating the way their services are used, it’s not necessarily them that’s actively turned debate so extreme.

        The internet’s been around long enough that the psychology of clickbait has been refined, researched and near-perfected. It’s fairly well-understood that ‘EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!’ is just going to get more attention than something else.

        I remember reading that was/is one of the most profitable keywords on the internet.
        As in, it didn’t really matter what the article was – for, against, speculative or only tangentally related to the person in question…if you put him in the title of your article, put his picture on the thumbnail you’ll just get more clicks.

        • BlueHorus says:

          (Clumsy edit to badly formatted post by me: the valuable keyword I mentioned is the name of a certain president of a certain powerful country)

      • Viktor says:

        Umm…You do realize that there’s a reason people make those claims, right? There was definitely hyperbole, but look at what policies have been put in place, what laws have been passed or repealed. We haven’t all died in a nuclear war, no, but it’s barely a year in and there’s been a lot of changes to what the government cares about. That matters a lot if you’re someone living on the margins.

        • ZekeCool says:

          Thank you for a voice of reason. The centrism and “both sides” in this post and comments is getting ridiculous. If you’re a marginalized group, not putting the people who are attempting to remove your rights in power is a matter of life and death.

          • Jeysie says:

            Thiiiiis, so much.

            Like, Shamus is a few years older than I am so he likely remembers and is reasoning from the times when which side was in power really was mainly a matter of different opinions and you could trust that even if “your side” didn’t get in, things would still be reasonably OK even if it wasn’t all done exactly the way you would do it.

            But now we live in a world where it literally is every two years you have to hold your breath to see if you’ll get the people in power who will keep your life mostly the same or the people in power who want to do anything from wreck your life to literally abandon you to die somehow, and I think some of us just… haven’t been willing to admit things have changed.

            But as someone who is a member of a few marginalized groups, I’ve been made all too aware things have changed and that we don’t live in that nicer world of my youth any more.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Things did not change.Or do you think vietnam was inevitable regardless of who was in power?Do you think the cold war would never have escalated regardless of who was in power?Or that civil was inevitable the way it happened regardless of people who were in power?Or a bunch of other crap that has happened in history.

              You always had CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS,on either side,who were bad for the country in general,or just certain people in the country.Saying how things are different now and how its the whole side that is rotten and not just certain people in it,thats not common sense,thats just ignorance.

              • Viktor says:

                Party-line voting. A huge portion of the time, the national politicians vote as a block. If one side is voting to do things that will literally lead to death of people I know, I’m not going to overlook that. And every person who voted for those politicians either didn’t care or actively considers the death of my friends to be a good thing. Either way, I’m comfortable condemning the voters, and indeed the entire party, based on that since it’s written into the party platform.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Using that logic you personally are to be blamed that indigo did not go against yellow instead of purple, because purple did some shady things to get rid of indigo. And indigo would’ve won against yellow. But because of Viktor, that did not happen. So the whole shitstorm today is entirely on you.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  A clarification:I dont really believe any of those things.I have no idea what wouldve happened if things were different.Its just one of the many MANY blurbs Ive seen floating around.Im just pointing out that condemning millions of people like you did is absurd.

                  Because you know what Ive seen the most of,as an outsider of that whole election?Most people did not vote FOR one or the other candidate,most people voted AGAINST one of them.They did not care what the opposing side was doing,they only knew what the side they did not like was doing,and they thought ANYTHING was better than that.Which is the complete opposite of what your mass condemnation proposes.

                • Shamus says:

                  I’ve seen this point brought up several times in this thread, but I like your take on it so let me try to explain where I’m coming from.

                  Let’s just assume you and I agree (which is entirely possible, since we’re not really into specifics here) and we both believe that policy X will kill your friends. You position is that Yellow is happy to kill your friends, or that Yellow is indifferent to the plight of your friends. I can see how this line of reasoning goes:

                  1) This policy will kill my friends.
                  2) Yellow people are in favor of this policy. Ergo…
                  3) Yellows are in favor of killing my friends.

                  But I think this isn’t actually the case. Sure, on social media you’ll see lots of subtweets and screencaps of Yellows saying, “Woo yeah! Screw Viktor’s friends! They totally got it coming!” But it’s also possible that the vast majority of Yellows don’t think this way at all. They don’t believe that Viktor’s friends are in any danger. Or they agree there is a slight danger, but “hey policy X is going to save the lives of all these other people”. Most Yellows think their ideas will make a better world, and maybe some of them could be talked out of that position with compassion and facts. (I say this as someone who has gone through some pretty big shifts in my personal belief system. And every time, the shift came in response to someone who understood what I believed before they tried to talk me out of it.)

                  If we begin the debate with the assumption that all Yellows want to kill Victor’s friends, then the debate ends before it begins. Your average Yellow is going to respond with, “What? I don’t want to kill anyone. Typical Purples, always demonizing us!”

                  This is the danger of social media. It has intensified the degree to which the Other Side is distorted to us.

                  • Viktor says:

                    These are people I know IRL who take the position of either a) it’s good for “those people” to suffer or b) Yes, they’ll suffer, but I get lower taxes, and you can’t expect me to vote against my own best interests. My social media mostly agrees with me, it’s the people I’m around because of my job/geographic location who are awful.

                    • Jeysie says:

                      Yeah, I particularly run into A quite a bit.

                      So it becomes almost impossible to appeal to that sort of person with compassion and facts, because while you can prove you’re being harmed, it’s a lot harder to prove that you don’t deserve to be harmed in the eyes of someone who has made it very bluntly clear they think you do. You can jump through their hoops forever trying to make yourself respectable enough in their eyes for sympathy and they’ll still throw an endless number of new hoops in front of you (I know because I have tried this many times and had this happen many times).

                      Ironically considering the topic, there was a Twitter post that more or less summed up my feelings on the matter: “I don’t know how to argue empathy at people”. Because I increasingly don’t either.

                  • Sam says:

                    Bingo. As someone who likes to hang out with some particularly “nasty” purples, it is hilarious to me how people react to the group’s namedrop. They are convinced the purples are all terrible. Then I point out some major purple fora and ask them to show me the bigotry, the hatred, and so on. There isn’t any.

                    But that doesn’t matter, because they’ve been inundated with so much emotional triggers that they can’t even see what’s right in front of them. It must be a scheme, a plot, a front… There must be a secret hidden place where the “real” purple hatred can be found.

                    Sadly, no. I’ve been to those chat rooms too. It’s just the same as other places: people complaining about their day, sharing funny jokes, talking about their hobbies, and so on.

                    I do think there is a solution: people need to learn to criticize their own side again. In-group loyalty is for authoritarians, it has no place among people who seek open enlightenment.

                    That’s the part that’s so bizarre to me about all this. If you look at how certain colored groups actually act, or at least their prominent contemporary heroes, you quickly realize their proclaimed values have been reduced to buzz words, and they often act exactly like what they claim to be against.

                    There is one more angle that you missed btw. A lot of people spend time on Twitter. But there is one group whose use of it is particularly pernicious: journalists. They can’t just turn twitter off, it is actually their job to try and figure out what is going on based on this river of misinformation. Something something ethics.

                  • Jeysie says:

                    My problem is basically twofold:

                    One: I have no doubt that there are plenty of Group Whatever who are decent people in many ways. And yet they still were happy to vote for someone who is going to massively screw over me or someone else in some way.

                    If someone “decent” votes for a very indecent thing, that’s kind of something that needs to be addressed. How much indecent stuff does a person have to support before we start questioning how decent they actually are?

                    Two: Likewise, I have spent a whole lot of time trying to address people with objectively harmful (as in very literally threaten people’s safety and wellbeing) views using compassion and facts and gotten a whole lot of nastiness spat in my face in return. How much return abuse do you have to tolerate while trying to be nice before you conclude that being nice isn’t going to get you anywhere?

                    These questions aren’t rhetorical; the second one in particular is a question I have to grapple with on a semi-regular basis. It sometimes feels like the expectation to be “nice” and “understanding” is often incredibly (and possibly ironically) one-sided (which is a whole other sociological essay in itself honestly).

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      And yet they still were happy to vote for someone who is going to massively screw over me or someone else in some way.

                      Like Ive mentioned somewhere else,this was mostly due to a bunch of people not voting FOR the one they agree with more,but rather voting AGAINST the one they disagree with more.Ive heard plenty of people,on both sides,say “Yeah,this one is bad,a really awful person,but at least they arent the other one”.

                      Now you may argue that they were wrong in thinking that the other one was worse,but to say that they agree with their picked candidate because they gave them their vote is not true.

                      How much return abuse do you have to tolerate while trying to be nice before you conclude that being nice isn’t going to get you anywhere?

                      Shamus already mentioned this in the article.Yes,people were lashing out at you.But how many of them were actually mad at you specifically,and how many were just sick of people holding your views being nasty to them before?Can you see any distinction between a “fuck you” from a person who hates your guts and a “fuck you” from a person who was badgered for months by “your side”?

                      Also,tying this to the first part of my comment,you were trying to get them to vote AGAINST one candidate,when they already knew a plethora of shit about them yet just thought the other candidate was even worse.Adding more shit to the shit pile really does not accomplish much,especially during such a charged period.Maybe a better thing to do was to convince them why they should vote FOR one of the candidates?Or to give them courage to go third party?

                      It makes no difference now,but its something to mull over for the next time.

                    • Syal says:

                      How much return abuse do you have to tolerate while trying to be nice before you conclude that being nice isn’t going to get you anywhere?

                      Generally I’d say end the debate when it’s clear that your points are not going to get addressed, because if it’s clear to you they’re dodging it’s probably clear to the audience. A lot of people can’t be convinced, but sometimes their quiet friends can.

                      On the rare occasion that someone is both abusive and insightful in their responses, maybe tag out and let someone else make the next point.

                      In a live conversation with multiple people, you can just ignore rude folks and roll on to the next person. It’s more productive and more fun!

                    • Jeysie says:

                      but to say that they agree with their picked candidate because they gave them their vote is not true

                      That’s not what I said, though.

                      What I said is that they supported something that harms people. They can have any reason under the moon and stars for doing so including having it be a “protest vote”, but the fact remains they still supported the harmful thing by voting in the person who does the harmful thing. Your response thus doesn’t really answer the question I posed.

                      Can you see any distinction between a “fuck you” from a person who hates your guts and a “fuck you” from a person who was badgered for months by “your side”?

                      No. Because one, the person is still going “fuck you” to someone trying to be nice to them, and two, again see what I said about expectations to be nice often being one way. Why I am expected to be nice but it’s OK for the other person to go “fuck you” to me?

                      Even if it was the sort of misunderstanding that you outline, that just means once the other person realizes their mistake they should apologize and switch to being nice. It doesn’t justify them continuing to go “fuck you” to someone being nice to them.

                      Maybe a better thing to do was to convince them why they should vote FOR one of the candidates?

                      I did that aplenty. I spent a great deal of time trying to explain to people how a lot of their gripes about a certain candidate were factually wrong and what their actual policies were. I did this after starting out as a supporter of a different candidate and, when became clear that other certain candidate was going to be the frontrunner, being willing to go ahead and actually research who was now frontrunning my usual “side”.

                      And all of my attempts to interject facts and logic into the situation fell on deaf ears because everyone was utterly devoted to bothsiderism which dictates that both candidates must be equally terrible, facts and reality and logic be damned. I was literally unable to do what you say and additionally convince people to vote for a candidate because people expressly didn’t want to hear it.

                      Hence where some of my bitterness about bothsiderism stems from.

                      but its something to mull over for the next time

                      Indeed I’ll be sure to mull over the thing I already mulled over in depth which is what helped inform some of what I said here in the first place.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      but the fact remains they still supported the harmful thing by voting in the person who does the harmful thing.

                      If the choice is between harmful thing A and harmful thing B,you can only pick (what you think is) the lesser of two evils.Their fears of one of those things were just as valid as your fears of the other.The only difference is that you got to see your fears become reality,while they avoided the same for their fears.

                      Even if it was the sort of misunderstanding that you outline, that just means once the other person realizes their mistake they should apologize and switch to being nice. It doesn’t justify them continuing to go “fuck you” to someone being nice to them.

                      Thats absolutely true.But for that to happen they need to realize that they were lashing out at a person who did not want them any harm because another person did them harm.And thats really hard to do,even when talking with closest friends,let alone mere acquaintance.

                      Im not saying that you are wrong,Im saying that civil outcomes in such a charged environment are rare,but not completely absent.

                      And all of my attempts to interject facts and logic into the situation fell on deaf ears because everyone was utterly devoted to bothsiderism which dictates that both candidates must be equally terrible, facts and reality and logic be damned. I was literally unable to do what you say and additionally convince people to vote for a candidate because people expressly didn’t want to hear it.

                      Or they looked at things from a different perspective than you,and where you saw X being worse than Y,they saw Y being worse than X.To you,the proposal of X to do A was horrible,but to others the proposal of Y to do B was worse.Ive heard reasonable people from the opposite side propose the exact same argument you are giving now,only for the opposite side.Are you just as blind to facts,reality and logic,or are you just coming from a different place,having different experiences and expectations?

                      And,Ive also seen some of those people later go on and say “Yeah,I was wrong,this is way worse than what I expected”.So its a shame that you did not experience that from people youve talked to,but dont think that its impossible.

                    • Viktor says:

                      DL, I have had someone look me in the face and say they didn’t care if a candidate caused certain people to die as long as he kept their taxes low. And that I was foolish for expecting anyone to put the good of others ahead of their own self-interest. That’s the scale of harm being measured on various sides. I had others who consider all suffering of certain people “deserved”. For them, it’s “Harmful thing X is bad, I’ll vote for this guy who promises to avoid X AND inflict Y on people I hate.” At this point, nope. If someone votes to cause misery to people I care about, then I don’t care whether they did it out of willful ignorance about the effects of policies, an utter lack of empathy for those affected, or actual malice. You vote to hurt others, you’re an awful person.

                      Look, I’ll gladly debate the role of tariffs in a global economy, how farm subsidies should be distributed, and what the proper distribution of federal vs local power is. I will NOT debate over whether or not torturing children is acceptable. This is basic humanity, and if people fail at that level, I’m not going to be able to argue them around to it.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      If someone votes to cause misery to people I care about, then I don’t care whether they did it out of willful ignorance about the effects of policies, an utter lack of empathy for those affected, or actual malice. You vote to hurt others, you’re an awful person.

                      And what if the vote was given in order to avoid misery to a different group of people?Would the intent not matter then either?What if the ignorance is not willful,but due to being lied to?Intent does matter,because some of those you can reason with,some you cant.

                    • Shamus says:

                      “How much return abuse do you have to tolerate while trying to be nice before you conclude that being nice isn’t going to get you anywhere?”

                      Sure. Some people just can’t be redeemed. Viktor also provided some examples of people that are [based on their anecdotes] a lost cause. No point in arguing with them. And obviously you’re not obligated to put up with abuse from anyone.

                      But the way you’re presenting this sounds like: “Obviously I can’t convince them by being nice, so therefore I have to be mean.” (I apologize if I’ve misunderstood or mis-characterized your position.) But at this point I have to wonder what your goal is. Are you trying to persuade people? Who? Your interlocutor, or the other people watching? If being nice doesn’t work, then what are the odds that being (let’s say) direct and confrontational are going to give you a better outcome? Why bother arguing at all, if the other person is a lost cause? (I’m not being snarky. I’m just trying to understand your goal in the context of these debates.)

                    • Jeysie says:

                      If the choice is between harmful thing A and harmful thing B

                      More like it’s a choice between “harmful thing A” and “thing B that objectively won’t actually harm the other person much or at all but they’re irrationally convinced it will”.

                      And thats really hard to do

                      Honestly it’s actually really easy to do.

                      Proof: I’ve done it. Like I’m not perfect, I have had moments where I myself accidentally lashed out at someone because they pattern-matched to someone who’s been a jerk in the past. And when the other person clarified that I was misinterpreting them, I did indeed apologize and switch to being nice.

                      I generally don’t ask things of others that I haven’t successfully done myself.

                      Or they looked at things from a different perspective than you

                      Well, if by “different perspective” you mean “they believed things that were objectively factually wrong”, then sure.

                      are you just coming from a different place,having different experiences and expectations

                      Well, sure, I’m coming from the place of actually being the marginalized group and having expectations of the members of my group having a decent life, and they’re coming from the place of holding views about my group that are objectively not true (because they have told them to me and I know from my own lived experiences and other research they’re not true) and expectations that we have our decent life taken away from us (because they also have told this desire to me).

                      where you saw X being worse than Y,they saw Y being worse than X

                      More I saw X as being worse than Y, while they saw mythological fantasy Z as being worse than equally mythological thing A. You’re frequently trying to argue against a fantasy boogeyman they’ve constructed, rather than any actual genuinely different perspective on the reality.

                      Your entire post proves my point of how badly bothsiderism has warped the conversation.

                      You can’t conceive of it ever being a case of “great harm versus lesser to no actual harm”, the idea that it can ever be one side of a topic be fueled by facts and the other by myths and other misinformation, the idea that it can ever be that one side can have reasonable needs and other side much less reasonable needs. You’re basically literally sitting here expressing the sentiment “Well, when they say they want to see you eaten or when you’re already being shoved into the wolf’s mouth, are you sure you’re just not looking at it from the wrong perspective or not seeing they might have a legitimate fear of what happens if they don’t eat you?”

