Noises off

A champion of Twitter turns against — yes — Twitter:

Look, I’m no saint here. I’ve said some things I regret on Twitter. The medium is dangerous and tempting. When Abraham Lincoln was mad, he would famously write people scathing letters. He would then file them in his desk drawer, never to be sent. Abe was lucky he didn’t have Twitter.

Just as I was once an evangelist for Twitter, I’ve had a conversion. I’ve repented. I’ve reformed. Writers should be thinking of big ideas, but Twitter sucks you into small, petty battles. It can distract you from the important to the urgent. Like a game of whack-a-mole, you can end up chasing the things that irritate you — hoping to correct every misconception or lie. This is no way to be productive. It’s no way to live.

This is a unique challenge. We have it much better than past generations, but past generations could mostly leave their problems at work. Their bullies and bosses didn’t follow them home — didn’t hound them on their iPhones.

It just so happens that I came across Matt Lewis’s column (via Goldblog) when I was about to start thinning down my “Following” list. I have far too many names flickering across the screen all day. And I’ve also been posting far too much. Lewis isn’t the average Twitter user, I suppose, and he’s no doubt taken a few hits in the culture wars during the last five years or so. But his point about the dangers of being distracted from what really matters is one any sane person has to take seriously. I haven’t been dragged into any major scraps so far (or perhaps I’ve just erased them from my memory) yet when I’m away from the Web I do catch myself brooding over tweets that have irked me. Definitely a bad, bad habit.

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About clivedav184z

Journalist and reviewer for The Times & Sunday Times.
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