Is Twitter Worth It?

Abuse on Twitter (and social media in general) is ending the usefulness of the network. I’m not blameless either, although I do attempt to be more helpful than confrontational and critical on social media. There’s an absolutely fascinating article you should read if you’re concerned about the decline of social media.

Can we create a better web? Sure. But I think we have to start with humility, gratitude, reality — not arrogance, privilege, blindness. Abuse isn’t a nuisance, a triviality, a minor annoyance that “those people” have to put up with for the great privilege of having our world-changing stuff in their grubby hands. It will chill, stop, and kill networks from growing, communities from blossoming, and lives from flourishing. If your purpose is social interaction, abuse is as central to it as bacterial infection is to selling meat. Get it wrong, and you might just end up like Twitter in 2015. Not a beautiful town square, but a raging mosh pit. Good luck selling tickets to that.

I’ve noticed a lot fewer new faces on Twitter since I first started my 2nd account when I ran for city council in 2012. That campaign was tinged by waves of new people to Twitter, including dedicated trolls attacking a mayoral candidate that got very little positive attention, and attracted the majority of negative attention during the whole campaign.

The waves of abuse that person saw compare to what many women face when using Twitter.

Eden, from Regina, offers examples of what sort of violent abuse she faces as a woman using and making technology and music.

So, how can we be critical, without being considered abusive by the targets of our critiques? A journalist at Global told me I wasn’t doing a good job of it.

So how are people to interact online given contentious political topics, especially where critique and peaceful public dissent is essential for maintaining an evolving democratic system? Leave your thoughts in the comments, without a trace of irony.


About John Klein

My full time blog is at My personal site devoted to my Regina politics work is at

2 thoughts on “Is Twitter Worth It?

  1. Hey John,

    There is so much to be said about this topic. My comments below are musings and don’t really answer the question.

    I too believe there is too much abuse online, and on twitter. Better tools can be created to identify and eliminate trolls.

    But there are a lot of other issues wrapped into this one, such as the old phenomena of folks dividing into cliques and consequential groupthink. Others are the practical limits of digital communication (miscommunication, misunderstanding, etc) and plain old ignorance. You can’t change these things with innovative tweaks.

    I think asymmetries contribute to the problem. This is a problem in democracy generally. That in spite of the concept that everyone is of equal value, what people do or say is not of equal value. Folks who garner the most abuse are not usually the one-of-millions, but rather someone who has risen up the social-network hierarchy (based on # of followers or some other metric). There also asymmetries of information or experience. Why should a first-year university student’s opinion be given the same weight as a Police Chief, or Minister, or senior citizen? The flat form of Twitter implies they should carry the same weight, but they really shouldn’t. But there is no method to filter out twitter comments based on actual intellectual expertise or track-record of wit. (unless you try to do this manually, which is what I recommend).

    At the end of the day, people just spout off whatever they want to. Only a small portion of the material is going to be valuable for you and for me. So many messages I receive every day have nothing to do with me, my values, or my interests.

    Thus part of the responsible use of social media is for people to ignore what is not relevant to them, including abuse (admittedly, this latter part is easy for me to say because I have not been the target of concerted digital abuse). I have to also constantly remind myself that people send out messages that regularly have errors or omissions in them. Their messages are not 100% perfect.

    It may be that responsible use of social media is actually disregarding most of it.

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