                      Why? Because bothsiderism demands you pretend both sides are the same, no matter what. And so anyone who’s suffering has to fight just to have the right in the public eye to defend themselves before they can even get around to the actual defense part. And of course fake news runs rampant because facts and logic are viewed as mere “different perspectives” and not, you know, facts and logic. It’s pretty frustrating, to put it mildly.

                    • Jeysie says:

                      @Shamus:

                      Why bother arguing at all, if the other person is a lost cause?

                      Because the things the other side supports are hurting me or other innocent people and I want us to stop being hurt.

                      Essentially… you and many others in this discussion seem to be coming at this from the POV that it’s an academic debate. That if it all gets too much, you can freely step away and go about your life not having to worry about it.

                      But for me and many people I know–and I suspect Viktor as well based on their posts–the views of the other side often result in actual real harm to us. We can step away from the discussion, but that doesn’t let us escape the harm under discussion being done to us.

                      So… I dunno. You seem to be saying “Well if being nice doesn’t work, then walk away and do nothing”, except that effectively equates to “quietly let the harm that end results from the other person’s stance keep hurting you”, which is, shall we say, not a very desirable thought.

                      And honestly I don’t know what to do instead any more. It used to be that pulling out facts and logic and “arguing empathy at people’s consciences” actually worked, but now it doesn’t any more, and I’m lost because that’s the mode of operation I was best at and now it’s not good enough to solve problems with any more.

                      I’ve had people tell me to my face I’m a horrible person somehow for getting the help I need with survival things, had people straight up say they view me or other groups of innocent people as subhuman and undeserving of rights in some fashion, had people straight up say things that are dehumanizing or vindictive to me. And then they go and punch a ballot for politicians who not only echo those selfsame sentiments but enact hurtful policies based on them.

                      I don’t know how to handle that. I can’t wrap my head around people who think and operate like that. I was raised with the Golden Rule and a general exhortation to go forth and care for the less fortunate; the kind of attitudes I’m hitting against are not something I comprehend.

                    • Shamus says:

                      No no no, I don’t think it’s an academic debate. I get your goals. But how are you going about achieving them? The only way to win is to bring your people to your side. (Or kill them, but let’s assume nobody here is considering that.) You’ve rejected being nice. Okay. But my position is that being mean is even LESS effective than that. By being nice you’ll occasionally connect with someone. I’ve never seen anyone that was flamed into changing their minds, and that would go pretty hard against human nature.

                      “quietly let the harm that end results from the other person’s stance keep hurting you”,”

                      In return, you seem to be saying you can solve the problem by getting really mad and mean at people. You say that being nice doesn’t always work. Okay. I’ve seen lots of situations where that’s true. What I’m saying is that lashing out is just as unhelpful, while also feeding bigotry machine of social media that paints your side as irrational, disagreeable, hateful, hypocritical, etc. Both methods are unhelpful, but the later also feeds the bigotry machine that undermines the cause.

                      I don’t have answers for you. Changing people’s minds is slow work and it’s hard to see progress. Often the progress you make isn’t with the obstinate person you’re talking to, it’s with the quiet person observing the conversation and still working out which “side” they’re on. You might never even know about the people you convert. (The people who persuaded me don’t even know I exist. They just wrote something compassionate that understood and articulated my position and worked from there.)

                      Also, you keep accusing me of “bothsiderism”. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere (both in the article and the comments) I’m not saying the IDEAS are equally valid. I’ve saying both sides have jerks, liars, hypocrites, haters, harassers and other bad actors. Both sides are feeding on the same social media drip-feed out outrage that magnifies the voices of those troublemakers. This doesn’t mean both are EQUALLY bad. But it does mean that when you approach someone from the other side, you need to understand how they see you. (And you need to be aware of how much your view of them may be distorted.)

                      I’m not telling you to be nice to people that make you miserable. I’m just pointing out the flaw in your reasoning that “This issue is so important we’re obligated to feed the outrage machine!”

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “thing B that objectively won’t actually harm the other person much or at all but they’re irrationally convinced it will”.

                      Sooo,you expect others to change their opinion when you yourself are so convinced of the truth of your position that you are even willing to even consider that you might be wrong.

                      Really,there is no point in trying to talk about this any more,so Im backing out.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Essentially… you and many others in this discussion seem to be coming at this from the POV that it’s an academic debate. That if it all gets too much, you can freely step away and go about your life not having to worry about it.

                      You arent listening.What I and Shamus have told you,repeatedly,is that SOME people are a lost cause.Dont focus on them.Focus on people who are on the fence.There are plenty of those.

                    • Jeysie says:

                      when you yourself are so convinced of the truth of your position that you are even willing to even consider that you might be wrong.

                      Gosh, here I was thinking that the reason I’m convinced of the truth of my position is because I have facts, logic, and lived experience backing me up, and the entire reason I made the effort to do that research is because I want to ensure beforehand that I’m not speaking wrong things about a situation.

                      Thank you for once again asking me to considering something I already considered because my considering that led to a conclusion you don’t want to hear. :/

                      Focus on people who are on the fence.There are plenty of those.

                      You mean the ones like you who will tell me that anything I say that doesn’t amount to the “both sides are exactly the same” conclusion you accept as the only valid one just means I’m “not considering I might be wrong”, “not looking at it from their perspective”, etc.? :/

                      It’s impossible to get to convince anyone when certain facts and logic you have to convey are seen as inherently socially unacceptable or are erased and dismissed altogether because we’ve decided that it’s socially off-limits to reach certain conclusions even through hard fact and logic.

                      I mean, you folks preach that you want civil discussion, so I come here and try to give it to you as best I can without being allowed to cite specific RL examples to back up my points, and in return I get the exact sort of condescension and dismissal that I have been trying to point out is a problem in the first place.

                      Though honestly you could just easily turn on your local news station or open the BBC or New York Times or Washington Post or other reasonably respected news or scientific outlet and make any effort whatsoever to do any of the same research folks like me have done/lived before condescendingly dismissing us, that certainly works too. :/

                      (Like I’m just being nice to Shamus when I frame it as “wolves eating sheep” and “only eat some of the sheep” and so on, because as even just a cursory look at the various news and science studies will show, what I’m saying is based in actual RL events both current and historical, they’re not just me throwing out hypotheticals.)

                    • Jeysie says:

                      But it does mean that when you approach someone from the other side, you need to understand how they see you.

                      Trust me, Shamus, I know how the other side sees me. They see me as a mooch, as a degenerate, as a liar, as lazy, as a fascist, as a thief, as brainwashed, as a dictator, as a freeloader, as crazy, as elitist, etc. etc. They see me as unworthy of any sort of help. They see me as deserving to suffer. They see me as a traitor to some of my categories. They see me as all manner of subhuman and awful.

                      I know because they have directly told me these things. They have directly told me these things no matter how civil I tried to be to them. They have directly told me these things no matter how I try to give them facts and logic to correct their plethora of misconceptions.

                      And then I come here and listen to people tell me how I just need to understand the other side and see it from their perspective, and it’s like peeps, trust me, I know what their perspective is because they are happy to scream it at me in glowing toxic green. None of what I have been saying anywhere in this entire thread is merely guesses or assumptions or stereotypes.

                      And while Twitter doesn’t help matters one bit, it’s not the entire problem, as there are plenty of politicians on that other side who go on [respectable political venue of the day] and state themselves every single sentiment their laypeople say to/about people like me, just couched in faux-polite politicalese instead of Twitterese. And then take away the rights of me or others or the things we need to survive based on those false views that we are lazy, mooches, dangerous, degenerate, etc. in a way that “my” side has objectively and empirically not equally done.

                      Twitter and other social media lets folks say their stuff in worse ways, but it didn’t create the views they’re saying. It just removed some of our safety valves that used to let us productively deal with them.

                      Changing people’s minds is slow work and it’s hard to see progress.

                      Yeah, and in the meantime people suffer and worse sometimes die. :/ I’m almost 40, I’d like to see my life finally become not-sucky before I die, let alone while I’m still young enough to appreciate it. Especially when one side is busy trying to tear down plenty of the progress already made, thus throwing the timescale from “slow” into “reverse” on top of it all. I’d also like to stop seeing so many dead or permanently harmed people that could have had better lives or any life at all had we not dragged our feet so much or kept dealing with roadblocks constructed out of what is much of the time empirically BS reasoning.

                      (Sigh, originally posted this and it went through fine, but then when I had to edit it to correct a stray HTML issue it marked it as spam when I tried to save. Sheesh, technology.)

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Though honestly you could just easily turn on your local news station or open the BBC or New York Times or Washington Post or other reasonably respected news or scientific outlet and make any effort whatsoever to do any of the same research folks like me have done/lived before condescendingly dismissing us, that certainly works too. :/

                      I wanted to stay out of this,but sorry,I cant let this slide.You go in assuming that not a single person but you has done their research?That anyone who has the gall to come to a different conclusion from you is uneducated and ignorant?Yet its the others who are being disrespectful to you?Its the others who wont accept an answer due to their prejudices?

                      How do you know if I have dismissed your arguments when not once have I said so?Because I was trying to show you how to bridge a gap with people who disagree with you,because I dared to consider their side before leaping to a conclusion that they are wrong,that somehow means I disagree with you?And even if I did,how do you know if I dismissed your claims without doing any research on my own?

                      All you know about me is what you read here.And the only thing Ive told you is that Ive seen moderate people doing research and going to both sides.Never did I say which side I favored,nor if I remained neutral.

                      And if you really cant see past the vague examples,Ill spell it all out for you:I live in a country with social health care,and think its great.Ive been criticizing the private medicine of the usa for years.I am pro gmo and cringe every time I see someone advertise “non gmo” as something thats good.Ive constantly talked to people around me to vaccinate,even before my country got a surge of small pox and everyone went into hysteria of “what do we do now?”.I had countless debates with people around me trying to convince them that gay people adopting children would benefit everyone.So I agree with you on a bunch of issues.

                      But here youve only managed to get me to disagree with you,someone who already was mostly on your side.Yet you are wondering why people with radically different views from you arent willing to listen to you. Well this is why.Because you call everyone who has different opinions from you objectively wrong,uneducated and illogical.Because you dont ever consider,even for a second,that you may be wrong.Because you arent willing to look at stuff from a different perspective to see if youve maybe missed something and to understand how someone else might have reached a different conclusion.

    • Blake says:

      I didn’t jump onto twitter until about a year ago, but only use it to keep up-to-date on things I care about, not for any social purposes.
      I use Facebook for social networking, but that’s not open to everyone the way Twitter is so even if it becomes a bit echo-chambery, it doesn’t tend to be as flamey.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Yeah, I quit Twitter during the 2016 election. Haven’t missed it.

    I actually do spend enough time on Yellow sites that I have a pretty good idea how they think. And many of them do mean well. They just…speak a totally different language and live in a totally different world than I do. I can’t give a specific example without making the RW politics clear, but I am demographically similar to many Yellows, but my day-to-day experiences are nothing like what they describe their own to be.

    • EricF says:

      Yeah, the values dissonance runs deep, to the point that each side has different deeply held beliefs about the correct way to communicate.

    • Viktor says:

      I work surrounded by yellows and in my personal life I surround myself with purples. Knowing the other side doesn’t help.

      We’ve reached a point where core values are so different that I don’t see any way for us to compromise. There’s some areas where there’s reasonable debate, but there’s issues that come down to a question of who counts as human. I’m not compromising on that when it’s friends of mine who would end up as second-class citizens.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Ive thought a lot about how to phrase this because its a touchy subject.It really is a difficult thing to read,especially when it comes from me,so please try and hear me out.

        One reason that some people are afraid of “subhumans” is because they think that giving them rights will somehow make the “actual humans” as something less.I know,it does sound ridiculous and something thats so horribly wrong that it should not be engaged with.But you should keep in mind that most people who think this have never actually been exposed* to real persons who they think of “subhuman”,but rather have only engaged with stereotypes told to them by their peers and media they follow,from young age onward.And if you try to explain that giving rights to everyone does not diminish their status at all,it only increases the status of the society as the whole,sometimes you actually can succeed in showing them that all people are just people.Of course,its necessary for the other person to be willing to actually listen and try to follow the reasoning,but most people are willing to at least give a try if the person trying to convince them is a “real human” they already know.Also,its necessary to actually hear them out when they tell you their view,and not immediately dismiss it as offensive and irreconcilable.

        Ive actually managed to convince one person that gay people arent actually the demon they thought of,but just regular people with different attractions.I also know one other person who was convinced that gay people are just regular people because her childhood friend came out.And I know that it looks like a horrible track record of having just two people having their minds changed out of dozens Ive talked to about this,but still I think its worth the effort.

        So yes,you can actually “compromise” on that issue,as long as you think of that compromise as “Ill try to understand you if you try to understand me” and not as “Im willing to diminish these people a bit if you are willing to uplift them a bit”.

        *I know,youll say that its impossible for someone to not be exposed to people of different race if they live in a mixed race town,but it actually is really easy to never have any meaningful interactions with them.I went to school with around 30 people,and out of them I remained friends with 3,and had meaningful interactions with maybe 7 more.Even though we talked to each other for years,we played sports together,we ate together,with most of those people I barely know anything other than their names.So if someone I know told me “Did you know that X is like that?”,Id have more interaction with that hearsay than with the actual person.

      • Jeysie says:

        Eh, just… give up dude, that’s what I’m doing.

        I mean ironically everyone’s proven beautifully why bothsiderism is as big a contributor to our current ills as social media is. No matter how much you and I try to point out the actual hard facts and our actual lived experiences, because it doesn’t add up to the One True Correct Belief that both sides are always and ever the same, we’ll never be listened to.

        And suffering people will continue to be harmed as a result, all while we get told how extremist or refusing to look at the other side or making stuff up or so on we are if we talk about it. How what we say magically means anything under the sun other than what we actually said.

        By the people who pretend that social media is the only contributor to the problem and they’re wiser and nobler by staying out of the fray on any medium no matter how much you shove ultra-reflective mirrors up to their faces.

        Like, quite frankly one big reason why everyone’s gotten so crabby is because it’s pretty damn rage inducing when you start out trying to be calm and nice only to have people sticking their fingers in their ears and going LALALALALALALALALALACANTHEARYOU every time you talk.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’m not going to try to convince you to give up Twitter. That would be hypocritical anyway, since I still use it.

    Fair enough.As someone who does not use twitter Ill say it for you:Quit twitter.You will lose very little,but you will gain a huge peace of mind.

    • Lee says:

      Unfortunately, for people like Shamus, it’s not that easy. Content creators on the internet use Twitter as a source of traffic. He needs views to pay his bills, so there is a larger downside to Shamus leaving Twitter than there is for most people.

      I have a Twitter account. I’ve only posted about 2 tweets on it, other than things I accidentally allowed an app to post on my behalf. Mostly I use it to follow the content creators that I don’t get good enough notifications for already.

    • skeeto says:

      “The only winning move is not to play.”

      • AllanH says:

        The wisest comment on the topic, so far. SM always devolves to one person or group trying to ram their world view and belief system down the other person or groups throat. Both are self righteously indignant that there could possibly be a different opinion than their own. It’s the old “You must tolerate me or else” tropes that are the cancer of society. We should be a “live and let live” society, within the rule of law and everyone just stay out of other people’s business. Arguments used to end with “let’s agree to disagree” and friendships could continue. Now it’s “disagree to agree” and I must hate you forever cuz my groupthink/brainwashing/propaganda altars demand it be so.

        We live is sad times that are exactly same as old times. What’s amazing is that if you read the headlines from a 1915 newspaper it is hard to miss the parallels and how little the issues have really changed. Especially geopolitically.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Fight against confirmation bias. If the world starts looking clear cut, us-vs-them, and good-vs-evil, then you’ve probably drank more social media than is good for you. Behind all those silly names and joke icons are real human beings with real feelings. Some of them are nasty and some of them are nice, and if you condemn all for the actions of a few then you’ll lose your ability to see any of them clearly.

    And this is where the source of the problem lies.This is the most crucial thing that should be taught to every kid in their youth.But,due to various factors*,only few do.Some people learn this later in life,but most dont.And while this was a problem even before internet,people still had limited access to information,and you still got to see the face behind the words most of the time.Alas,when all you see is letters and pictures,its easier than ever to dehumanize a person and make them into a monster.

    *I wont delve deep into this,but I think the most common factor is that parents think this is common knowledge that everyone is born with,and not something that should actually be taught

    • Christopher Wolf says:

      This is why I make sure to listen to right wing radio on my way to work, in addition to other news sources that I check online, like CNN and NPR. So I am informed what each side thinks. It is amazing how often each side frames their opposite number in the exact same way. The other side is angry, against personal freedom, doesn’t have real principles…yadda yadda.

      Its that whole “Monkey Brain” tribal thing going and our need to see the other.

