Monday, December 22, 2014

Outrageous casualties

Twitter is a poor medium for sarcasm. This should be obvious to anyone who's tapped out a 140-character aphorism only to have it misunderstood and summarily dissected by the Twitter masses. Until quite recently, Twitter controversies stayed within Twitter, but with the separation of online and offline life being basically nil, I expect 2015 to be not much different than 2014. It's also an equally poor medium for enforcing social norms.

So what happens after the controversy fades and Twitter moves on to the next target? Here's one example.

I actually liked this article a lot. You don't often see the target of a Twitter storm being presented as human. (Yes, even if the joke was horribly tone deaf, even if her views are abhorrent, there's still a human being underneath.) This part bothered me, though:
Twitter disasters are the quickest source of outrage, and outrage is traffic. I didn't think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco's life. The tweet was a bad tweet, and seeing it would make people feel good and angry—a simple social and emotional transaction that had happened before and would happen again and again. The minimal post set off a 48-hour paroxysm of fury, an eruption of internet vindictiveness.
How could you not? It's become such an established pattern these that entire blogs exist solely for the purpose of getting people fired for thinking the wrong things. It's gotten to where it seems dangerous or wrong to even to disagree that every cruel, bigoted, or just plain ignorant tweet needs swift action, or that the consequences of being the target of twitter outrage are often disproportionate to the crime committed.