Twenty Theses about Twitter

1. People sign up for Twitter for two reasons: to obtain information and to exert influence.

2. Twitter serves these functions poorly. If you want information about a specific topic, a Google search is a more efficient way to obtain it. If you want information about current events, you do better by reading a newspaper.

3. Twitter provides information poorly because tweets are mostly driven by the latest outrage and are hence redundant. The rare tweet that contains an interesting or unusual idea is lost in the cataract.

4. Twitter is a poor device for exerting influence because of #5.

5. No tweet has ever persuaded anyone of anything.

6. Twitter’s real function is not to help people obtain information or exert influence.

7. Twitter’s real function is to enable people to obtain validation for their beliefs.

8. People send tweets with a single overriding purpose: to get the tweet “liked” or retweeted.

9. When your tweet is liked or retweeted, you enjoy a dopamine surge.

10. It doesn’t matter why the tweet is liked or retweeted, or even if the person on the other side read your tweet. You enjoy a fleeting illusion of mastery.

11. People retweet tweets that validate their own beliefs.

12. For this reason, the most effective tweet is a clever formulation of a view that everyone already believes. If one lacks cleverness, forcefulness provides a second best.

13. Tweets are either snide or outraged.

14. The effortlessness with which one obtains a dopamine response results in excessive use and a weakening of the response over time. Hence Twitter’s addictive quality. People increase Twitter usage in order to maintain a constant dopamine response.

15. Unfortunately, people might respond negatively to your tweet. When that happens, the self feels threatened, stress levels rise, and the organism engages in fight-or-block, resulting in either case in a form of infantile regression.

16. In the non-virtual world, successful people take care to keep up impressions, for example, they avoid making controversial statements to friends, colleagues, and strangers except when unavoidable, and even then do so in a carefully respectful way.

17. In Twitter, the same people act as if their audience consisted of a few like-minded friends and forget that it actually consists of a diverse group of people who may not agree with them in every particular on politics, religion, morality, metaphysics, and personal hygiene. Hence tweeting becomes a source of misunderstanding and mutual hostility. The Twitter paradox is that one seeks solidarity but is constantly reminded of one’s solitude. Fortunately, there is always the mute button.

18. Without realizing it, people who use Twitter damage the image of themselves that they cultivate in the non-virtual world.

19. The sense of validation that Twitter provides is as a potato chip is to a meal. A Frankfurt school theorist would say that the tweet is a commodified form of social engagement in Late Capitalism. Its effect is to alienate its users while immersing them in advertisements.

20. But Twitter doesn’t even make money for the capitalist class. It’s a black hole of value-destroying technology for all concerned.