      Also, you will tend not to see valid criticisms of “your side” from your side. You need to examine what the other side is saying and pull out the valid arguments. They are there. They might not show up on a given day, or be limited to one or two examples on days they show up, but they are there!

  7. BlueHorus says:

    Excellent, you actually got around to the Twitter article!

    OT: I think a lot of what Shamus says applies to Facebook as well. There’s a lot that’s good about FB – meeting people, instant messaging, planning events etc – but there’s also a lot of what you get on Twitter: trolls, people jumping into other people’s discussions to start arguments and other related crap.

    So if you’re considering quitting Twitter (recommended!), also consider quitting Facebook too (also recommended).

    • Blake says:

      I haven’t found Facebook to be as bad, mostly because it’s generally not as open (to the public anyway).

      I’ve definitely seen some facebook threads going crazy, but it’s not like Twitter where those threads get retweeted over and over.

    • Joshua says:

      I unfriended someone because they got into a shitstorm war on a different friend’s page (they didn’t even know). To me, it felt like someone tagging along behind me when I decided to visit a friend’s house, and then following me through the door and throwing profanity at the host.

  8. Zaxares says:

    You basically outlined the root cause of the problem right here: “The problem is with human nature.” Throughout the years and decades and centuries, despite all of our technological and social advances, why do so many of the same ills still bedevil us? Because the fundamental nature of humanity has not changed; as individuals, we are still the same cavemen seeking the safety and protection of our “tribe”, and we are prepared to defend our tribe at all costs. I honestly can’t see a way this can change, short of simply breeding out this tendency across the entire human population, and such an endeavour in itself would (and should) raise massive alarm bells, because who knows what else the people in charge of eugenics of such a massive scale would deem to be “undesirable traits” in humans?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Because the fundamental nature of humanity has not changed; as individuals, we are still the same cavemen seeking the safety and protection of our “tribe”

      This is not true.Oh sure,human nature is incredibly difficult to change,and takes generations before it does,but we HAVE changed.Just look at some older cultures and what they thought about slavery and what most people think of it now.The thing is,there are just so many problems plaguing us that fixing a few of them still leaves us with a bunch left to deal with.But who knows,maybe due to social media we finally get the necessary push to collectively try and fix the “us vs them” mentality.

      • Redrock says:

        Slavery is a relatively situational socio-economic construct. Tribalism isn’t. It’s an essential part of our psyche. As is the tendency to rely on stereotypes and prejudice.

        • Daimbert says:

          And I’m not even sure that those are actually part of our psyche. Instead, they seem to be a side effect of relying on empathy, because empathy notoriously fails when you try to consider people who are different from you, and so different that you don’t understand them. I don’t think it merely a coincidence that this sort of thing is worsening at the same time as we have constant calls for people to use empathy more in these things.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          You want a more basic example?Ok,clothes.Try to dress an untrained monkey,dog or a cat when its a hot summer,and theyll fight tooth and claw to get out.Meanwhile,we have conditioned ourselves so thoroughly that some people would rather get a heat stroke than undress in public,even on a beach.And there are other urges and instinct that we have combated,like not being afraid of open flames,not scratching an inconvenient itch in public,etc.

          • Zaxares says:

            I’m not so sure about your slavery example. Sure, just about everybody you talk to in polite society would decry it, but deep down, I suspect that there would be people (whether individuals or ethnic/social groups) that they are fine and dandy with being forced to work as an underclass. For instance, I know a friend who’s very supportive of charity work, pro-choice, animal rescue etc. Yet she sees no problem with incarcerated criminals being forced to work in slave-like conditions for no pay because “they deserve it, and this way they can repay their debt to society”. If you go down the line far enough, I’m willing to bet that most of humanity would reach a point where they go “OK, THESE people are scum and deserve to be slaves.”

            • Redrock says:

              In DL’s defense, I’m pretty sure he meant slavery as in “people as property”, where a person can be bought, sold or, say, gambled away. I think everyone would agree that today that shit is not acceptable. Or, for that matter, efficient. Well, almost everyone.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Yeah,when talking about morality I usually talk about people with empathy.People with reduced/no empathy dont care.But in the old days,even people with empathy were still fine with treating the OTHER as animals simply because they were barbarians.

                As for prisoners,thats a different kind of beast.Its the desire for vengeance over justice.

                And as for the sweatshops and such,its mostly the case of “far from sight,far from mind”.Its much easier to ignore suffering you dont see.

                Which is precisely what I was talking about:Humans are plagued with a bunch of problems,and tackling one does not solve others.

      • BlueHorus says:

        I’d say this is the same problem in human nature, just repackaged. While humanity has (in some cases) moved on from the old tribalisms (just hating people from other countries) they can be just as bad about people who support other sports teams, or who hold different political beliefs.

        Sort of like how a lot of the world is opposed to straightforward slavery, particuarly the race-based slavery of previous centuries…but underpaid sweatshop workers in another country don’t bother them that much.

      • CloverMan says:

        Eeeeh, we still have no problem with having people work in absolutely miserable conditions for almost nothing just so we can have our convenience. Modern slavery is just a matter of distance, both geographical and logistical.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      But the definitions of your in-group and out-group have changed and altered so many times over the millennia. Is tribalism based on geographic location? On language? On skin colour? On religious belief? On music subculture? Depending on the time and place, one of these factors could be of primary importance, of minor importance, or of no importance. There might be a biological or psychological pressure to form tight-knit groups, but the fact that people can, e.g. be supportive of fellow citizens of a nation-state, or expatriates, or co-religionists, etc., even when thousands of miles away, suggests that empathy for larger in-groups isn’t subject to the same limitations.

    • Blake says:

      We train people to go against their instincts and inbuilt behaviours all the time.
      Almost everything in society is the way it is because we make people behave that way not because it’s natural.

      I think the big problem we face with tribalism though, isn’t just that it comes naturally, but that we’re trained to believe it’s good.
      We teach kids to go for their local sports team instead of the other guys and to chant for their country in the Olympics. We teach them a world where the protagonists are always the ‘good guys’, and the people you see less often are somewhere between bad and irrelevant.

      I can’t imagine the stories we tell are going to change any time soon, which means we need to work hard to teach kids that blindly going with the group is a bad choice, to look for times the people around them are doing the wrong thing, and to re-evaluate their opinions of them when they do.

      There will always be some people blindly following their ‘tribe’, but we need to teach everyone to call people out when they’re doing it to get people to change their behaviour.

      • Cinnamon Noir says:

        Interesting point, Blake. The way I see it, civilization is something that we construct on top of an underlying set of wants and thought patterns. The fact that we still have base impulses doesn’t make us “uncivilized” necessarily, but it is something we’re obliged to keep in check. I think a big part of the problem is that this is an individual responsibility, but many are obsessed with finding a universal solution to it, which is only certain to work if you don’t allow people any freedom to make their own choices.

        There were few things that made me more uncomfortable as a teenager than high school pep rallies. If you’re not inclined to go along with the general mood, the whole thing feels like a mindless cult ritual, and some really aggressive impulses are deliberately conjured up. I went to a high school where our “rival” team was called the Panthers, and one year a teacher from our school threw a dead cat on the football field during a game. It was deliberately intimidating, and was only tolerated because we don’t think of a neighboring sports team as a protected minority. I understand that spectacles like this make people uncomfortable with the free expression of ideas, and I don’t blame them for expressing their disapproval of it.

        But in all of this, what disturbs me the most isn’t really the retrograde or disgusting opinions presented on Twitter; it’s the fact that people who value civility above freedom have used those opinions to push a totalitarian vision of a “moderated” Internet, a safe space where enlightened people won’t have to endure the sight of distasteful opinions. Everyone has the right of free association, i.e. to interact with whomever you choose, but that right is tempered by a responsibility to tolerate the people you don’t like. No one has a right to not be offended, and if such a right existed it would ultimately contradict not only free speech but even the right to life itself; we’ve had ample evidence in recent years that the mere existence of some people is offensive to others.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Because if your only options are “Do nothing” and “Make the problem worse”, then doing nothing really is your best option.

    Sadly though,they ARE constantly trying to do something because not everyone is as smart as punisher,so they are constantly making things worse and worse.

  10. General Karthos says:

    There’s a legitimate reason I’m not on Twitter that I’ve never been able to effectively articulate. This is more or less it.

    I haven’t been on Facebook (got rid of my account many years ago) and apparently that turned out to be a good decision, given the recent revelations.

    Leaves me wondering how long it’ll be before everyone discovers what Twitter’s been doing (it’s been in the news, but has been overshadowed by the facebook stuff, so it might have to come up a second time before it has any effect) and there’s a mass exodus from them.

    Saves me some time that I never had an account.

  11. DanMan says:

    I just had this same debate with myself on my Reddit use. There was an update by the admins that I knew some small group of people would be mad about. I went into the comments and basically tried to make a “yeah this sucks, and I’m sorry that you people who are following the rules are getting punished, but people not following the rules are more dangerous” kind of statement and got slammed for it by people unwilling to listen.

    I noticed what this was doing to me emotionally and how invested I was in a stranger’s conflict with a company and decided I needed to take a step back. I completely changed my subreddit subscriptions and am trying to modify the way I use the platform.

    I don’t have most forms of social media (no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) because I personally haven’t figured out how to fit into it. I always thought I was just an old coot who couldn’t get attached to this new fangled technology (I’m only 30, but still).

    • General Karthos says:

      I was kinda in the same boat. I’m not the kind of person who shares photos, or who is particularly social in general. So Social Media became a way to give away my personal information for no kind of return and get 800 billion updates a minute that my sister’s best friend’s second cousin’s roommates’ mother’s great niece’s go-kart club vice-president’s high school frenemy’s cat just had kittens.

      The only time I miss it now is when you can’t make comments on certain sites without signing into facebook. Probably healthier not to comment there anyway.

  12. Redrock says:

    I always wonder why Twitter gets singled out when it’s quite clear that social media in general is more than a little unhealthy. I mean, I know why. There’s a lot of people in there and a certain president is notorious for using it, etc, etc. But Facebook isn’t much better. Or Youtube comments. Yeah, people can make their statements a bit less black and white withput the character limit, but that’s assuming they actually want to articulate a complex position. Which is a pretty big assumption.

    Taking away interactivity and replies is a partial solution. Which is why pretty much the only social media I regularly consume are Telegram channels, which are like Twitter feeds without replies or character limits. It’s also a good alternative to Whatsapp, so that’s a bonus. I mean, that doesn’t address the root of the problem, i.e. that people are stupid and full of hate, but it works as a filter if nothing else.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Twitter gets singled out the most because its the easiest one to use,precisely because it was developed for mobile first.Its really difficult to respond to youtube comments via phone,and even with facebook its kind of hard to do more than repost asinine stuff.
      But twitter
      you can take anywhere,
      even to shitter.

    • Blake says:

      Twitter is all about tweeting to the world where most other social media platforms are about communicating with friends. I think that’s the main difference.

      • Redrock says:

        Errrr. Have you been on Facebook recently? Or ever? Or Instagram? I’m sorry, but social media is a near constant stream of unchecked narcissism that has next to nothing to do with communication. ICQ was about communication. Communication with friends isn’t something that needs to be public. No, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all about putting yourself out there. Or, rather, a completely fabricated version of yourself.

    • Soylent Dave says:

      Twitter gets singled out because it’s the most extreme example, and I think it’s the most extreme example because the character limit almost forces a “world without nuance”.

      All social media creates balkanisation, but if you’re talking in short, nuance-free snippets? Then it’s really hard not to end up convinced that everyone has a really extreme viewpoint.

  13. I dislike Twitter for the same reason that I dislike small talk at parties:

    Conversation without substance bores me to tears. I find both to be very shallow and limiting.

    Also, I am incapable of expressing myself in Jiggity-jeffs.

  14. Cinnamon Noir says:

    I’ve never left a comment on your site before, Shamus, and I don’t know if I will after this, but I felt that I had to step in and thank you for this post.

    This “gotcha” culture that has emerged from social media, where any sign of weakness or ignorance on one side is pounced upon by the other as evidence of inherent wickedness, is turning social interactions into gang warfare. The psychological effects of talking only to people who share your opinions and hatred of outsiders are precisely why I don’t use Twitter or Facebook.

    It happens that I do comment and make videos on Youtube, and you would not believe the trouble I’ve had, not only with people lambasting me for having a differing opinion but also from people on my own side making assumptions about me and attacking “the enemy” on my behalf. I do my best to keep things civil and rein in the people on both sides who take things too far. If you have a thick skin and don’t mind criticism, I think it’s your responsibility as a user to pour oil on troubled waters.

    Thank you for being thoughtful and evenhanded, and for encouraging others to be the same.

    • Mistwraithe says:

      I’m late to the party so rather than make my own very similar comment I will just jump on Cinnamon Noir’s bandwagon (cool name btw) and second their thanks for writing this post.

      I think it is the most thought provoking, balanced and down right excellent post by Shamus on this site for a long time – which should be taken in the context that I find many of Shamus’s posts to be excellent (it’s why I come here after all!).

  15. GargamelLeNoir says:

    The reason why this article isn’t a moral panic is that you’re not saying “this entire technology is garbage, throw it in the toilet and revert to the old ways”, you’re saying “that technology has this unhealthy consequence, mind it when you use it”. There’s a world of difference here.
    And yeah, there is no magical fix for this problem. Each of us needs to be the change we want to see, and repress our instinct when a purple douchebag takes a swipe at single-player avocado control (can’t believe you’re a purple yourself Shamus, huge disappointment right there…)

    • lucky7 says:

      I have very little to contribute to this discussion, but I just wanted to say that “Single-payer avocado control” made me laugh out loud.

  16. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    Twitter never appealed to me and not because I was holding on to any particular moral high ground, but because it seemed like a medium of communication designed to keep me out. It seemed specifically designed to allow anybody to vomit out every stupid thought that they had in any given moment.

    For me, written communication has to be a little more complicated than that to be effective. My brain doesn’t allow me to distill a complete thought down to 140 characters. And even if I had that capability, I’d still study my words for a good 10 minutes before hitting “send” or whatever button Twitter uses. There’s certainly not much room for nuance. But, as a medium, it doesn’t seem to be designed for nuance – just a catch-all for every thought bubble that pops throughout the day, whether that thought is “I just ate some good pancakes” or “We’re trapped in a chaotic abyss, waiting to be consumed by entropy.”

    As far as I can tell, Twitter as a whole is just a terrible way to communicate, before even trying to hash out the psychology of tribalism and self-reinforced narratives. What message can be truly sent when being perfunctory and immediate is of higher currency than being thoughtful or having an actual point?

    I know there’s talk of Twitter upping the character limit and that might actually be good for the quality of engagement. I would also suggest that a tweet should go through a 15 minute “cool down” period where a person has to re-visit what they wrote at the end and ask “Do I really want to say this?” before it goes out into the world. But both of those ideas seem antithetical to what’s built into the foundation of what Twitter is.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure Twitter’s days are numbered and that it will soon be replaced by something that’s even more vapid where people create the illusion of communication through emoji and gifs or something. I think this is where someone pops in and tells me I just described Instagram. Ugh. We’re trapped in a chaotic abyss, waiting to be consumed by entropy.

    • EricF says:

      Twitter was originally presented as kind of a public UNIX -f option: post an answer to the question “what am I doing right now” and then your friends can see at a glance if you’re doing something fun (come join in!) or on Do Not Disturb mode (in class?).

      Then people started using it to post 140 character news items. And then Twitter enabled pictures, and Videos, and suddenly it was just another social media platform.

  17. Hal says:

    What makes this even worse is that it’s not just random anonymous people on Twitter. Corporations, politicians, journalists, organizations of every stripe and purpose, they’re all gathered together in this one “place.” That bad opinion you have might suddenly catch the attention of the POTUS. Your tasteless joke might be re-tweeted by the NYT, and now the whole world thinks you’re a monster. Law enforcement in your locality might see a tweet you liked and decide that qualifies as a hate crime.

    Is this really the world we want to live in? I’m not terribly satisfied with it.

    • BlueHorus says:

      I’m sure there’s other, more current examples, but I always think of Justine Sacco when I hear something like this. One ill-thought-out, not-very-funny joke and a massive hate mob descended to mess up her life.

      Just..agh.

      • Hal says:

        I think what worries me about situations like Justine’s are the self-righteousness of the people who wanted her fired. It’s not enough for someone to have a social “black eye,” they must be ruined. People who escaped/survived communist dictatorships speak of exactly the same dynamic, and it’s only not horrifying because we’ve managed to dissociate the digital world from the “real” world.

        I’ve read of more recent examples, particularly pertaining to responses from authorities and not just angry mobs. That the examples exist at all is just as troubling to me. It makes me wonder if someday I won’t get hauled in to speak with HR because I retweeted something unacceptable.

  18. Echo Tango says:

    Could Twitter try to attack one of the root causes directly, to combat this social firestorm? The one I’m thinking of, is the pull towards group-think. Instead of just letting people subscribe/follow/etc for any person or group they care about, balance it out with some opposing views, and some more neutral views? I mean, categorizing things and deciding what’s an us-vs-them / political issue, would itself require tonnes of moderators or a very clever bot, but it might actually be do-able. Maybe have a bot that looks for tweets / groups / people who generate a lot of angry arguments (or put everyone on a numeric scale). Then if anyone follows somebody over say, a 7 out of 10, they automatically also follow other people from the other side, and some neutrals? This sounds machine-learnable to me, although it might still be infeasible.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats a terrible idea.Thats what youtube is doing now with their subscribe and bell things,and its awful.And they are doing it with no politics in mind.

