Why Twitter Matters

It's not what we think it is

May 1, 2022

A quite interesting series of events took place in the past few weeks, Twitter banned a Christian news satire site for refusing to call a man a woman then the richest man in the world contacted the CEO of the company running that site and told him that he ma just have to buy that platform and the next thing we all know is that Elon Musk is set to own 100% of Twitter. This has prompted several "news" outlets to write articles telling people how to delete their Twitter accounts while filling their word counts with dumb claims and many people actually have deleted Twitter. Usually I'd be a supporter of people quitting social media but this series of events has caused me to re-evaluate the utility of Twitter.

Now of course it was only a few months ago that I published an article titles Twitter Was a Bad Idea and I still stand by most of the claims I made there and probably the most important claim that I made there was in the section where I was explaining that Twitter is not social media and said:

People go to Twitter either to throw poo at the wall to see if it sticks or to look at the poo that managed to stick, 90% of Twitter users never write a tweet, there is nothing social about that.

The question I failed to consider until now was "If Twitter isn't social media then what is it?" that is the question we have to look at now.

I've heard that among certain groups of journalists Twitter is compared to a fire hose because whenever news breaks there are thousands of tweets about it, a volume that can definatly drown a person. Entire news articles can be and are written with only a handful of tweets as a reference and really that's not as bad as it sounds, it's not all covfefe tweets, plenty of important information and perspectives are shared on Twitter. Twitter is a very important tool for journalists to find information about what is going on.

But of course you're not a journalist and while I pretend to be one here on occasion I'm not either, despite that there have been times where I was able to take advantage of Twitter in the same way a journalist would. I live in a city large enough for things to happen but small enough to slip under the radar of news organizations and also small enough that there isn't really any sort of independent journalist scene like you'd see in cities like Portland or Seattle which also tend to be looked over by mainstream news, so when the criminal riots in the summer of 2020 swept the nation there was stuff happening only a few miles from me but there wasn't any traditional way for me to know what was actually happening at the moment or really at any time after. So during those few days I frequently searched Twitter to see what was happening in my area and I found people complaining about how the police had used tear gas on a "peaceful protest" and of course this was the narrative that the media ran with and a lot of people fell for but because I was equipped with Twitter I was able to scroll down and see that a fire had been set on the ground floor of city hall* and the ugly truth is that when there is three blocks worth of NPCs who refuse to move between a burning skyscraper and emergency services things justifiably get messy. But of course if you can't see the full picture it is hard to understand the justification, and in this case that would have been impossible without Twitter.

Now of course Twitter is not only useful in these sorts of situations but it is also useful in diagnosing the health of our culture. Boomers love to rant about the evils of violent video games, there was a season where video games were said to be the cause of so many terrible things in the world and while those claims have mostly been debunked you still see them pop up from time to time. Of course video games are not the best thing about our modern culture, but they are far from the worst.

Where is the boomer outrage over the fact that Netflix distributed a movie featuring child strippers and critics liked it? Where is the boomer outrage over the fact that in public schools across the country males and females are permitted to share the same bathrooms, changing rooms, and even bedrooms on field trips? Where is the boomer outrage over the fact that we now have a judge sitting on the United States Supreme Court who refuses to define the word "woman" despite being one?

There is no boomer outrage over these things because they can't see them. There is no boomer outrage over these things because they are not on Twitter. We're in a culture war and these video game hating boomers are trying to participate in it, they have their guns pointed in the right direction but they are aiming at targets a mile from where they should be, but at least they are willing to fight unlike a lot of us. Today's culture is in the terrible state it is in because, up until recently, only one side has been fighting in this culture war. When a traditionally minded or conservative person sees, for example, a tweet that they fundamentally disagree with they either ignore it or they chose to leave Twitter, when a progressive person sees a tweet they fundamentally disagree with they demand Twitter remove the person who made that tweet. You can't win a war when you refuse to step on the battlefield. We live in a world that has regressed to a point where reasonable people should feel uncomfortable sending their kids to public school because they have failed to fight back against unreasonable people.

Whether you like it or not Twitter has become the "modern public square", it is the place where the most vocal among us go to make their voices heard the same can't be said of any other platform (of course whether or not they actually are is a different question). This public square has been described as a cesspool of vice and degeneracy and while this isn't wrong (although it is a more fitting description of Tick Tock) it also isn't a reason for us to avoid it. A man of truth does not let false ideas run through his community, a man of truth jumps into the public square to clean it from lies. There are people we can save from the world's lies on Twitter but we can't do it if we aren't there.

I'm glad that Musk bought Twitter, from what I can see he is a man who truly wants to do his best to make the world a better place. Of course I don't agree with a lot of his proposals but this is one that I trust him with. Besides it is foolish to think that someone has to perfectly align with your worldview in order for you to be happy about them doing what will likely be a good thing, of course only time will tell how things will work out especially since he won't have any real control over the company for several months. But with that being said I'm optimistic about Twitter's future and I've put myself back on it, luckily as a former Twitter addict I've learned from my past mistakes and understand how to avoid that happening again.

Twitter matters because it is a tool for us to see what is going on in our communities and in our world. Twitter matters because it is the modern public square where we can spread truth. Twitter matters because it has potential to be great.

* - Thankfully whoever started that fire wasn't very good at committing arson and there was no major damage to the building.