The “Dark Side” of social media
For a long time I fought against the idea of opening a Twitter account and joining the masses who are obsessed with this phenomenon. I reluctantly gave in when my book, The Excalibur Parchment was launched. It would, Twitter supporters said, give me a platform for promotion and awareness as well as connect me with other authors, suspense/thriller readers and people generally interested in the writing game.
For the most part, I accept those positive views of Twitter.
But I also see a dark side to Twitter (and other social media platforms).
Twitter brings out the nasty, vindictive hatefulness of people. Disagreement with society’s generally accepted concepts by one individual leads to vicious, destructive comments and demands that the “offending” Twitterer be hunted down, hung drawn and quartered, and generally made a pariah in society.
To me, Twitter is rapidly becoming the modern day equivalent of the Inquisition.
People are condemned without trial. Recently hockey broadcaster Don Cherry made some comments about people who eat seal meat. A firestorm of cruel and malicious response in the Twitter universe resulted. One prominent First Nations leader demanded that Cherry be fired for his “racist remarks”. Political leaders—always eager to follow where votes might lie—responded with equally damning attacks. Outrage and hatred flowed and the media compounded the issue by reporting on the Twitter attacks. Granted, Cherry is a media personality and as such is more open to such coverage; especially given his penchant for outrageous comments. (Which is another aspect of the Cherry comments that his attackers seem to ignore; he specializes in outrageous comments for the sake of outrageousness and attention.)
Was Cherry right? What was the context of his remarks? (It was a comment to his good friend and fellow broadcaster Ron MacLean). Was he serious? Kidding? Teasing a good friend? To the Twitter gestapo it mattered not. They launched into a full-fledged attack without waiting for explanations or context.
This is not about Cherry and his never ending search for attention. Rather, it is about the impact of Twitter on the social niceties of today’s communication trends.
The Twitter revolution seems to have evolved into a mind-numbing collection of either malicious agenda-driver conspiracies or an equally mind-numbing collection of the ignorant led by the unknowing.
And it all swamps much of the good that Twitter can do to keep people informed.
During the Inquisition, people were condemned for opinions contrary to the socially accepted norms. They were considered ‘heretics’ and were burned at the stake. Trials were a sham—if they were held at all. People could inform on their neighbours, family or people they didn’t like without any requirement for proof. The mob mentality disposed of any need for facts or proof.
Too much of the Twitter-sphere operates with the same disregard for truth and evidence. You are condemned because someone says so. And the crowd jumps in to compound the pain and suffering the victim has to endure.
There are too many examples of people who’ve resigned, been fired, seen careers destroyed, relationships blasted, or made pariahs simply by virtue of the ferocity of the Twitter-sphere. It may be that some—even many—of those making comments deserve to be called to account for their comments.
But what bothers me most is the tone that the Twitter opposition utilizes.
A famous American, Patrick Henry, reportedly once said that while he disagreed with an opponent’s viewpoint, he defended their right to say it. Today, Henry would be condemned on Twitter for making such as statement. He would be hunted down and forced to resign from Congress, make humble public apologies (shades of Mao Tse Tung) and then resign himself to isolation and exile.
The era of rational human discourse and debate has forever been shattered by Twitter. Disagreement with a person or position is immediately interpreted in Twitter land to mean dislike and therefore labeled hatred. This kind of attitude is compounded when it comes to discourse on political issues, religion, or even what celebrity/athlete/movie/sport is preferred. Lives can be destroyed and nobody cares, because the victim has broken the cardinal ethos—what the masses say is truth. Any deviation will not be stomached.
I fear that mass condemnation by masses of people who have opinions but no background or information on an issue is rapidly and unfortunately now becoming the accepted standard in place of debate.
And it is not just Twitter at fault. Why, for example, do the masses buy into false information spread by uninformed people with no expertise in an area? Especially when it imperils the lives of thousands of kids. Yes, Jenny McCarthy, an actor with limited skills–none of them in the medical area–I’m talking about you and your rants against vaccination. And yes, I am also talking about the thousands of people who refuse to think for yourselves and do their own research before buying in on McCarthy’s beliefs.
I really fear that Twitter and other forms of social media like Facebook are becoming a voice for the irrational, uninformed and unreasonable. And it saddens me. The era of civilized debate and disagreement is being buried. Difference of opinion with the masses or the accepted norm will not be tolerated.
Resistance, as the Daleks say, is futile.
Twitter is the new Inquisition. And the peril to society will be the same.