    • Nope says:

      Because that’s not a feature people want. It’s actively unhelpful. If you follow something, it’s because you want to hear more of their opinions, not because you want unrelated spam you’ll have to unfollow to get to what you wanted to read.

      That’s about as dumb as putting a bunch of popup ads for other websites completely unrelated on your site, so every time I go to twentysided, I get a bunch of other tabs and windows to close.

  19. slipshod says:

    Shamus, I think your comparison of twitter to a game is spot on. I also think that treating it like a game might assist in discovering a simplified solution to the issue you’re describing (because one inevitably starts to think in terms of “debugging a game” instead of “fixing a complex and overpoweringly vast social platform”).

    What if we got rid of the “likes”?

    The power of facebook, snapchat, instagram, twitter, and the rest of the major social medias resides within their ability to provide instant gratification. At first, you snap a picture because you’re fascinated by what you’re seeing. Next, because the view is truly stunning, you get a bunch of “likes”. Being “liked” makes you feel good, because you translate a “like” into a feeling of acceptance and praise. Quickly, your reward becomes the “like,” not the stunning view, and soon you’re posting pictures that will get you the most “likes,” not the ones that truly rock your spirit. This cycle is especially easy to establish because you’re not interacting with the audience in person; i.e., you are exempt from picking up on their facial expressions, tone, or body language that might indicate to you the real reason why they decided to “like” the picture.

    So what if we disable the instant gratification? What if we also nuke the “retweet” function? We’re left with platforms for distributing content and writing commentary on content. They’re still agile platforms that will incite flame-wars, but, let’s face it, Hamilton and Jefferson used pseudonyms to bash each other in newspapers and wrote essays and novel-length letters to loved ones expressing outrage with the incompetence of the other. Dissent is nothing new. If anything, it keeps us going and churning through the issues until we get to a middle ground.

    It’s the instant gratification that worries me, and that makes the entire social media advent so pervasive and addictive.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Getting rid of the likes and the retweets would probably be the easiest things to change, for the amount of impact they could have. Work a shot, IMO.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      If you got rid of likes, I think you’d get a ton of people clogging up the response tweets with “that’s really good!” or “ha ha, so true.” I prefer for the responses to be actual responses when possible, letting people with nothing to say filter their reaction down to “yup, that’s good” saves time for everyone.

      • Leocruta says:

        Oh man, yeah right? I totally agree.

      • mwchase says:

        I’m pretty sure the way GitHub handles this is to have a bunch of reaction buttons, but they don’t do any analytics or aggregation to them. They’re just… there. You press them, and then your reaction is attached to the post, and nowhere else.

      • slipshod says:

        That’s the point, though. Typing a reply requires time, and it’s not as instantaneous as a “like”. Likewise, a useless response would not trigger the same instant gratification chemistry to the person who posts. A “like” leaves room for interpretation. A comment provides more clarity to the thought process (or lack thereof) of the person replying. I think this is valuable if we’re trying to dissuade the gamification of twitter.

    • Nope says:

      If they didn’t use those as sorting algorithms for feeds based on “popularity” that’d probably help. one of the big nuisances with Facebook is that it always resets to “Popularity” instead of “Recent”. I don’t want to see the “most engaging” content, with the intent of getting me stuck in for an extended period, I want to quickly check if there’s something on there I care about and chronological order works better for that.

      But they’re going to keep with both of these annoyances, because they drive engagement.

  20. zackoid says:

    I think the uniquely problematic thing about Twitter vis a vis other social media is the retweet. Something similar might exist in other platforms, but it is essential to twitter in a way that it isn’t to those others. It really ramps up the “do you SEE this shit?!” factor.

    Also I’m not sure you can write this piece in 2018 without mentioning the fact that multiple groups are out there intentionally sowing disinformation and discord via social media. I’ll stop there because anything else I have to say will rightfully get deleted.

  21. Mephane says:

    Behind all those silly names and joke icons are real human beings with real feelings.

    Actually and to make matters worse, some of them aren’t, and it is not always easy to distinguish between a person and a Twitter bot.

  22. Echo Tango says:

    Meta: the styling when you leave a comment or reply is pretty bad for phones. All the boxes get chopped off on the right and you can’t even scroll right to compensate, because they’re shoved out of the scrollable area. Bad enough to not be able to read all the words you wrote to check them, but it’s also difficult to click the checkmark big. (Luckily the text label for it is clickable.)

  23. Retsam says:

    My favorite “random” class I took in college was “Ethics and Technology”, it was a small class and it boiled down to just reading and talking about a lot of different books and papers on the ethical implications of technology. And I share Shamus’s “anti-moral panic” stance: (for example, I really didn’t care for “The Shallows”, a book which argued that smartphones and the internet are making people more stupider, it felt very moral panicky).

    But I think the prevailing view on the other side of the spectrum – that technology is, at worst, ethically neutral – can be equally dangerous: it leads to people adopting technologies (a category in which I’m including stuff like twitter) without thinking critically about their consequences. A lot of people I think would respond to articles like this by saying “It’s not Twitter’s fault that people misuse it”, which I think exemplifies the “technology is ethically neutral” camp.

    And it’s true that it’s possible to use twitter without falling into these pitfalls, but the affordances (i.e. the “mechanics” in the “twitter is a game” analogy) of a technology shape how it’s most commonly used. The metaphor I really liked is that one writer compared the uses of a technology to the valence fields of electrons, (which are, as I understand it, probability fields that determine where an electron most likely is). Yes, there may technically be infinite places where an electron could be, or infinite ways that a technology might be used (e.g. I might use my smartphone to hammer a nail), but some are much more common than others.

    And if the most common uses of a technology are harmful, it’s wise to be cautious about how that technology is used. That doesn’t necessarily mean an outright rejection (though it might), but absolutely it should be handled with caution: like a snake that can bite you. And absolutely, I think this needs to be largely done on an individual basis. For me the line of “moral panic” is the difference between “I don’t use twitter because I think it’s harmful” to “I’m going to go tell everyone they can’t use twitter because I think it’s harmful”.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The fact that technology is ethically neutral does not mean that people will adapt to it in a neutral way.Thats where the danger lies,thinking that just because something is neutral it wont swing one way or the other based on the behavior of the early adopters.

  24. Abnaxis says:

    From my standpoint, the thing that REALLY sucks about Twitter is that it makes it virtually impossible to have a reasonable discussion about important issues like politics anywhere else on the internet. The massice fusion-reactor of flaming that is Twitter is so terrible that nobody allows political discussions in their forums for fear of the fire spreading their way, and even if they did everyone you would talk to is probably coming into the discussion with terrible assumptions about your position thanks to their twitting experience.

    As someone who enjoys these sorts of dialogues, it sucks for them to banned in all the places where they wouldn’t be a heaping trash fire of a mess (here for example), though I understand why it is so.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Even here, people get carried away and acrimonious debates happen. Occasionally Shamus steps in to stop them.

      The root caus of the problem isn’t Twitter, or the Internet, or anything like that: it’s human nature. People have always argued like this, it’s just that Twitter is particualry good at channeling said arguments in a certain format.

  25. Ravens Cry says:

    Yeesh, I don’t have a twitter account, and this makes me especially glad I don’t have one! Closest I come to using twitter is to google the feed of some artist I like, since they’ll often update on stuff using it.

  26. Matt says:

    I am hopeful that Twitter will eventually be forced to get better or go away, leaving it as nothing more than a peculiar artifact of this period of Culture Wars.

    First, as Shamus noted, it has been losing money every year since its inception. In the land of internet funny money and venture capital, websites that don’t make any money can persist for a longer time than otherwise. However, I believe they eventually have to turn some kind of a profit or the money will run out, off to chase the next big thing.

    Second, Shamus mentions that 330 million people use Twitter. That’s not that many users when compared to, say, Facebook’s 2.2 billion (!). I’ve also read that they have trouble retaining and engaging users, many of whom are content to log in to post the occasional banal update. On the other hand, their user base has grown and these numbers don’t account for the cultural effect a screencapped tweet can have, regardless of whether or not the audience are actual Twitter users.

    I’m not sure what Twitter getting “better” looks like, or if it will get better for everyone. It may simply fail or fragment, causing one big echo chamber to be replaced by many smaller ones. Perhaps some kind of AI moderation will improve and stick. Maybe they’ll ultimately just ban all the Yellows and they will find another avenue to communicate. Anyway, I don’t think it can last forever.

  27. Darren says:

    “Groupthink” is inevitable when the sides are in fundamental disagreement with one another.

    At the risk of running afoul of the “no politics” rule: I am not a social conservative, but I actively seek out and read material written by them. I want to know what they think. I would like to be able to articulate political ideas that would be acceptable to both myself and people with different opinions. But I’ve discovered that there is no compromise between me and social conservatives at a fundamental level. There is no policy suggestion that I can present that they would accept as reasonable and vice versa.

    And it has nothing to do with Twitter, though Twitter has been an excellent vehicle for discovering these perspectives. I wouldn’t know about Ross Douthat (writes for the NYT), Michael Dougherty (National Review), or Rod Dreher (The American Conservative) without Twitter, but their Twitter presence is minuscule compared to their non-Twitter output. Go read any of those people–especially best-selling author Dreher–and come back to me and say with a straight face that the partisan problem is mostly about Twitter and not fundamental, irreconcilable differences between their perspectives and my own (admittedly, you’d have to know mine, but I think you’ll understand what I mean about “can’t compromise” when you see, say, Dreher’s stance on gay rights).

  28. Amarsir says:

    Bad news: it’s actually worse than an echo chamber.

    A very recent study paid party-registered people to follow retweet bots of the opposite party. After a month, they found that followers became more partisan, not less.

    My theory as to why this would be is that we don’t know how to talk with people who disagree, especially on social media. It’s all about cheap shots that stir up the like-minded, with no effort to change minds at all.

    • Darren says:

      As I said, I think the idea that Twitter causes some kind of outrage cycle that wouldn’t otherwise exist is assuming that there is some political middle ground that can be reached. I don’t think this is true, and Twitter is simply one platform demonstrating that, when encountering different opinions, people discover that there is actually no compromise to be had.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Maybe we need to make argumentation / debate-club a mandatory class in high-school? Sounds like we’ve got a systemic problem, with people in general not knowing how to have constructive debate, without spiraling into angry shouting.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Logic should be taught before anything else.Without a solid foundation in logic,any debate is basically this.

      • Daimbert says:

        There was one thing that I learned very quickly taking philosophy classes: it’s a lot easier to argue against an idea than it is to argue for your own idea. So most people do a lot more of the former than the latter, and often think that doing the former is good enough. And when people don’t automatically see how their idea is just that great compared to the others, then they get more confused and angry, never stopping to think that maybe the problem is that their idea isn’t as clear or obviously good as it seems to them. This, then, results in them considering people who don’t get their ideas stupid or malicious, and thus the cycle.

        The best philosophy professors I ever had clearly understood the objections of those who disagreed with them. They didn’t find them convincing, but they understood what problem or issue their opponents were worried about. That tends to make disagreements go better, as you don’t conclude that your opponents are stupid, but instead that they simply have different concerns than you.

        • Ravens Cry says:

          Indeed. Even without any classes, I realized a lot of differences come from differences in what is valued. So one side isn’t going to convince the other side, because each is framing the issues in terms of what they value, and that’s not going to do anything but preach to the choir, because the other side does not value such things to the same extent. I read an interesting article about how the differences in the approaches and sharing patterns of hunting verses gathering still resonate today in how we approach problems of social infrastructure.

        • EricF says:

          That tends to make disagreements go better, as you don’t conclude that your opponents are stupid, but instead that they simply have different concerns than you.

          Unless the debtor decides that the other person is evil. After all, if that Purple thinks [evil thing] is more important to do than [good thing], and clearly isn’t misinformed/stupid/ignorant, then that’s a bigger barrier to reconciliation than the idea that they just don’t have all the information.

          • Daimbert says:

            But part of that is understanding why the other person thinks that evil thing is really a good thing, or is at least neutral. At a minimum, it shows you what issues you’re going to have to address to convince them, and it’s pretty much the only way to get a compromise by dealing with the problem they’re concerned with while still dealing with what concerns you.

    • AllanH says:

      Minds are incredibly difficult to change. There are usually years of indoctrination before a person becomes a zealot for their politics. What we really have are political cultists. People in cults rarely acknowledge or realize they are in a cult. De-programming is extraordinarily difficult. Memes have boiled it down to red pill vs blue pill. The question isn’t the color of the pill but why are their pills in the first place. As a society we have to find the root cause and not merely the symptoms. At a fundamental level we all want the same things, this has been perverted by noise designed to wedge us apart. Why is that? I would truly like to know.

    • Nope says:

      It’s part of confirmation bias. People think that reading a wider perspective of views makes them more open minded? That itself is just confirmation bias speaking, a simple assumption that they’ve built upon, based on no evidence.

      It turns out that when people already believe one way or another, seeing contrary opinions or evidence more often strengthens the original belief. We latch onto the ideas we already have, and when we see the contrary, we defend them, and hence strengthen our belief.

      The notion that getting a broader view is the solution is an idea that’s just comfortable, but it doesn’t reflect cognition, and it also doesn’t reflect actually critically reviewing information, which is what is really needed.

  29. Decius says:

    I’m going to leave this here.
    Meditations on Moloch is also useful for anyone who dislikes the phenomenon and wants to fantasize and/or try to change it.

  30. Nimas says:

    At the risk of getting too close to you no politics rule (please, please delete this if you even think I’m close to crossing a line), this is one of the reasons for my dislike of 2 party politics.

    It’s something I see as someone watching US politics from the outside, and also noticing it becoming far more prevalent in my home country of Australia, but having only/predominantly 2 major parties seems to just lead to increasing a divide between people with rational talk (not debates, where often the goal degenerates to ‘winning’ the debate, instead looking to improve and refine thoughts) where everyone stops seeing others as mostly sensible human beings and as irrational thugs who must be prevented from destroying the very fabric of society.

    I generally try to assume that most people got into politics to try and improve the world they live in. Each person simply has a different idea how best to do that. For example, most people I think (generally) agree that we don’t want to shoot anyone who tries to cross a border, and we also don’t want to simply ‘not’ have a border at all, even if to politely ask the nation next door to not march their army straight to the capital. Everyone is merely disagreeing on what the best course of action is between those two extremes.

    I think it also doesn’t help that it’s really hard to accept/be seen accepting that you were wrong. Honestly, I think contingent politics should be the most respected, where if you change your position because new information was presented to you (and you explained that and why the information was important to your constituents) we should applaud. But in reality you get called for ‘backflips’ and people see you as not being a strong leader and the like.

    Also how you hold votes is major factor in this too, but honestly CGP Grey has better explained videos on that as well as Extra Credits ideas on trying to align politicians best interests with voters best interests, but that is a whole other topic.

    • EricF says:

      For example, most people I think (generally) agree that we don’t want to shoot anyone who tries to cross a border,

      Yeah, that’s a big problem because _some_ people say that they do want to shoot anyone who tries to cross the border, and those voices get amplified…

      • Nimas says:

        Oh sorry, when I said anyone, I meant everyone. As in, no trade, no immigration period. As extreme as possible.

        • Redrock says:

          I generally try to assume that most people got into politics to try and improve the world they live in.

          That’s a pretty big assumption. In my experience, by which I mean a career in political consulting and analysis, most people that get into politics do that for one of several reasons: an semi-irrational desire for power, desire to radically improve their own life (with no intent of, say, learning a trade and excelling at it), force of habit (mostly applies to political dynasties or career bureaucrats). Could be a mix of those reasons. But a real, true desire to improve the world? That’s pretty rare and, well, worrying when it happens, since those people tend to be quite radical and unstable in their approaches and methods.

          Now, to be precise, I’m only talking about people that get into politics with the explicit goal of getting elected or otherwise assuming some kind of government office. Journalists, activists, NGOs may have a different motivation.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well,there was that humorous clip from the daily show where they asked “What is the goal of a politician” to a politician in australia and in usa.The first one replied “To serve the people well”,and the second one replied “To get elected”.

            Of course,this was done as a joke,so shouldnt be taken as gospel,but it does sound plausible that the reasons why someone goes into politics vary depending on the actions of other politicians in that country.

            • Redrock says:

              Nah. Every politician’s goal is to get elected and stay elected for as long as the political system allows. With a few exceptions that only serve to underline the rule. Now, a decent political system is one that requires politicians to serve the people well to get re-elected. That’s about it. Which is usually why you can really see them putting in the effort for a few months after an election and a few months prior to the next one. That’s when the reforms happen, good laws get written, wages are increased, etc. And if the democratic institutions in a given country aren’t robust enough to provide some real competitive elections? Then the people are pretty much screwed.

              • Redingold says:

                Every politician’s going to be trying to get elected and serve the people, but there’s a difference between “I’m serving the people so I can get elected” and “I’m getting elected so I can serve the people”.

