Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why I Do Not Tweet

Josh Marshall of TPM addresses the problem in his short editorial comment, The Humbling of Social Media:

I traffic mainly in the world of politics and culture. And there's little surprising about the kind of intense political disagreement that makes it hard to have any real sort of communication. Other times it's simple ignorance or even lack of intelligence. You find yourself in a seeming disagreement. But it's actually not quite a disagreement because the other person doesn't understand what you're saying. And the thin straw of social media contact is simply too narrow to overcome the gap.

Other times - and these are maybe the most frustrating but also most important - the person's no dummy. They're not uneducated or ignorant in a general sense. But the points of reference, experience, the simple 'what they're trying to talk about' and vice versa, is so different that real communication is very difficult or not really possible. ...

I recall the first time I ever heard someone say, "He didn't choose his parents well." (Well, actually the second time, but that's a long story, and this is a short one.) The speaker was a partisan Republican speaking in conversation in his role as a Republican. At first I thought he was joking; in fact, I started to laugh, then caught myself as I realized he was voicing something that was, for him, a truism. It wasn't long before I realized exactly what Marshall is saying: communication with this man was, for me at least, not possible... or perhaps possible only through a mediator, and with explicit expansion of every thing that might have been, for him or for me but never for both of us, a truism suitable for tweeting.

And thus I do not tweet.


  1. When I first began playing MMOs I was fascinated by the edited communication and how quickly it could spiral out of control with the multi-layered misunderstandings. No inflection, no body language, no gestures, no eye contact; these, mixed with gender assumptions and different cultures, ages, and semantics. When you strip away all those clues we use to communicate, we run the danger of assuming we understand what the other person is saying when we're totally talking past each other. It would be wonderful to have a study on this at this point, when Twitter, Tumblr, smart phones and all the other instant communication devices are so ubiquitous.

    1. ellroon, have you ever played in a musical ensemble? Particularly in chamber ensembles (string quartet, piano trio, woodwind quintet, baroque trio sonata, etc.), the demands for moment-to-moment communication among the musicians are urgent, relentless and subject to one additional criterion... they must be unstrained, fluid, easy. It's quite a combination of requirements, and not all groups of musicians, however excellent they may be, are suited to that kind of communication. Things you would never expect impact the cogency of the ensemble: e.g., musicians trained at the same institution, even if they attended decades apart and had different individual professors, tend to work well together, each performer having absorbed style cues common to almost everyone who attended a certain school. My early music performances were most often with a variety of graduates of Oberlin Conservatory; I did not graduate from Oberlin, but I attended several weeks each summer at their Baroque Performance Institute, which was taught by Oberlin faculty, and I shared a frame of reference with Oberlin grads that enabled us all to produce a coherent whole when we played together. It was a wonderful experience; now that I can no longer do that due to physical limitations, I miss that experience terribly.



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