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Essay

Broken by Twitter

By Patrick St. Michel

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I think Twitter has broken my brain.

I’ve been a fan of the social network since 2009. It has been a great way to keep in touch with friends, meet new people and see funny jokes. It was a great site to check in on during downtime in the workday, full of links to interesting articles and cat gifs.

Yet sometime in the last few years, Twitter went from a place suitable for goofing off to a destination to react and virtually shout. At first, I thought maybe the people in my timeline were just extra vocal, and maybe a little stressed out. Yet I’ve heard from plenty others and read no shortage of articles about the same feeling ― that Twitter has become an unpleasant place to be, but which everyone uses anyway.

On Twitter, the posts that get the most attention tend to take an extreme side on a topic. Most issues ― whether they be about the president, a news story or the TV show Game of Thrones ― carry nuance, and can’t simply be described as good or bad. Not so on Twitter. Thanks to the snack-size character count, expressing deeper thoughts is near impossible. So making a strong statement, or offering a “take” as Twitter users call it, has become the go-to approach to using the platform.

This makes sense when it comes to politics and social justice issues, since these are serious topics that people feel passionate about. But on Twitter, everything becomes digital dynamite. Taylor Swift’s music videos aren’t simply good or bad, but rather “the greatest thing ever” or “racist and sexist.” Sports, video games, memesyou name it, it has been argued about fiercely on Twitter. Rarely does anyone actually want to hear the other side. They just want to yell out their opinion into the online ether.

Not surprisingly, the results of the U.S. presidential race have made everything worse. Donald Trump’s surprise win in a strongly divided election has only made the atmosphere all the more heated. Sure, a lot of issues being tweeted about are worth discussion. But people aren’t really discussing things on Twitter. Instead, people are screaming at individuals who can’t hear them in lieu of doing anything else. Twitter feels more stressful than fun right now as a result.

I get the feeling it isn’t quite the same for those using Twitter in Japanese, partially because it’s easier to write thought-out opinions using the language, and kanji characters make it easier to stay within the 140-character limit. Maybe in 2017, I’ll practice my Japanese writing more online, if just to give my mind a break.

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友達とやりとりしたり、面白いジョークを見たりしてツイッターを楽しんでいた筆者。ところがここ数年は、あらゆる話題について、行き過ぎた主張をするコメントばかりが目に付きうんざりしているという。

The Japan Times ST: December 30, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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