        • EricF says:

          But only “most” people hold that view?

          If we are trying to define the far extreme of border security (eg East Germany circa 1970?), that would by definition be something everyone* agrees would be too far.

          *requisite footnote that there are always a few kooks who will disagree with any given statement, but if 99.999% of everyone agrees with something then it’s fine to just call it everyone.

        • Decius says:

          There is probably an exception, but not enough of one to get amplified… yet.

  31. Dev Null says:

    I’m saying this in response to the people who screenshot ugliness and broadcast it saying, “OH LOOK. I GUESS TWITTER IS OKAY WITH THIS SORT OF THING.”

    Yeah but – and I fully realize the irony of this statement – _those_ people are idiots. No one (ok, almost no one; don’t go find me a counterexample) gets an irate phone call from an ex, records it, and puts it online saying “I guess ATT is okay with this kind of thing!” Clearly the owner of the media has _some_ responsibility to help police content, especially in cases where a law has been broken or there appears to be danger to someone’s wellbeing. But to jump from that to the opinion that anything not explicitly banned is therefore explicitly condoned by the media owner is just dumb, and bad logic.

    I think the biggest problems with social media come when people use it to try to talk to the world, when they should probably be using it to talk to their friends.

    • MichaelG says:

      It’s because the border between ‘communication’ and ‘publishing’ has disappeared. On the (old fashioned) phone, you had an expectation that it was a private conversation that would vanish immediately. On social media, the stuff hangs around forever and is public. Much like publishing.

      So you can make an offensive joke on the phone or in private with a friend and it has no consequences. Do it on Twitter, and it may feel the same, but it isn’t at all.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Cant you make twitter invisible to everyone who isnt following you?Essentially making it actually private.And there are dms too.

    • Nope says:

      They sort of are though. If you can’t moderate it, and you create an environment for it, then your actions show complicity, and you are “ok” enough with it to allow it to continue.

      That’s not to say that they can do a lot, barring banning the worst offenders, they really can’t afford moderation-the same as the Youtube issues, it’s almost impossible to review everything, but they choose to continue hosting it, and profitting off it, and using features like say, engagement driven sorting which keeps people using longer, and increases anti-social and attention seeking behaviour, both positive and negative.

  32. Joshua says:

    Never even created an account on Twitter, but Facebook has gotten to that point with so many friends constantly sharing articles (many of them not wholly factual) on politics and trying to annoy their friends of other political persuasions. I’ve certainly used Facebook a lot less because of the constant noise.

  33. baud says:

    Thank you for this great article. That Twitter hasn’t changed is a good since you could keep this article in your pile for a year! :-)
    Still I think that Twitter won’t change since all the conflict and outrage and noise drive up the metrics upon which they are judged by their investors.

    When I first heard about Twitter (something like 8 years ago maybe?), I didn’t see the point since I had no one to tweet to and nothing to tweet about. Then later I realised that it was a dumpster fire and I wanted nothing to do with this. I just created an account to talk to a recruiter that had blocked me on Linkedin last year.

    Also “and new I’m being flooded with hate!”
    I think that you wanted to use now instead of new, perhaps?

  34. Malimar says:

    Awhile back, I unfollowed a bunch of political tweeters and started following more D&D tweeters. My twitter is a much more pleasant place now.

  35. Dragmire says:

    Twitter is something I sometimes feel the want to sign up for but I always end up deciding not too.

    It just seems so stressful.

  36. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo alert: “I’m not saying everything is Twitter’s faul.” is missing the final “t”

  37. GM says:

    Heard of something called Diaspora is it realistic for people to use instead of fb?

  38. aradinfinity says:

    As someone who uses Twitter, though not regularly, I’ve got to say: it really matters what you use the medium for. I’m not interested in listening to politics on it, just hearing about my friends and looking at art. The problem is that personal things are politics; I’m going to use examples in my next paragraph, so if this violates your no politics rule, Shamus, please delete it! Thank you.

    The biggest, most obvious example of this is queer people. I’m not going to name names, but certain political sides in general don’t seem to want to view queer people as people. So, being friends with and following queer people, listening to them talk about their personal lives, is inherently political; that makes it too easy to find politics, especially for these people. Which, inherently, relates to this post.

    You have to inherently want to avoid these kinds of debates, to avoid these subjects, which is less than possible when your existence is constantly politicized. Some people respond to that by becoming more political; if you’re going to be dunked in this language whether you want to or not, you might as well learn to swim, right?

    I don’t know how to solve this. But I feel like doing nothing isn’t the answer; we’ve got to work on figuring out how to help people not do this, which- as far as I’m aware- is relatively unexplored. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears.

    • Daimbert says:

      The biggest, most obvious example of this is queer people. I’m not going to name names, but certain political sides in general don’t seem to want to view queer people as people.

      My first suggestion would be for everyone to be careful about how they talk about these issues. See, what you say here is not an expression of what those people think it their position, but is instead a conclusion drawn about the implications of their position from a certain perspective. The vast majority of people who get this said about them deny that that is their position. Even if the implication is true, simply baldly stating that without going through the intermediate steps of the argument is not going to convince either those people or people who aren’t involved or don’t have the same perspective — generally what we would call “moderates” in these positions — that the charge is valid. And all it does is encourage the other side to fire back with the extreme conclusions they draw based on THEIR perspective. So the one side says “You don’t think X are people!” and the other side responds with “You want to destroy society!” and the middle responds with “You’re both nuts!” and nothing gets settled and we just go round the merry-go-round again and again.

      Twitter’s length restrictions makes this worse, because there really isn’t the room to make the full arguments, so it has to be boiled down to something … and that’s usually the conclusion that enrages the person posting, which is what motivates them to publicly announce this anyway. And thus all sides feel personally attacked, instead of being made to feel that their position has an implication that they might want to consider.

      • mwchase says:

        One thing that can be happening with an apparent lack of empathy is viewing issues that objectively do affect people, through an abstract lens.

        Anonymized: I remember reading an anecdote about a heavily [YELLOW] town where the sentiment was mostly against [FREE-RANGE AVACADO FARMING]. A respected member of the community turned out to have been a [FREE-RANGE AVACADO FARMER WHO HADN’T PROPERLY DECLARED, UM, THESE ANONYMIZATIONS ARE GETTING AWAY FROM ME], and was, per [YELLOW]-endorsed policy, arrested and taken away. The overall response was not “Good, we got rid of that dirty [FARMER]” but “Oh no, I didn’t realize, he was such a fixture around here”, but, well, they couldn’t take it back.

        The thing is, from a great enough distance, people don’t intuitively feel like people, so issues that actually are about human dignity get read as “not related to real people, therefore being pushed for an ulterior motive, probably some form of social engineering or something”.

        I definitely don’t have a silver bullet answer for this, but I do know that some door-to-door efforts in the past few years were meant to try to work around that for some groups. Like, people going door-to-door, introducing themselves, talking about their minority status, then I think just having a civil conversation. I don’t know offhand how well that worked out.

        • Daimbert says:

          Ah, you’ve hit one of my philosophical prejudices, as I’m Stoic-leaning — my blog name says that explicitly — and so share their immense distrust of using emotions in deciding anything. So the question to consider here is: Were they RIGHT about being against X? And there are generally two answers:

          1) They were right, at which point being influenced out of their stance by personally knowing and liking someone doing X would be letting their emotions talk them out of doing the right thing. So that’s not a good option.

          2) They were wrong, at which point it ought to be possible to convince them of that without having to appeal to their emotional attachment to someone to do so (and there’s a risk that if they are emotionally attached to one of the “victims” that will convince them of the opposite). So that’s not good either.

          Now, there is a risk that in some cases we can let the unemotional answer run roughshod over people, like in the worst consequentialist thought experiments — torture someone for eternity to make everyone else’s life better — but in general reducing it to emotion doesn’t help. In fact, above I argued that relying on empathy leads TO these issues, because empathy fails for people you don’t understand very well, so you don’t think of their concerns using it. We don’t want to completely ignore people and their feelings, but we don’t want to let feelings — ours or others — stop us from doing the right thing, because they can all be wrong.

          • mwchase says:

            To my mind, asking whether they were right to be against [STUFF] seems to presuppose that they understood how it related to and interacted with their lives, which they clearly (… to me) did not. Before they knew about this man’s history, they knew him well enough to know that he didn’t act like the associated stereotypes. Their image of what they opposed did not match the reality of those affected by the policies.

            In effect, the policies were meant to punish a particular cartoon villain that was identified with a mostly-remote group of people. The policies are defensible-ish in the face of the villain, inhumane (IMO) applied to the true targets. (But then, I can’t drag you for questioning the cost of the policies, because I’m not saying what they are. … This is very confusing.)

            Going into explicitly abstract rather than anonymized mode:

            It is a common Yellow belief that policy X will have desirable result Y. Policy X is implemented, and has undesirable result Z, which some pundits predicted. Now, given that Z was a foreseeable result of X, were the Yellows that supported X in the hope of Y incorrect to do so? Would it be better that they had the (for the sake of argument, non-traumatic) life experiences necessary to foresee Z?

            The way I see it, in my anonymized third-hand anecdote, the [YELLOW]s were anti-[FARMER], but, beyond knowing the dictionary definition of [FARMER], were basing their desires on additional, false beliefs about what [FARMER]s were like. So, moving away from “Look what happened to this nice man”, they were working from information that was false in this case. They were assuming that all [FARMER]s did various terrible things, and rather than focus enforcement on the terrible things, they focused on being a [FARMER] as a proxy.

            So, the idea with the door-to-door thing I mentioned was to try to use empathy to combat specific false beliefs, such as “Nobody is actually like that” or “Everyone who says they’re like that does [HORRIBLE THING]”

            • Daimbert says:

              Using someone as an example to refute an incorrect stereotype or an overgeneralization is fine, but to my mind doesn’t actually require empathy, but instead just a “You say they all do that, but that person/these people don’t!” argument. The problem is less with that and more with the “But this person is an X, and look, you like them and would hurt them!” sort of argument, that is based more explicitly on empathy.

              And, of course, if the stereotypes are more accurate than not the answer might still be to stick with the policy and maybe carve out some exceptions for the rare special cases. After all, while we might advocate being sympathetic to someone who robs a bank to avoid starving to death, since most people who rob banks aren’t doing that for that reason we’d still want to punish robbing banks in general.

              • mwchase says:

                Okay, pulling back a sec, I was explaining “an apparent lack of empathy” as an outcome of a situation. By that framing, “apparent empathy” is a metric, a dependent variable to the independent variable of “life experiences”. Another way to look at it is “respect for human dignity”. From that perspective, we could fully understand why someone chose to rob a bank, even feel that we might be pushed to something similar in similar circumstances, but still feel that the act should be punished. This is compatible with affirming the bank-robber’s status as a human with inalienable rights, self-determination, etc.

                The issue is people treating requests for respect for human dignity like attempts to sabotage society. Which is something that I’ve seen regarding many different issues.

                • Daimbert says:

                  The issue is people treating requests for respect for human dignity like attempts to sabotage society. Which is something that I’ve seen regarding many different issues.

                  That ties back to my original point though: from THEIR perspective, you’re treating their attempts to preserve society like attempts to deny respect for human dignity. That’s why I said the first step is to be very careful how you present their viewpoint, because the majority of those people you mention almost certainly wouldn’t describe their position that way, and doing so only makes them react as if you are egregiously misrepresenting them. That’s especially true if you only say that that is what they’re doing and DON’T give your reasoning for why what they’re doing implies that.

                  • mwchase says:

                    I’ll be honest, the mental gymnastics required to debate at this level of abstraction are a little tiring, so I’m probably going to wind down for now.

                    In line with that, all I’ve got now is, given “That’s why I said the first step is to be very careful how you present their viewpoint” would you agree that in the specific-ish dichotomy that was addressing, such consideration also has to go the other way?

                    • mwchase says:

                      This discussion is, in fact, so exhaustingly decompressed that I forgot about

                      My first suggestion would be for everyone to be careful about how they talk about these issues.

                      Okay, that’s all I wanted, I’m out. I’m going to go do something more relaxing, like thrashing my body into a semblance of health.

        • BlueHorus says:

          It’s also that people really seem to define themselves through their beliefs. An attack on a principle is, to a lot of people, an attack on them personally – it’s an instinctive reaction that needs to be un-taught.

          I know a couple of people who’ve had it revealed that someone they knew/loved was [A FREE-RANGE AVACADO FARMER]. And it’s always a massive deal, genuinely upsetting to them, because…I don’t know actually, thinking that you might be wrong is just too hard?
          But it’s always resulted in a drastic reaction from the [FREE-RANGE AVACADO OBJECTOR], often getting stuck in loops of ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘You didn’t mean that, you hate avacados really, why are you being so hurtful?’ etc.

          Changing your mind is really hard for most people, and that’s not limited to any one party or viewpoint.

      • Decius says:

        It’s not stereotyping or strawmanning to speak of the people who literally have an opinion.

        I’ve spent hours discussing political subjects with someone, and when I pressed them to call humans born without clear sexual dimorphism ‘people’, he flat out refused to use the word.

        There exist such people.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes,SOME people are like that.Does that mean everyone who agrees with them on ANYTHING is like that as well?Are all people who like bacon nazis because some nazis like bacon?Its important to not throw guilt by association freely around.Basically,this:

          However, one or two of the responses go beyond mere insults. They reveal a horrible, ugly arrogance and hatred towards Purples. Out of his hundred angry responses, Bob screenshots these three or four and shares them with his followers. “This is what we’re fighting against!” he tells people. Purples rally to his side. They encourage him, they retweet him, they follow him. His score goes up and he finally gets the affirmation he was looking for.

        • Daimbert says:

          Well, of course, some people might have those opinions, but it would still be important to find out if they really hold them.

          Even in your case, that the person won’t use that word doesn’t mean that they refuse to think of them that way, but might mean that they are worried that the question is a trap, where if they admit that their opponent will then use that to insist that something must be true about their position that isn’t. They might fear that it’s a classic “Have you stopped beating your wife?” question, where no matter how they answer the conclusion will be that they’re a bigot, so they refuse to answer … which is taken as a sign of bigotry. Even if you don’t intend the trap, and even if they can’t see how it could be a trap, this ploy is common enough that they might conclude that just because they can’t see one doesn’t mean it’s there. The more you insist that they have to answer the question or use the term, the more they come to believe that this is really important to you and so that the concession must give you something in the debate, and so they refuse to make the concession.

          I’m not sure that that’s what’s happening in your case, obviously, since I don’t know the details. But someone refusing to answer the question most often is out of a fear that answering the question will lead to what they think is an erroneous implication about them. If they accept the implication, they will be more likely to just give it at some point, especially if you are using their denial to draw that implication anyway.

      • Kathryn says:

        Thank you. I wanted to make a point similar to this but couldn’t find the right words, because it’s too personal to me. I am so, so, so sick of hearing, “Oh, you support X, CLEARLY that means you hate Alphas, Betas, and Gammas! You Greekletterist!!!” It seems to have never occurred to any of these people to question whether I might support X because I believe it leads to better outcomes for everyone including Alphas. In fact, there are multiple issues where I support X specifically because I think Y disadvantages Betas and Gammas (neither of which I am myself)…and if people bothered to actually ask me why I support something instead of assuming, they’d know that. They might still think I’m wrong in believing X leads to better outcomes than Y, and maybe I am, but they won’t convince me of that by calling me a Greekletterist.

  39. WWWebb says:

    I’ve got a somewhat technical question that reading this article has brought up. I don’t have a Twitter account myself, but I regularly open up a browser and load up twitter.com/dadjokehansolo or /shamusyoung or whomever I want to read the Tweets from. Back in ye olden days (5-6 years ago), there were lots of twitter clients that didn’t require you to have your own account. Twitter killed most of them when they put ads on the service, so now I have to use a browser with some bookmarks.

    All that is to say, my experience with Twitter is as a place to read the content from specific accounts. I don’t quite comprehend this notion of random people on the internet writing messages to/about me and having those messages appear in the aggregated feed of content I’ve subscribed to. Does Twitter not have a big giant filter button in the settings that says “only show me posts from accounts I follow”? Is that part of the social compact of Twitter? Everyone can see what I write so I have to see what everyone else writes?

    I don’t think that filtering would dampen the echo chamber effect … I’m probably only going to follow people that I frequently see retweets from. But would it at least tamp down the “hundred punches in reply” effect?

    • mwchase says:

      There are a few things going on, and Twitter has carefully sabotaged their own design multiple times over the years, so it’s kind of hard to talk about what Twitter “does”.

      Broadly speaking, there’s the timeline feed, which is the front page when logged in, and that used to do what you describe, but now it’s got “algorithm” in it to do stuff like reorder incoming tweets, add sponsored tweets, and interleave tweets liked by people you follow. It is basically garbage now.

      There’s the notifications area, which displays follows, likes, retweets, and replies. Also lately, it started adding in tweets liked by people you follow, because people liked that so much the first time. This is where things would go terribly wrong if a hundred people were yelling at you. I don’t know if it’s possible to filter replies to people you follow, or something like that.

