Twitter discussions are like Pringles

Pringles, for those who don’t know them, are savoury snacks that have the attribute that once you start eating them, they are addictive and it’s hard to stop. But when you’ve done, you feel unsatisfied and annoyed with yourself that you ate so many. I don’t suppose they are really very good for you.

Being naturally argumentative, I tend to get drawn into Twitter discussions about diverse topics – recent ones have been energy supply and whether Scotland’s views should be considered in Brexit negotiations. Discussions tend to flare up, draw people in then fizzle out without any real conclusion when people get fed up with them. Rather like Pringles, you feel pretty unsatisfied at the end of them.

The key problem I think are that complex issues cannot be reduced to interchanges of 140 characters. Twitter doesn’t do nuance and qualification and so tweets tend to be abrupt and, if not deliberately confrontational, may often seem that way. There’s no body language as you get in a face to face discussion to tell you when people are not being entirely serious and the asynchronous communication as people leave and join again later can be very confusing.

There is also a tendency for people to try and back up their points with links to other writings on the web. I avoid this – partly through laziness and partly through scepticism. I follow the general principle that there is no such thing as unbiased opinion so while there may be some truth in what people say, it is rarely the whole truth. Those links that are tweeted are usually from people who already share the opinions of the tweeter so they don’t really back up arguments at all.

So, I am done with Twitter discussions on complex subjects. I may tweet occasionally about what I see as the effects of poorly thought-out political policies (such as reducing overseas student numbers) but won’t get pulled into Twitter discussions on them.

Like many people, I moved to Twitter and reduced blogging frequency because it allowed for more immediacy. Now, I think I’ll go back to blogging where it’s possible to write about complex topics in ‘joined up’ writing instead of 140 character soundbites.

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