I’m in a Trut.
Consider this my linguistic contribution to the Twitterverse. Basically, it’s a rut on Twitter. I’ve posted fewer Tweets and blogged even less often.
And the overriding symptom of a Trut is a severe case of the ‘Why Bothers?’
As in, ‘I could make a comment,’ ‘I could point out the flaw in that argument,’ or ‘I could highlight the rampant hypocrisy and double standards in that statement…’
But why bother?
At its best, Twitter is a great repository of information, commentary, and exposure to new ideas. It’s a place where you can read interesting stories and hear new ideas. It’s a place where you can be introduced to people to whom you’d previously would have had limited access. And it’s a service that, in theory, can allow for the positive exchange of ideas and the respectful challenging of beliefs.
At its worst – and it’s often at its worst – it’s a vast wasteland of hyperpartisanship, schoolyard bullying, and rude sniping.
At its worst it’s a Wild, Wild, Cyberwest filled with keyboard cowboys on their high horse, firing off rounds of insults and name-calling that they wouldn’t dare to utter in real life.
At its worst, the meek have inherited the Twitterverse and have become emboldened by its innate displacement from face-to-face interaction.
I grew up in the pre-Internet days. Back then we had our allegedly politically savvy youth. I had friends who seemed to understand the issues at hand and were incredibly passionate about righting all the perceived wrongs. But as we grew older, we realized that high-school-esque level of understanding was remarkably shallow. We slowly learned about the world, because we were challenged to learn more. We had no ready-made echo chamber to validate — and sustain — our misguided beliefs or shallow understanding of the entirety of an issue.
When I got into journalism, I quickly adopted a philosophy of thinking laterally. This meant not just looking at any issue or problem in isolation, but rather to think of how other people would be affected. It meant searching out new ideas and opinions and engaging in discussions.
Essentially, if an idea couldn’t stand up to challenge it wasn’t worth having. And nothing was worse than writing definitively about something, only to find that a major segment of the story was missing due to the fact that you focused only on the people at hand.
Socially and politically, one’s Twitter experience can rapidly devolve into the same sort experience.
Take, for example, the London West by-election: hyperpartisanship and sniping have become the fall-back tools for those supporting candidates on all sides. Municipally, siloed behaviour and societal assumptions reign supreme often to the detriment of one’s argument. Bring up another perspective and it’s invalidated as being ‘not good enough’ or coming from someone who’s not appropriately engaged or understanding of the issue at hand.
And that’s sad, because Twitter is a great tool for sharing those ideas. People just have to be open to them.
That said, being in a Trut doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It just means at some point you have to cut bait. Sometimes you have accept that some fish are going to think they’re not fish; or that you’re swimming in the quote-unquote wrong lakes. It means continuing to focus on what’s important to me — working within my community, making active contributions, finding people who are mature enough to embrace discussion, criticism, and varied opinions.
And it means accepting that some people’s words — often the ones that shout the loudest — are empty.
It can be a discouraging environment. Watching people quick to demonize without balance when presented with only limited parts of a story. Watching people demand answers (or retribution) for one part of a platform, ignoring everything else as long as it fits their preference.
In the end, I’m reminded of a conversation I had over lunch with Gwynne Dyer many moons ago. The Internet was just in its infancy at the time and I had mentioned that it seemed it was causing a proliferation of conspiracy theorists and angry, yet-uninformed, commenters on-line. Dyer’s response has stuck with me for nearly 20 years as it remains as true today as it does now.
“Those people have always been around,” he said. “The Internet’s just given them an easy way to broadcast their beliefs.”
To this day, too many are using Twitter as a broadcast medium. It’s not meant to be used that way; nor is it effective if you only ‘tune in’ to those who agree with you. Social media as a whole is an opportunity for us to engage in a discussion and learn from each other.
I guess that’s why I’m in my Trut. Because that potential is being wasted. It could be fixed, but in an environment that’s devoid of a willingness to respect all sides, ideas, and experience, we’re often left with one question.