      There are also a bunch of other tabs that people mostly click by accident.

  40. Victor says:

    Well written sir. Just…. well written.

  41. Sectant says:

    While I agree with much of what was said here, I think Shamus may not be giving enough credit to one of the major parts of social media – the algorithms which influence what you see.

    Social media sites want to maximise ad revenue, which usually means looking for “engagement” – i.e. keeping you on the site as long as possible, and getting you to interact with things on the site. This is the reason Twitter now has an AI-controlled timeline instead of just listing things in chronological order.

    Unfortunately provocative or controversial content tends to get a lot of “engagement”, as we know from a long history of internet trolling. It’s not just from people who agree with it, either! People who are Shocked and Appalled will reply or even retweet to say “Look at how stupid this is!”, and then they’ll sit there refreshing Twitter to see if people are responding. #engagement!

    As a result, the algorithm tends to favour showing provocative material . If you watch a relatively neutral news video on YouTube and let it keep autoplaying the recommendations, it will often slide towards controversial nonsense… because that tends to bring in more views.

    So it’s not even about echo chambers forming, necessarily; it’s that the systems that underpin social media actively work to promote controversy, because this is in the commercial interests of their owners.

    I’ve heard a suggestion that if Facebook and Twitter moved to subscription models instead of advertising, it would substantially change the way conversations were conducted, because they would now have an incentive to keep their users feeling good about the service instead furiously outraged about the stupid things other people are saying. I’m not sure I agree, though – newspapers are subscription and still have problems with partisan or sensationalist nonsense. I also doubt that a subscription model is commercially viable at this stage… though if Facebook’s recent problems continue maybe someone will try it.

    • Version 2.Joe says:

      There’s Vero, if you haven’t heard about it. I’m not using it, just heard it’s supposed to combat this very problem.

    • Nope says:

      You’re absolutely right. Something incredibly partisan naturally drives more engagement, more likes of the posting, people agreeing, and people arguing. It also crowds out the smaller stuff and hence sorts people into broader, larger groups. It’s manifestly less useful, but it’s overwhelmingly more profitable because it keeps people engaged longer, and ensures that the “most interesting” content is at the front. They won’t remove these systems though, the worst thing is that they work.

  42. Dreadjaws says:

    Well, it’s true that Twitter makes this easier, but it really applies to all social media. Bit of a long story coming up.

    I once joined a forum where they have this “karma” system. That is, people can give you both positive or negative karma depending on how they feel about your comments. Unlike with a normal voting system, this score isn’t for any particular comment, it’s for your profile. The people in charge defended this system, claiming that if someone got unfairly upset at you and voted you down the rest of the members would compensate by voting up.

    And in a perfect world that might be true. Unfortunately, we don’t live in one of those, and the older community of that particular forum have a much higher opinion of themselves than they really deserve. The truth is that the longer you participate in those forums the higher your karma power is, which means one click of an older member will give/remove more karma than one from a relatively new member. And elder members tend to be very traditional. You might be seeing where this is going, but in case you don’t, those people can and will give you negative karma for doing something that upsets them, whether it’s wrong or not.

    One of my very first comments on that place got people upset. It wasn’t an offensive comment, I merely said something they didn’t like. If you must know, what I did was actually ask what the karma system was all about. And, crazily enough, asking about that very system is not allowed. Yes, that’s how preposterous the thing is. Because, see, you’re supposed to read the rules first, which is understandable. But it’s also understandable that new members will assume the rules are the same for every forum and believe “being nice” is the gist. In any case, that post got me negative karma. It didn’t get me an explanation why, though, which prompted me to ask again about it, which gave me even more downvoting. After someone took pity on me and PM’d me the explanation, I simply stopped asking. But, of course, the downvoting never stopped.

    See, there are several problems with this system (besides the mentioned). One is that people keep showing at the thread, see my comment and keep downvoting me. They don’t know or care if I “learned my lesson”, so they keep punishing me for something I’m no longer doing. As you probably realize, though, the fact that this karma stays in my profile means people see it in every comment I make. And this distorts the way people read my comments. As soon as they see a negative score, people tend to think the user is up to no good, so they read into comments things that aren’t there, or they assume sarcasm or mockery where there’s none, which invites to even more negative karma.

    Of course, like I mentioned, older members have more voting power, so even if newer members that relate to me better were to upvote me, they just wouldn’t have enough power to balance the karma in my favor (or even make a dent). I had no choice but to abandon the forum, since my username became tainted for such an innocuous thing.

    And there lies the issue. No matter how good you think your system is, and how carefully you plan things, everything can and will be used the opposite way you intended by people following their own agendas. The only solution is to nuke the planet from orbit, and everyone refuses to give me the codes when I ask them, so no dice.

  43. kdansky says:

    This reminds me very much of the theory that The Medium Is The Message. To paraphrase: It does not only matter what you say, it also matters with which medium you say it.

    And Twitter is a shite medium for politics.

  44. Preciousgollum says:

    Agreed over Twitter. People think it automatically empowers them, but it simply mobilises them and also collects large amounts of data. With twitter, everybody is stuck in their own personal Truman-show.

    It’s not a moral outrage to dislike Twitter, any more than criticising the use of square wheels to transport cargo across roads.

    Even ‘celebrities’ are using Twitter as a way to harass whoever they disagree with, but the problem is that it is resulting in diminishing returns.

    The amount of time, writing, data and goodwill etc used up in pursuit of arguments that devolve into people trying to ‘logically outsmart’ eachother via is astounding… with otherwise professional people making fools of eachother.

    …It’s just like one of my Japanese animes”

    Haha, I see you used your attack, so, having seen this attack coming, I’ll dodge your attack and follow up with my own attack… but oh no my opponent knew this would happen and countered with their own argument. I’m caught mid-off-guard. Bakana!!!… but I can come back from this with my super ultimate special destruction attack… wait… it backfired! Nani!!!?

    Does twitter share the mechanics of a fighting game – @Messages are links, retwwets are combos, and hashtags are chip damage.

  45. Steve? says:

    My personal solution is to almost never tweet or re-tweet myself. That way I can read the posts of people I want to (who are usually not too overheated) and I never worry about getting insulted or piled-upon. This, of course, is not a scalable solution. Some group of people need to be posting for me to be reading.

    Twitter as a consumptive experience side-steps a lot of the game-y aspects, but that doesn’t help people who wants to use Twitter to promote their other work (like Shamus, presumably).

  46. Bubble181 says:

    One thing you didn’t mention that I think is *worth* mentioning is that Twitter simply isn’t representative – certainly not as much as a lot of people seem to want to think it is.

    There are some 300-odd million Twitter accounts world-wide. Approximately 50 million of them are bots (according to Twitter). Now, I don’t actually have numbers for the amount of corporate accounts, but most big companies and a LOT of small ones have one. Next, there’s all the “double” accounts for celebrities and content creators – I have no idea if Shamus has a “personal” account next to his “professional” one, but a lot of Big Name people do. Next are all the inactive ones, all the passive ones of people who only read tweets, not tweet themselves,…

    All in all, there are, let’s be generous, maybe 50 million to a hundred million Twitter accounts that are actually active. Still a big number! Sure, but compare to the roughly 800 million people living in just the USA and the EU. Even leaving out poor and underdeveloped countries and those with severe restrictions in place (the number of Chinese, North-Korean or Irani Twitter accounts is pretty small), there’s a few billion people around who *could* have an account.

    Journalists and politicians are severely over-represented in the group that actually has one, and media – “old” media – are using Twitter as a good (because easy) source of information and great quotes – the 140 character limit means *any* opinion has to be reduced to bite size sound bytes.

    Now, I’m Belgian – not exactly a huge country. There are some two hundred thousand Belgian twitter accounts. We get newspaper articles, tv news reports, etc etc about “Twitter feuds” and “big uproar” and “public outcry” and all that… And if you care to go and actually look for yourself, you’ll find 200 tweets and retweets, from a total of 50 people. In a country of 12 million people, what those fifty people have to say simply isn’t representative. but they get a megaphone, their opinion gets inflated, and suddenly, it’s “news” and it’s the latest moral panic.
    The USA is bigger, of course, but the comparison sort of holds. Yes, I’m sure you’ll find 50 thousand people on Twitter who think this or that statement or tweet from a politician is a Horrible Terrible thing…but that’s still a drop in a bucket, and it’s *other* media that are giving the “extreme” opinions the means to reach the public. News media abusing Twitter (and, to a lesser extent, Facebook) to represent “the people”, cherry-picking some of the worst reactions, are widening the gap.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Well, a journalist could go outside and research a story…
      …or they could just see what’s trending on Twitter.

      What constitutes ‘news’ is open to debate, and a quick, easy way to produce or update a story is pretty desirable, especially in a 24-hour news cycle.

  47. DaMage says:

    And while everyone is whipping themselves into a frenzy, Twitter is quietly selling all your personal data onto marketing companies and political groups that will then use your ‘beliefs’ against you. Cause remember, if the product is free, you are the product.

    • Preciousgollum says:

      Agreed. Twitter is an American Data Mine. In this gold-rush,the US president has already mined gold and taken the biggest chunk, which means that, as the rest is ‘taken back to the old-world’, everything the average person does with the platform has less value by comparison.

      Essentially, as authority figures take over the platform, things like liberal free speech & journalism is becoming less valuable.

  48. Soylent Dave says:

    Twitter might be a contributing factor in why politics seems more rancorous now

    I’ve been saying this for a while now – not just Twitter, but social media in general, although Twitter is by far the most egregious example.

    The forced – automated – balkanisation of opinion you get with social media encourages you not just to think that “the other side” are idiots who think wrong stupid things, but that “your side” are near-flawless.

    That’s something you can’t get even if you self-select news media that agree with your political biases. It’s only thanks to the advent of social media that we’re literally surrounded by like-minded people, and thus that seeing a contrary opinion is not only unusual but will often seem utterly insane, because it’s so different from literally everything else you hear on a daily basis.

    (even more so if it’s presented in Twitter’s ‘world without nuance’, as enforced by the character limit)

    But, like you, I’m not really sure what the fix is. Or if there is one.

    You have to put a serious amount of effort into keeping your ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ broad, and even then both Twitter and Facebook show you things algorithmically, insisting that “this is what you want to see”, and hiding opinions that might make you unhappy…

    … and not everyone wants to put in that amount of effort. It is nice to live in a world where everyone agrees with you. Right up until you fall back into the real world, and have to talk to all those stupid disagreeable wrong people who support the wrong team and hold wrong opinions.

    Gah.

  49. PPX14 says:

    But does Twitter affect GPU prices?

  50. Groboclown says:

    Something I just thought about after a discussion on a similar topic. The network and cable news shows battle each other for ratings, and it seems like Twitter, Facebook, and all those other platforms have developed a system that turned everyone into someone chasing those Neilson ratings. It really has democratized the news

  51. Baron Tanks says:

    Not much to add coming late to the topic and the discusssion. Agree with the majority of the points made. I just want to reiterate what many have said, that if you are not dependent on Twitter for professional or other reasons, you lose very little by not joining or leaving it. I’ve been on and aware of Twitter for 5 years, but have not used it much more than catching up with two to three people I put in a list for the better part of 3 years. Of course a lot of drama reaches me through other channels (such as newssites or blogs like this, or traditional media just regurgitating something). Everything I catch of Twitter that I did not seek out myself just reinforces my commitment to not doing anything with it. I’m not trying to be high and mighty here or telling anyone what to do, just sharing my point of view. And I feel for you if you feel obligated to stay (for example to generate traffic for a blog) but rather leave. Stay strong and remember you don’t have to engage more than you feel is necessary. This kind of stuff is just as much of a slippery slope as browsing Wikipedia when it comes to getting caught up and getting overcommitted.

  52. Methermeneus says:

    I know you forbid politics in the comments, but darn those purplebellies!

  53. MadTinkerer says:

    So basically Twitter, whether deliberately or accidentally, is designed to reinforce the Hegelian Dialectic.

    Good thing I know how to win that game!

    “But MadTinkerer! If you don’t do social media all the time, you’re missing out all the socializing that’s happening all the time!”

    I know! And I’m getting so much work done!

    EDIT: BTW, this doesn’t count as social media. This is a comment section, which is completely different.

  54. Midnight On Mars says:

    I wonder if there were a bunch of people like this during the abolishionist times. Where you had all those people trying to end slavery and then a bunch of centrists going ” God, cant we all just get along? Both sides are so rude and obnoxious!”
    If all those political people on twitter are so annoying, can’t you just block them? I don’t see the big problem here.

    • Nope says:

      I disagree with the bothsiding angle, but the broader point, about twitter’s mechanics driving unproductive arguments and debates, and generally causing stress, is true.

      I’m by no means any sort of centrist, but I see absolutely no point to arguing the toss on twitter, it doesn’t convince people, it doesn’t help, the mechanics are specifically designed to dehumanise you first, then limit your explaining power, then use popularity as the ultimate metrics, and to derive inherit worth from engagement.

  55. Jeysie says:

    I feel a bit torn about this post.

    On the one hand, yes, I agree that social media in general has sent our ability to have anything approaching civil debates down the tubes.

    On the other hand, it uses bothsiderism as the vehicle for delivering this method. When bothsiderism is actually another contributor to the problem.

    The reason listening to both sides and having civil debate used to work is because part of the social norms was accepting that sometimes after listening to both sides you realized one side of the debate turned out to in fact be factually or logically wrong and the onus was on that side to own up to being wrong and learn something from the matter.

    Likewise the fact that oftentimes if someone was telling you that you’re being a jerkass it’s because you are in fact being a jerkass and you should stop it.

    The problem is bothsiderism removes both of those safety valves. “Well, even if they’re factually wrong or busy punching your face in you have to accept they’re really just like you and you should hear them out and give them equal say.” And… no, that’s not actually how civil debate really works.

    It’s not how politics works either. It used to be “We want to care for the sheep one way and you want to care for the sheep another way, so let’s compromise on how to care for the sheep”, no arguments there. That is how things used to work.

    But now it’s “Well, we want to keep all the sheep alive and you want to eat all the sheep so let’s compromise and eat some of the sheep”, and the sheep are like “Uhm, hey no, we’re not OK with the eating side eating any of us”, and everyone is like “Oh stop demonizing the other side they’re just like you they’re not trying to hurt you, learn to stop being partisan and compromise” and the sheep are like, “Uh, no they LITERALLY ARE TRYING TO EAT US, that is not us demonizing them, that is literally a thing they are doing” and people are like “stop making it into us versus them” and the sheep are like “But seriously can we acknowledge the whole eating thing…”

    Because we slipped into bothsiderism and just refused to accept as a result that the most prominent part of one side stopped being willing to play by the contract.

    So basically what I’m saying is, yay for a general desire about returning to civil debate, notyay for putting bothsiderism into it.

    • Midnight On Mars says:

      I think the worst part is the air of superiority that people in “the middle” like to put on when talking about how they’re so above the political divide from both sides. As if valuing order and civility above the well being of others is some great virtue we all need to emulate.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yup,trying to calm things down,get people to come together and admit that their side has faults just like the other and that the other side has merits just like theirs,and finding a compromise that would benefit everyone,thats such a smug thing.Equating the entirety of the other side to slave owners who only care about stripping people of their rights because they are all collectively monsters,thats totally not being smug and feeling superior.Totally.

        • Kanodin says:

          Indeed, you’ve really impressed me with your conflict deescalation and humility here.

        • Nope says:

          ’cause you’re not being at all smug here are you?

          And didn’t you just earlier in the thread bring in slavery as a completely unnecessary example which didn’t even address someone’s point about psychology?

          If anything mate, you’re the less calm and respectful person in this response chain, by your own reasoning, why should I respect you or your opinion?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yes,I brought up slavery.But in an entirely different context.I used it as an example of a wider culture shift,not as in “these guys are pro slavery,these guys are not”.And bringing up an example of “Thing not being true” IS addressing the point of the argument.Others thought that the example was wrong,so I brought up a different one.

            Second,Im not mocking a person,Im mocking their faulty reasoning.Theres a difference.

            Third,I never presented that being calm is superior,let alone the only thing that should be respected.

            And tangentially,Shamus too did not present centrism as the only way to go.You CAN pick a side and still listen to what the other side is actually saying instead of seeing just the distiled crap presented to you by the social media.You can argue with them without dehumanizing them and putting all the faults of “their side” on them personally.You can see a yellow person being a terrible person without labeling everyone on the yellow side as being terrible.

            • Kanodin says:

              “Second,Im not mocking a person,Im mocking their faulty reasoning.Theres a difference.”

              Do you actually believe that? Truly? That if I call that one of the most monumentally stupid ridiculous dodges I’ve ever seen there will be no reflection back on you, the person doing the absurd dodge?

              You do realize most people actually believe in the things they say right? Not everyone is a devil’s advocate for all comers.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Yes,I believe that.That was always my stance.Its also the same reason that I practically never get offended by what others say to me.

                As for most people believing what they are saying,beliefs can and do change.Some easier than the others.It all depends on why someone believes in something and how comfortable they are with stuff changing.

                • You “practically never get offended”?

