Tag Archives: Social media

Twitter is the protocol for human psychic communication

I’m a writer. And so, of course, I’m on Twitter. Somedays it feels like 90% of Twitter’s users are writers, and that I suspect is a big part of Twitter’s problem at this time. Problems which have lead in turn to the possibility of its sale to Google, or Salesforce, or Disney, or please dear god no News Corp.

There is clearly a lot of value in Twitter. If you’re the place where Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump go to exchange bitchy sub-tweets, you must be doing something right. But nobody seems to know how to unlock that value as cash, least of all its current owners and management, who sometimes seem to be the people who understand the platform least in all the world. Twitter Moments? Please.

Twitter is, I think, the most misunderstood thing to come out of the last decade or more of social networking. Because twitter isn’t a social network. Sure, it networks people in a social way, but we can all see it’s not going to grow up to be Facebook. Twitter has grown up, it is what it is. And what it is, is deeply misunderstood.

Twitter is also not a media platform. Yes, I can put a video on Twitter. But is it convenient for anybody to watch that video on Twitter? Absolutely not. The animated GIF is great on Twitter. Because it’s succinct. It fits into the un-official, ever evolving grammar that is the answer to the question, “what is a tweet?” Because a tweet isn’t a status update. Neither is it a micro-blog. A tweet is a tweet, and what a tweet is, is something specific and very important to this age of digital communication.

Let’s consider this issue from the opposite direction. Imagine I waved a wand and made every human on the planet psychically connected to every other human. You don’t have to imagine that hard, we’re pretty close to that reality when we stare into our little black rectangles of glass and steel. And all our VR headsets and whatever follows them are taking us even closer. But take it the few extra steps to full on psychic communication, mind-to-mind, you think it I hear it kind of thing.

How in the hell would that work? Seriously, if the state of the internet is any indication, I don’t want to have the sordid contents of human kind’s collective consciousness squirted into my headspace. I don’t even want to be exposed to most of what people I LIKE think about, let alone the ugly thought processes of #gamergate or the #altright. To work, psychic communication, like all forms of communication, from smoke signals to the telephone, requires a protocol. And that protocol would have to look almost exactly like Twitter.

I don’t want to “hear” everybody’s thoughts so I choose people I’m interested in to follow. I only want to share specific thoughts of my own, so I package them in, oh, something like a tweet. Those tweets have to be succinct – 140 characters, an image, a micro-video perhaps, so they can go into a stream of all the people I follow, that I look at as and when I want to. And so on. The way Twitter works is much the way a future race of highly evolved psychic humans would communicate. Which I guess tells you something about how bitchy, petty, sordid and occasionally enlightening the future of human communication is likely to be.

Why not Facebook? Why not Snapchat? Why not some other social network? Facebook is, by design, a platform for limited social networks. Friends, family, work colleagues, etc. Snapchat is for the stuff you want to do on a social network that you want to DISAPPEAR FOREVER after it’s shared with a specific group. Both super important in their own ways. But twitter is the collective consciousness of all humanity. That’s why it’s where elections happen. That’s why it’s where the news discussion happens, and why every news reporter in the world is basically just a twitter scavenger at this point. And what Twitter has that makes it the platform of choice for the collective consciousness of our species, and those who want to communicate to it, is the best protocol to regulate that communication.

What Twitter does not seem to have is the first clue that it’s sitting on the protocol for human psychic communication. And, consequentially, Twitter has very little inkling of what Twitter actually is. Hence the long series of blunders and years of stymied growth that make a sale of Twitter likely. Will the new owners have any clue what Twitter is? Unlikely. Can Twitter be saved? It doesn’t really matter. The protocol that makes Twitter interesting, and the collective consciousness currently being regulated by it, will simply evolve around another platform if Twitter dies. But that would be a shame. I for one hope Twitter figures out what it has on its hands, and sees the quite obvious way ahead once that realization is made.

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Does social media reveal a ‘silent liberal majority’?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

The media often projects the consensus that the majority of the population hold conservative viewpoints. For instance, it’s generally agreed that a majority of the UK population support capital punishment. When that does not prove to be true in practice the terms ‘silent majority’ or ‘moral majority’ are used to imply that for various reasons that majority is not heard.

Today a major debate was sparked about capital punishment in the UK. It is a manufactured debate, arising from the re-launch of the UK government’s e-petition scheme. A well known UK political blogger started a petition to bring back capital punishment and, with the support of right wing parts of the media, claimed he had or would soon have the 100,000 signatures needed to gain a parliamentary debate on the subject. This has proven to be untrue. Signatories are not supporting the petition at anywhere near the expected rate. In fact, the opposing petition has, at the time of writing, approximately twice as many signatories.

I think this surprise outcome is largely due to social media.

Twice now, first with the News International phone hacking case and now with the capital punishment debate, I have observed through searches and hashtags that a vast majority of Twitter users were in support of the liberal perspective in both cases. While both conservative and liberal supporters use social media, their effect seems to be to amplify the liberal argument far more strongly than the conservative one.

Why would this be? I think it is possible that social media empowers a ‘silent liberal majority’. People who do not engage with traditional media and traditional politics because they do not feel it can change anything. They likely hold very strong political ideals, but feel there is no way to really act on those ideals in the real world. In my experience the number of people who feel this way is very great, but their viewpoint is not often expressed in our political dialectic. Twitter and other social media allow that liberal majority to make themselves heard easily and , more importantly, effectively. Social media then brings a large section of the population back in to the political system who have gone unheard for a long time. If this is true, then UK politics is about to take a major step to the left.