I cannot emphasise enough how much worse Twitter makes everything seem.
That sentence isn’t quite right.
‘Worse’ implies things are bad, and that Twitter exaggerates that, so let me rephrase:
I cannot emphasise enough how much Twitter makes everything seem very, very bad, when it’s actually all roughly as good as you perceive it to be.
Experience the world directly, and it might be awe-inspiring. Pseudo-experience it through Twitter, and that becomes less likely.
Take any issue, and Twitter distorts it into a matter of grimly monotonous, endless conflict, in which there is no middle ground, or perhaps even worse, not no middle ground, but no-one who just doesn’t care that much, and doesn’t even know there’s a middle ground and two trenches.
And it’s those people, the ones who are not bothered, or who are joyously apathetic, because they’re busy or doing something fun, it’s those people that prevent the world from actually tipping over the edge, as Twitter portrays it to have already done, even though it hasn’t.
For practicality, since they aren’t really a group and by definition never will be, let’s call such people the don’t know, don’t cares. They are, I’m fairly sure, a majority, and we should be thankful for that and make efforts to learn from them, and slide a little in their direction.
Take any issue. Let’s go for masks.
My opinion on masks? I hate them. But I now realise that the very worst place to express that thought is on Twitter, because not only does it come out as a blunt, context-free, unreasoned statement, it immediately places me in one of two, angry camps, for or against, with relevant baggage attached.
But I don’t dislike masks for all the reasons churned out by the against camp, and I don’t want to argue about efficacy.
I just don’t like masks.
And if you speak to people away from Twitter, the two camps are not really camps at all, and a lot of people, thankfully, just don’t care that much. They’re not really for or against.
They might, more-or-less, think it’s a good idea to wear a mask, just in case, or they don’t really mind them, and feel that it’s less hassle to go along with it than not to. They don’t have particularly strong feelings towards people who don’t wear one. Maybe they’ll have a a quiet tut at the unmasked, but from behind their face coverings that will be inaudible and inconsequential anyway. They are very likely looking forward to not wearing a mask.
And the people who already opt not to wear one may very well not have done in-depth research on the matter. They just think it’s a bit silly, that the positives are vague and the negatives more immediate. Maybe they have a skin condition, or a character type for which masking is a significant imposition. They might feel frustrated at the compliance of those around them, but again, they are not really against. They will simply do as they choose, and hope no-one bothers them.
And outside of these two loose groupings there are plenty of people who do not care. I expect they’ll wear masks for a while, and then they won’t.
But on Twitter, all of these people—the ones who might lean a little one way or another but don’t want to argue about it, and the ones who don’t care at all, and the people who don’t regard current events as either a conflict or a stirring drama—are not represented, precisely because they don’t care enough to express strong opinions.
So instead, inside the internet, whatever that even is, you have open combat and nothing else, and if you let yourself be dragged into it, you will lose sight of reality, and the wider horizons. Plug into the online back-and-forth, and you can forget that the world is a brighter place than your Twitter feed ever is, and that we are not divided into warring factions.
At which point you might ask, why bother logging on at all?
Leave Twitter for the journalists. Let them have their spats, they get paid for it, in a roundabout way. You don’t like them, or at least not their online personas, and you certainly don’t take their articles seriously, if you even read them at all, so why buy into their shoddy, tit-for-tat soap operas?
And by the way, you could take that example, masks, and apply it to pretty much every issue. Masks are just one current topic. Do busy people going about their lives have opinions on Black Lives Matter, or Brexit, or the latest batshit American president?
Maybe, to an extent. But actually, hopefully not, or not for more than a few minutes a week, anyway.
The don’t know, don’t cares are a sizeable, cheerful, and inherently undefinable bunch. They don’t exist online or in the news, but they actually are the societies being pointlessly argued about, day-in, day-out, to no ends at all.
While that happens, the don’t know, don’t cares are likely to be doing something else, and enjoying it, as they always have been.