                  You literally *threatened* to get offended at me specifically to get Shamus to shut me up when I was talking not about any political anything, but a hypothetical way in which to construct a plot and create a functional conflict framing.

                  You may not personally “get offended” but you’re happy to use it as a tool when it suits you. This is disingenuous at best.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    What are you referring to?I usually agree with you,and the only instance of me having any bigger disagreement with you was in one thread about “what is art”.Which does not match your description.In fact,in the last year,the only thing similar to what you are describing is when you were talking about punisher with other people.

                    Plus,the only time I actually asked Shamus to delete something not written by me was waaaaay back when I first joined,and I felt snubbed for having my response to a comment deleted while that comment remained up.

      • Jeysie says:

        Yeah, I’m not pleased that true centrism in the form of “I listened to all sides and then made a choice of which side was most correct about this topic” morphed into a kind of hoity-toity “all sides are the same and I’m better than you for not picking one”.

        My emphasis because I feel that’s the part everyone forgot. That listening to all sides does not and was never intended to mean agreeing with all sides. You can listen very clearly and thoroughly to someone and then still conclude they’re wrong.

        Especially whenever people’s lives and well-being are involved, which is where things have landed squarely as of late.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But what Shamus described here is exactly the first thing youve mentioned.Be critical,consider both sides before deciding,dont just blindly follow/dismiss one of them.I have no idea why people are taking his words to mean “Never decide”.

          • Jeysie says:

            No, unfortunately stuff like “In truth, it doesn’t matter which side is objectively worse because both sides are looking at conclusive evidence that their side is in the right and the other side is dangerous” runs counter to what I said.

            Because… yeah, it does matter which side is objectively worse. Because one of the reasons the rage war caught traction is precisely because we lost the requirement that if your side turns out to be the objectively wrong one, you’re supposed to own up to it and learn.

            Instead we promoted the idea that it’s mean to tell someone they’re wrong and conversely it’s a grave offense to be told you might be wrong. And ironically that fuels the outrage machine in the end because the notion that all ideas must be validated makes it that much easier to validate the toxic outrage as much as the nicer ideas are validated.

            The whole fake news problem is the same thing. The only reason misinformation gained so much traction is because of the mentality that all information must be given equal airtime and it’s partisan and terrible to ever have to say that the information coming from one side of a topic is wrong. So people then just run with whatever bit feels good… which some recent actual scientific studies have shown is rarely the bit that is actually true.

            I mean, another big chunk of the issue is that a lot of the so-called “conclusive evidence” in question that one side uses isn’t even actually evidence, let alone conclusive. It’s myths and “gut feels” and “common knowledge” and sometimes flat out falsehoods. But we’re required for the sake of “non-partisan” discourse to let people pretend it counts as evidence. That hasn’t done us any favors.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              There is no such thing as objectively worse when it comes to human behavior.Unless you know 100% of the actual truth about everything that has happened,which is never the case.

              For example,you say in the end that only one side was using falsehoods,which is not true.I mean,you yourself said that you were a supporter of a third candidate,and if I get who you are talking about,that person was also underhandedly dealt with by the one who won over them.Should that be ignored?

              If no,then yes both sides were bad,and you just had to pick the one which was doing less of that crap.
              If yes,then the others have just as much right to ignore things they dont care about,again leaving you with a pick of what stuff to ignore.

              Either way,it all boils down to a subjective conclusion of which side to vote for.

              • Jeysie says:

                There is no such thing as objectively worse when it comes to human behavior

                Sure there is. Humans are just as study-able by science as anything else, we can absolutely study what behaviors will produce the most productive outcomes on a given matter and which won’t. And the specific topics being discussed are often full of areas of their own that can be studied and that data reasoned from.

                I’m not one for solipsism or philosophy in general; I prefer to operate from what I can see and sense and study.

                If no,then yes both sides were bad

                No. Not the case.

                Because again, I went and did the research because I care about having the facts before reasoning about a situation. And I could see that a lot of the “bad stuff” on one side actually literally wasn’t true, and then that what bad stuff really was the case was substantially less in quantity and severity than what the facts showed about the other side.

                But again… bothsiderism doesn’t allow for that acceptance that the facts can ever show such a conclusion. You have to believe that both sides are equally bad. You have to believe it’s all subjective. You have to believe that myths and untruths are on the same importance level as facts, or that anything one side ignores has to always be equivalent to anything the other side ignores.

                And that’s a lot of why things have gotten so bad. Because that kind of approach always favors and enables the worse-behaving side.

            • Shamus says:

              Just to clarify:

              When I said that, what I meant was, “In truth, it doesn’t matter [on social media] which side is objectively worse because both sides are looking at conclusive evidence that their side is in the right and the other side is dangerous”

              Like, if one party wants to fling Trekkies off a bridge with a trebuchet then it obviously does matter in the sense that people would die, but being in the right isn’t helpful in a system that is constantly feeding your rivals examples of how deceitful, cruel, and moronic our side is.

              That was the point I was making. I wasn’t saying all viewpoints are equally valid, just that being right doesn’t help you when your message has to pass through the outrage machine.

              • Jeysie says:

                Like, if one party wants to fling Trekkies off a bridge with a trebuchet then it obviously does matter in the sense that people would die, but being in the right isn’t helpful in a system that is constantly feeding your rivals examples of how deceitful, cruel, and moronic our side is.

                Well, basically what’s happening is that one side wants to fling Trekkies off a bridge because they’re convinced that Trekkies are hellspawn from the hell dimension and so they’ll all die themselves if the Trekkies aren’t tossed off a bridge.

                So… the Trekkie side is looking at “that side is trying to throw us to our deaths based on something that is batcrap insane” and the other side is looking at “conclusive evidence” that is actually batcrap insanity.

                So… I guess it kind of ties into one of my other responses to you. If you’re a Trekkie who doesn’t want to keep getting thrown off a bridge by the people convinced of batcrap insane things about you… what do you do? Cause hell if I know what to do anymore, if pointing out that no the Trekkies are not actually hellspawns so no you don’t need to throw them off a bridge is no longer good enough (and trust me it isn’t).

                • Daimbert says:

                  Well, basically what’s happening is that one side wants to fling Trekkies off a bridge because they’re convinced that Trekkies are hellspawn from the hell dimension and so they’ll all die themselves if the Trekkies aren’t tossed off a bridge.

                  Well, as both a moderate/centrist and a philosopher, let me expand on the analogy to present how things are as I see it:

                  Let’s say that the side in this are Warsies (people who like Star Wars). Not all Warsies think this, of course, and this is a vocal minority among Warsies. However, in response to this, Trekkies demand that Warsies need to be locked up to defend Trekkies from Warsie assault. And then define Warsies to include anyone who buys “The Last Jedi” on DVD, because that supports Warsies, either financially or just through “throwing shade”, by presenting Star Wars fandom as being reasonable, everyday people when it really wants to throw Trekkies off a bridge. On the other side, Warsies use the threat to lock up Warsies as a justification for the claim that Trekkies are from a hell dimension — as that’s just what people from a hell dimension would WANT to do — and thus to responding to them in similar or even more extreme ways. And THEY define Trekkie as anyone who subscribes to CBS’ streaming service, because that supports Star Trek: Discovery.

                  Meanwhile, there’s a whole bunch of people in the middle who are starting to not care, because no matter what they say both sides keep treating them like the enemy (there’s a post on my blog about moderates that pretty much outlines this view).

                  As things go on, if you aren’t an extreme Trekkie or Warsie, it becomes hard to differentiate the sides. Both claim that you should join them because the other side wants to hurt you, while at the same time threatening to hurt you — sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly — for supporting other side. Yes, being flung from a bridge by a trebuchet is probably objectively worse than being locked up, but it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to support a side because they ONLY want to lock you up if you disagree with them.

                  So… the Trekkie side is looking at “that side is trying to throw us to our deaths based on something that is batcrap insane” and the other side is looking at “conclusive evidence” that is actually batcrap insanity.

                  I originally thought about extending the metaphor to cover this case, but to quote Rupert Giles figured that if I did so the subtext would rapidly become text. So I’ll just talk about this. The issue you have here is that from your perspective what they believe is objectively false and even insane, but nevertheless they believe it, and so don’t think it is insane. And a lot of people in the middle believe some of the things that you think are so insane, even if they don’t accept the outcome or some of the things that lead to the conclusions that are so damaging. So you aren’t going to get much traction standing on a soapbox screaming that these underlying beliefs are insane, because they don’t think that and aren’t convinced by the same evidence that you are. And a lot of the things that you believe that drive you to consider their beliefs as insane are things that THEY consider insane. What you need to do is look at their reasoning from their perspective and try to see what you can use to prove them wrong. Maybe there’s nothing, at which point we need more neutral perspectives to find a way to let everyone do what they want without imposing too much on each other. In short, to agree to disagree, which is the real change in society that I think is driving all the problems, not “bothsiderism”.

                  And that’s the issue around basing this stuff around “being right”. Being right doesn’t help if you can’t convince people of that, and if you try to impose it simply based on being right people will resist … and you might actually end up being WRONG, which undercuts the whole rationale.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    And THEY define Trekkie as anyone who subscribes to CBS’ streaming service, because that supports Star Trek: Discovery.

                    Even the biggest of trekkies would not subscribe to cbs,not for tos or tng,let alone for std.

                  • Jeysie says:

                    Ugh, I just… I give up. All this trying to make up fake examples just leads to people getting to take the fake example and make up other fake stuff to add to it that doesn’t actually apply to the RL situation as a way to discredit and misrepresent the argument. So look, laying it out straight up.

                    One side wants to take away survival safety nets from the poor because they falsely believe the poor are all lazy people living large on other people’s money.

                    One side wants to deport all Muslims, even native-born or legal immigrant ones, because they falsely believe all Muslims are terrorists.

                    One side wants to keep all transpeople from public bathroom access because they falsely believe transpeople are raping everyone.

                    One side wants to keep gay people from the right to marriage and publicly-visible relationships because they falsely believe it will cause all manner of social ills.

                    One side wants to keep out all refugees and immigrants because they falsely believe all refugees and immigrants are dangerous criminals.

                    Then there’s stuff that doesn’t neatly map along party lines but is still a similar dichotomy:

                    One side is refusing to vaccinate their children and causing outbreaks of deadly diseases because they falsely believe that vaccination cause autism.

                    One side is demonizing using GMO foods to help with food availability because they falsely believe that Monsanto’s crappy practices encompass all of GMO foods.

                    Etc. Etc.

                    And so therefore 99% of your post and other people’s reasoning does not apply.

                    In each and every of these cases the Trekkies are not actually locking anyone up, but the Warsies actually are doing the equivalent of throwing the Trekkies off bridges. In each and every one of these cases it’s “yes actually being thrown off a bridge is objectively worse than the completely and totally unfounded fear of being locked up when that never actually happens”. In each and every one of these cases it’s “yes one side is believing something that is empirically not true and using that to harm people”.

                    Like honestly I hate that I was afraid this stuff was too controversial to post because literally none of it should be controversial because it’s all fact.

                    Like, yes, it would be controversial if the other side’s beliefs were true instead of false. Or if we had no way to prove which side was and wasn’t wrong. Yes then maybe you could sit here and talk about how we have to balance Trekkies locking people up with Warsies throwing people off bridges.

                    But that’s not what’s actually happening in real life.

                    Likewise, I’m tired of people telling me I’m just “being hyperbolic/extreme” when I talk about the wolves eating the sheep, because from where I come from people being denied food and housing and healthcare you need or being thrown out of their homes entirely or being barred from public facilities and so on, all for factually wrong reasons to boot, is pretty functionally equivalent.

                    Likewise I’m tired of people taking about compromise when again, it’s “Well, how about taking away all of your food we just take away some of it” or “how about throwing out every innocent immigrant we just throw out some” and it’s like, well no, because you’re still starving people and still throwing out innocent people when you are not harmed in any way by people getting to eat or by innocent people getting to live their lives. Doing less of a bad thing doesn’t make it stop being a bad thing, most especially when there’s no factually-backed reason to do any of the bad thing in the first place.

                    because no matter what they say both sides keep treating them like the enemy

                    Hint: When you’re sitting there telling innocent victims who haven’t hurt anyone they have to just try to understand the perspective of the people hurting them, or when you’re busy dismissing the lived experiences and facts from victims as “insane”, or so on, all because those victims have to make factually true criticisms and accusations as part of their self-defense and you don’t like that it stirs the winds, that doesn’t make them inclined to like you or see you as any kind of ally.

                    And I’m done because Shamus will now probably come yell at me for violating the no politics rule, but FFS, I’m sick to death that people just won’t accept that when I say I think one side is factually correct or the other side is thinking batcrap insane things, it’s not because I’m being conceited or tribal or refusing to look at the other side or whatever it’s because that’s literally the actual damn case.

                    Like I’m sorry Shamus, I tried, but it’s clear that nothing but actual hard facts is going to suffice here for convincing people that when I say something, it’s not because [insert whatever bothsiderism dogma reason here] it’s because, again, that’s the actual damn case.

                    Argh.

                    • Shamus says:

                      “One side wants to deport all Muslims”.

                      Sigh. Yeah. I really hoped this exchange would end better than this. The point I was making – and that you are apparently unwilling to hear, much less engage with, is that “one side” does NOT believe this. You keep talking about “lived experiences”. The rest of us have those too. I’ve got a lot of conservatives in my family, and they wouldn’t agree with ANY of the viewpoints you just ascribed to them. (Vaccines? That is actually a pretty good mix of anti-government paranoids and anti-corporate hippies. Not a right-wing movement at all. Pretty bipartisan, actually.)

                      In another post you said:”They see me as a mooch, as a degenerate, as a liar, as lazy, as a fascist, as a thief, as brainwashed, as a dictator, as a freeloader, as crazy, as elitist, etc. etc.”

                      It’s the same thing. The exact same thing. Your picture of the other side is just as warped and damaged as their image of you. Yes, you can find people that believe those things, but there are millions and millions who don’t. (Who who believe MUCH more mild versions of those things.) Those are the people you need to reach, and you can’t because… well, I guess you read the article.

                • Kathryn says:

                  OK, so as apparently the only person from your other side on this post…assuming you are in the US, I actually have no idea what you are even talking about. I don’t advocate for any position that is even tangentially related to catapulting nerds. And I don’t know or even know of (in the US) anyone who does, to the point at which I cannot even begin to guess what you mean.

                  Thinking back over the issues that have mattered the most to me and other people I know in the last 2-5 years, none of them are related to one’s favorite TV show. To stretch an analogy, we’ve been standing in the kitchen debating chicken or fish for dinner, which is completely orthogonal to the question of what channel to watch. Now you have come into the kitchen and said that we want to literally eat you/throw you off a bridge/cause you harm/see harm done to you because we believe you’re subhuman due to your preferred TV show.

                  I don’t know how to respond to that. What you are saying I believe is not even in the same universe as my actual beliefs. I’ve seen other distorted views of my beliefs that, while inaccurate, were recognizably based on something I actually do believe, but this one is just so out of whack that all I can do is stare at you in utter confusion.

                  I don’t know how to convince you that your belief about me isn’t true, but I can see that your belief causes you a lot of pain, so I hope you can at least consider the possibility that you have misjudged me/others like me.

                  OK, I’m going to leave this post now. I hope everyone can remember there are real people behind the gravatars and that just because jerks get more attention (which is what Shamus was getting at) doesn’t mean they are the majority or even a sizeable minority.

                  • Jeysie says:

                    Again, see my post above, because it’s clear that using fake examples just lets people get to add things that don’t actually apply to the RL situation as a way to strawman or whitewash the matters being discussed.

                    Like you’re sitting there saying “we’re just debating if you want chicken or fish or dinner and you’re treating that as us wanting to throw you off bridges” and it’s like no, the reason I said we’re debating whether or not people should be thrown off bridges is because we are literally 100% actually debating whether or not people should be thrown off bridges.

                    That seems to not be a concept people here understand, that someone isn’t saying something because lalalalalalalarandomwhateverreasonlalalalalalalala or lalalalalalalalalatheyreallymeantthisotherthinglalalalalalalala, it’s because they literally meant the damn thing they actually said.

                    Like, is saying exactly 100% what you actually meant to say a thing that’s just not done any more and that’s why people can’t accept when I do it?

                    I don’t know how to convince you that your belief about me isn’t true

                    Trying to pretend that our lived experiences of people on your side literally actually doing us harm is just our “belief” as opposed to things that actually happened, or that a debate that literally involves people trying to do the equivalent of throwing us off bridges is just a little tiff over TV and dinner choices, doesn’t convince me, no.

                    Like no, seriously, what part of “I said that because that is literally what happened and is literally what I meant” do people not get?

                    Argh.

                    • Kathryn says:

                      OK, I lied, I did come back.

                      All I can tell you is literally nothing you said above describes a belief that I hold. Some of those are at least recognizable as (inaccurate) distortions, but quite a few of them are indeed from an alternate universe.

        • Shamus says:

          ” which is where things have landed squarely as of late.”

          I think people’s well-being is ALWAYS involved. Vietnam era? Lots of lives at stake. Civil rights? Cold War? Potentially billions. Drug War? Again, countless lives will be better or worse depending on whether we adopt policy A or B. I think what’s changed isn’t the stakes, but how we communicate.

