A few times in recent weeks I’ve found myself in tweet-exchanges that have descended quickly into intemperance and misunderstanding. In all cases, I could be accused with some justice of being overly sensitive and hair-trigger in my emotional and rhetorical reactions. That in itself is something I’m eager to avoid from now on.
At the same time, I’m convinced that Twitter itself is an obstacle to effective and useful communication among people. I’m not the first to point out that Twitter’s 140-character limit conduces to pithy opinionizing and a compression of language that is – I would suggest – the opposite of poetic or concise, rather shoehorning serious matters that concern us all into partisan shorthand code.
I do find Twitter useful to me and to my work, as a source of news and articles to read and share that I might not have encountered otherwise. Many of the articles I recommend in the weekly Blue Ear Books newsletter Reading in Action came to my attention via Twitter.
So my personal decision is that, from now on, I will use my Twitter account only for sharing or retweeting writing that I find worth my time to read and that, by extrapolation, might be useful or interest to others as well. Is that definition broad and vague? Sure it is, but I know what I mean by it. Part of what I mean is that I will avoid arguing with anyone, about any topic, on Twitter. The severe brevity of the medium, and the quicksilver attention spans it fosters in all of us, make misunderstanding and hurt feelings much likelier than any intelligent or mutually respectful exchange of views or stories.
So, in short, my intention is to use Twitter, not in my personal capacity, or even in my capacity as a writer, but in my capacity as the editor of Reading in Action and publisher of Blue Ear Books. What you’ll read if you follow my Twitter feed is more of the same range of writings that you’ll find highlighted and annotated in the Reading in Action newsletter published every Monday.
The Internet is both a good thing and a bad thing. It allows us to communicate news and ideas instantly without geographical limitation. But printed writing is less vulnerable to surveillance, nor is it dependent on electronic devices and electricity, which is why I also publish physical books. Whatever the medium, once a story or idea or truth is in circulation among free people, no regime can forcibly rescind it. It’s in that spirit that I hope everything I write and publish will be useful and appreciated.