    • Nope says:

      I agree as far as the political aspect goes, but has arguing about it on twitter ever actually helped? Or has it just introduced un-needed stress into your life through having pointless arguments of specious quality? I’m entirely with you that bothsiding things isn’t good, but that’d be why the article is written in the abstract. Even when you’re discussing something where it’s two people disagreeing about the way to go about something that both people agree is good or necessary, the mechanics of something like Twitter don’t help it. It values short, pithy replies, the user with the most followers, followers who are most engaged with their content, and has absolutely no regard for factual content or proper argumentation. The only reason anyone, on any side, can avoid the contract of reasonable discussion, is because people naturally aren’t entirely reasonable or rational, and that platforms like twitter are designed to appeal to our psychology to drive engagement.

      • Jeysie says:

        You have basically outlined why I’m torn on the article, FWIW.

        I agree that Twitter has become bad mojo, and you in your post touched on what I would consider the actual reasons for that: That by design the platform encourages shouting and cheap shots and lynch mobbing and other nasty behavior and discourages any sort of factuality or logic-checking or in-depth debate of things or being willing to double-check if someone really meant to say a certain thing or so on.

        And the real bad mojo is that the socialization pattern that Twitter and other social media encourages has definitely seeped into and poisoned the other venues that used to hold more productive discourse. I fully agree with all of that.

        But Shamus also veered off into a tangent of bothsiderism in the process, and it led to this “ennnnnnnh” reaction in me where someone technically is making a point you agree with but invoking some really questionable arguments in with the good ones.

        Essentially: I don’t think Twitter is flawed because it led to people taking sides, since I view that as a rational reaction sometimes. I think instead Twitter’s flaw is that it led to us taking sides through hostile gut-based tribal warring mentality versus doing any sort of actual logical and rational analysis of each side and genuine attempt to persuade others to your POV.

    • Daimbert says:

      The reason listening to both sides and having civil debate used to work is because part of the social norms was accepting that sometimes after listening to both sides you realized one side of the debate turned out to in fact be factually or logically wrong and the onus was on that side to own up to being wrong and learn something from the matter.

      Likewise the fact that oftentimes if someone was telling you that you’re being a jerkass it’s because you are in fact being a jerkass and you should stop it.

      The problem is bothsiderism removes both of those safety valves. “Well, even if they’re factually wrong or busy punching your face in you have to accept they’re really just like you and you should hear them out and give them equal say.” And… no, that’s not actually how civil debate really works.

      It’s not bothsiderism that drives this, though, but to me the idea that “right makes might”, and that you can do whatever you want as long as you are sufficiently and importantly right, even if others don’t agree that you’re right. Take the “jerkass” comment. Calling out sides for being jerks is a noted moderate/centrist position these days. And the response from those who are called out that way is rarely “You’re right, maybe I should tone it down” but is instead “How dare you say that I’m being a jerk when I’m talking about such an important issue that I’m totally right about?!?” (the real life term is “tone policing”). While it’s true that sometimes people use tone as a way of avoiding talking about the issues, the extension of that has made it impossible to call anyone out for being a jerk as long as they believe that they are importantly right. And EVERYONE thinks that they are importantly right.

      And the same thing applies to discussion. The “bothsiders” are generally the ones who think that people should be able to get together and settle on what the right answer is, or on a workable compromise between the two. It’s the extreme sides who insist that no compromise is possible because either it means sacrificing some sheep to the wolves or, from the other side, letting all wolves starve to death. Calls for some kind of rational discussion over this are always met with that sort of rhetoric, and the genuine belief that all wolves just want to eat sheep and all sheep secretly — or not so secretly — want the wolves to starve to death. So someone even proposing that, say, maybe we could give wolves something else to eat is met from the sheep with “It won’t work, as they’ll just eat sheep anyway and use that as an excuse later on!” and from the wolves with “See, the sheep just want us to starve, so you have to let us eat the sheep now!”.

      And the moderate gets annoyed with both sides and tells them all where they can stick their ideas, and then both sides claim that they’re really supporting the other side and their “bothsiderism” is ruining the world. At which point the stubborn ones tell them to go screw themselves, and the less stubborn ones just start ignoring everything.

      See, the thing is that on a lot of these issues, I can see the concerns that both sides have, and both sides aren’t being necessarily unreasonable in their base beliefs, but the magnifying effect of all of this insists on considering the other side morally reprehensible which makes any attempt to see the other side and come up with some compromise impossible. But in a world with differing opinions, compromise is necessary. And the stance you take here on bothsiderism makes compromise impossible by presuming that it is, which to me is what causes all of the issues that you blame on bothsiderism.

      (Of course, my seeing that always works better when I don’t actually care about the issues personally. Take that as you will.)

      • Jeysie says:

        and that you can do whatever you want as long as you are sufficiently and importantly right, even if others don’t agree that you’re right.

        Yes, sometimes it is the case that you are the one who should be calling the shots about a matter because it turns out you’re objectively the one who’s factually correct/most educated about the matter.

        Likewise, to quote one of my favorite series: “Being wrong isn’t a democracy.”

        For hopefully a relatively non-contentious example of what I mean: There are people who disagree that the Earth is round; that doesn’t mean their disagreement is valid and should be taken into consideration or that we shouldn’t give decision priority to people who understand correctly that the Earth is in fact round. Some people believing the Earth is flat doesn’t mean it actually is.

        But of course bothsiderism doesn’t accept that. You MUST pretend that the world operates according to consensus reality, that the people who think they are right and the people who disagree must always be equally considered, even in those situations where the people who think they are right think so because they are educated on what they’re talking about, and the people who disagree are not.

        Calling out sides for being jerks is a noted moderate/centrist position these days.

        And the problem is that this is often done by going “you’re a jerk for doing a bad thing” to one side and “you’re a jerk for telling the former group they’re doing a bad thing” to the other side.

        The bothsiderism often thus takes the form of both victim-blaming anyone who tries to do anything about the bad thing and enabling the people who do the bad thing by trying to claim that any attempt to defend against/deal with a bad thing is as jerkish as doing the bad thing.

        While it’s true that sometimes people use tone as a way of avoiding talking about the issues,

        It’s more true that people primarily and often use tone as a way to censor anyone who talks about the issues.

        I can tell you from lived experience that even being as milquetoast, polite, and civil in your phrasing as possible will still get people screaming what a jerk you’re being solely because you have to milquetoastly/politely/civilly state something that is a criticism or accusation.

        Tone policing is thus too often a smokescreen. Because too often it’s not actually the way you phrase your criticism/complaint/accusation/etc. that bothers people, it’s the fact that you need to make one at all.

        The “bothsiders” are generally the ones who think that people should be able to get together and settle on what the right answer is, or on a workable compromise between the two.

        And the problem is that bothsiderists do this even when the facts show that only one side has an educated stance on the matter, or when the “compromise” just means you still cause major harm to only some of the people instead of all of them.

        Oh, sigh, I see you “addressed” that…

        It’s the extreme sides who insist that no compromise is possible because either it means sacrificing some sheep to the wolves or, from the other side, letting all wolves starve to death.

        Ah, yes. It’s only ever “extremists” who think this. It’s never ever sane, reasonable people who think this because when they looked at the actual facts and reality on all sides, the actual facts and reality have shown this is actually happening.

        Again, you have proven why bothsiderism is so dangerous and harmful. One of the major reasons why one side has degenerated into getting to starve sheep to begin with is because people kept saying “only extremists think sheep are being starved, only extremists think sheep are being starved, only extremists think sheep are being starved”, and so the bothsiderists removed the safety valve check on locking out people who want to do that. Until finally they’re here starving sheep and we still can’t get people to listen.

        Bothsiderism has basically turned many sheep into being stuck as Cassandras, where even as we show you hard proof the sheep are being starved you still turn away and shake your head about how “extremist” we’re being.

        It’s like I griped in one of my other posts: Bothsiderism has made it so you have to win the right in the public eye to defend yourself before you can even get around to the defending yourself part.

        Calls for some kind of rational discussion over this are always met with that sort of rhetoric,

        Hey, look, I’d love to have actual real genuine rational discussion, where everyone both educates themselves on the facts and logic and actually accepts whatever conclusion the facts show. Since that’s how I naturally operate.

        But what you and similarly minded folks are asking for is not rational discussion, it’s a discussion where facts and logic and rationality gets wholesale ignored if it ever leads to any conclusion other than “both sides are exactly the same”.

        So someone even proposing that, say, maybe we could give wolves something else to eat is met from the sheep with “It won’t work, as they’ll just eat sheep anyway and use that as an excuse later on!”

        Yes, this is sometimes because historically the wolves have actually done that. And the wolves’ response is not to prove this time they won’t do that, but to do as you say and admit they want to eat the sheep.

        (Of course, my seeing that always works better when I don’t actually care about the issues personally. Take that as you will.)

        And ding! That’s a driving reason behind why many people are bothsiderists: Because you have the luxury of being in a position where you get to care more about “peace and order” than about making any attempt to ensure people suffering from an issue are getting helped. Even if that means any situation where you’re telling suffering people what extremists and jerks they’re being for trying to speak the facts about their issue.

        • Daimbert says:

          I may try to go through more of the post later, but it’s probably unimportant if we can’t settle this main point of contention here. Because my immediate reaction to your post is to quote Wedge Antilles: I don’t recall inviting you to attempt mindreading.

          If you consider me a “bothsider”, and if you are interested in rational discussion, why do you spend so much time in your comment TELLING me what I really think instead of ASKING me what I really think? Especially since in a number of instances you are saying that what I really think is explicitly the opposite of what I told you I really think?

          • Jeysie says:

            why do you spend so much time in your comment TELLING me what I really think instead of ASKING me what I really think?

            Gosh, I’m sorry, I operate on assuming that when someone says something it’s because they meant it, so I can therefore create my reply based on the conclusion that the points the other person made are what they actually meant to make.

            Apparently it’s instead common practice to say a bunch of stuff you don’t actually think and then slam and shame the other person for taking what you said at face value versus magically mindreading that you didn’t say what you actually meant and magically psychically intuiting they should have ignored your entire post to first ask what you really meant. Good to know.

            Especially since in a number of instances you are saying that what I really think is explicitly the opposite of what I told you I really think?

            Hate to break it to you, but, I don’t know what website you said this on but it sure wasn’t this one.

            Like, apparently your definition of “rational discussion” involves both claiming you said things you didn’t and shaming someone for basing their response on what you said versus on what you didn’t say. So… yeah, no, don’t bother, this particular convo is done if I’m going to have you try to actively gaslight me on top of all the other nonsense. I can’t have any sort of genuine convo with someone who is going to walk back everything they say every single time I respond to it.

            • Daimbert says:

              Gosh, I’m sorry, I operate on assuming that when someone says something it’s because they meant it, so I can therefore create my reply based on the conclusion that the points the other person made are what they actually meant to make.

              Yeah, I don’t think this is going to get us anywhere.

              I’ll leave you with one final point: You will never get anywhere trying to convince people that your interpretation of what they really think or believe or have said is right and their own interpretation of what they really think or believe or have said is wrong. Almost everyone trusts their own interpretation of their own positions more than what someone else says is the right interpretation of their own positions, and that seems to be a pretty reasonable position to me. If you keep trying to tell people what they really mean, their most likely response is to stop listening to you … even when what you’re saying is right.

              • Jeysie says:

                and that seems to be a pretty reasonable position to me

                No. If someone genuinely misunderstands you, the reasonable position is “Oops, I can see I didn’t get my point across effectively, let correct you on what I actually meant.”

                Since I’ll turn this around: If when someone makes a point based on what you said, you do what you did and respond with “how dare you not realize what I said isn’t what I actually said” and not with either a correction or a response to their points, that doesn’t convince anyone you’re trying to have an actual honest debate versus dodging/moving goalposts.

                Also ironically and hypocritically on top of that, pot meet kettle you’re black, because you and other people have literally spent this entire convo ignoring what I actually said to tell me what I really think or believe. This despite my explicitly and clearly telling you what I think and believe and my constantly standing behind what I said and correcting all of you, to make it even more hypocritical.

                Although I mean, you folks have sat here trying to claim you want civil and reasonable debate and then balking and getting condescending and jerkass any time anyone applies the actual real principles behind actual reasonable debate, so. (i.e. using facts and logic, accepting where the facts and logic goes, saying what you mean and meaning what you say and accepting the other person does too, etc.)

  56. Drathnoxis says:

    Social media is THE DEVIL!

    People weren’t meant to be in constant contact with one another, it makes them go crazy.

  57. Genderman says:

    d20 Contributors: Hitting your children and putting cameras in their bedroom is bad.

    Comment Section(In fairness mostly just one guy): This is bullshit. Hitting your children just proves you love them.

    d20 Contributors: …

    Shamus: Man, yellow and purple all over the place.

    Later

    d20 Contributors: Hey can we clarify some things about our position on the podcast, what we feel the game is saying r.e. childhood abu-

    Shamus: No and fuck you.

    d20 Contributors: *leave*

    Shamus:

    Shamus: The problem here is that both sides didn’t communicate enough. No one wants to reach out to each other, and people get so worked up over nothing.

    Shamus: Thank god I remained fair, impartial and politically neutral. This could’ve gone really bad for the site.

    • Strawman Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yup,thats 100% as that happened.Precisely to the letter.And I still maintain that hitting your children proves that you loved them,so no need to go back to the archive and read for yourself if I actually ever said that because I totally 100% said exactly that.Precisely to the letter.

    • Shamus says:

      You put words in DL’s mouth. He NEVER said what you are accusing him of saying and it was made abundantly clear repeatedly.

      Additionally, I never said those things. I certainly never told anyone “fuck you”, and you know it.

      You’re attacking a strawman and you don’t even have all the facts. And you never listened to anything I said. We had different interpretations of what DL said. Some people demanded censure. I didn’t think it was warranted because I din’t think he was ACTUALLY advocating abuse. You’re free to think what you like about what DL said, but you can’t demand I punish someone else based on your interpretation.

      So you’ve mischaracterized what I said, misinterpreted what DL said, and you did so in the context of reviving a months-old flame war that I shut down months ago because some people literally refused to listen to the other side. You are the embodiment of the exact problem I was talking about in this post.

  58. epopisces says:

    My solution is to carefully curate my social media sites, each with a different topic (and before you shout ‘echo chamber’, they aren’t political topics, or at least I try to keep it unpolitical). Facebook is strictly for family and immediate friends, Twitter is InfoSec/IT, Instagram is art that I find interesting, etc. If someone I follow/friend goes too far off the rails I just mute them: there is no shortage of intelligent, common sense leaders on non-political topics, you just need to filter the noise to get the signal.

    For news/politics I use platforms that are less shouty than social media (plus the watercooler at work), and try to keep a balance between the perspectives I get to avoid the echo chamber effect. At least, when I think about it: I’ve been losing more and more interest in the political hot topics if the day, as it’s all just a contest to see who can shout loudest.

  59. Cybron says:

    Not much to add besides wholehearted agreement. I am acquainted with someone whose opinions and behavior put him outside the realm of what most people (myself included) would fine acceptable. Twitter did in fact ban him, and that accomplished basically nothing. He just made a new account.

    I encourage anyone who is considering it to abandon social media.

  60. I propose a system where all politically-loaded terms in tweets are auto-corrected to something ridiculous. A whole list of random ridiculous things, too, so no pattern can be effectively established.

    Nobody can take you seriously when you forced into complaining about Orkengloobers.

    • BlueHorus says:

      As an Orkengloober I am deeply offended by this. Some people are just born Orkengloobing, and it’s a tragic failure of empathy that others get the wrong idea of what it is to Orkengloob or what Gloobers are like. We’re normal people – just like everyone else – and we want to be treated as such.
      People seem to think our Orkengloobing is a threat to them. Which it isn’t; if you don’t want to Gloob, that’s fine. I mean, I’ve never Garkleblasted, but if someone else wants to, sure, why not. Live and let live.

      I bet if you ever Orkengloobed you’d actually quite like it.

  61. Axcalibar says:

    This was what was happening on Facebook, and the reason I now eschew it. I moved to using Twitter and have found it a much more relaxed place because I follow some simple rules. I don’t follow anyone I actually know and keep my follow list small and managable. I do not follow people whose tweets are predominantly political. Anyone who so much as likes a politically charged post gets muted until they haven’t done so in a while. This applies even if I am inclined to agree… I realize the toxic nature of it. This system is purely for the benefit of my mood, and the people I end up “punishing” never know about it. Thus, my Twitter home ends up being mostly about games and music.

    • I do this pretty much, too. Pretty much the only news I’m interested in involves medicine or gaming anyway.

      I do follow my actual state and local representatives, though, and tell them what I think of their posts. I don’t engage in the conversation, just comment and go.

  62. Anachronist says:

    My own solution works fine for me. I haven’t looked at Twitter in years, after I decided it offered no value to me. Same for Facebook. I have other ways to socialize, both online and off, and they consume the time I want them to consume. I get my news from various feeds in Google news, from a variety of sources that have a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Given that, it may come as no surprise that I don’t belong to any political party or religion.