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Is Twitter a life-enhancing or life-disabling tool?

By Talia Klein Perez
 Getty Images: Bethany Clarke
*Updated 2022
Since Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet in 2006, Twitter has revolutionized the way people broadcast and learn about significant personal and public news stories. The social media channel became so prevalent in former President Trump’s daily professional routine that his presidency was dubbed the first “Twitter Presidency.” There’s a reason Elon Musk shelled out $44B for the platform.
While Twitter has made news and people more accessible, its impact as an information source has grown to distract and even misinform us. Worse than slowing our productivity, it has become a way to knowingly or unknowingly spread disinformation, hate and even incite violence, including from the highest offices of authority.
So, to tweet or not to tweet? That seems to be the question. Here are three reasons why Twitter is a life-enhancing tool and three reasons why it does more harm than good.

 

Three reasons Twitter enhances our lives

 

Increases accessibility of information

Today, when more people are getting their news from social media than ever before, Twitter is increasingly becoming their first choice. According to the Pew Research Center 69% of adult Twitter users get their news from the site. And 70% of Twitter news users turn to the site to follow live news events. This social media platform has been a lead source into what is happening on the ground during huge and/or tragic events. Its news-related accounts enable regular people to connect directly with journalists (80% of whom use Twitter for their jobs). The platform also played a vital role during the pandemic, sharing important information regarding nationwide Covid response updates, new research, and vaccine availability.

 

It is straightforward

Twitter is direct. Even after extending its original 140-character count to a generous 280, Twitter’s concise nature makes it the perfect tool for our hectic, non-stop lifestyles. The platform’s focus on succinct tweets – as opposed to the images and videos of pets and gourmet meals that crowd other social platforms – keeps users informed and able to communicate with each other with much less clutter. While 23% of Americans use Twitter, most of the country knows about the platform, even if they don’t use it. This attests to its accessible nature – and the fact that anyone who thinks or types can use it (except for those who have been suspended from it, like Donald Trump and Kanye West.)

 

Kickstarts societal change

Twitter has become an effective platform for kickstarting societal change. The social media platform was instrumental in organizing mass protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Michelle Obama also used it to call attention to the abduction – and later return – of 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria with her #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Twitter activism has made especially productive use of hashtags to raise direct awareness of societal matters – on a global scale – and to address and even correct wrongdoings.

Additionally, Twitter’s #MeToo phenomenon transformed a Hollywood scandal into a worldwide movement; not only did the platform open a floodgate of consequence, but it has also become a tool to ensure accountability. Plus, through offshoot hashtags, it has nurtured calls for change worldwide.

 

Three reasons why Twitter is disabling our lives

 

Ruins students’ grammar and writing skills

As Twitter demands that tweets be succinct, they usually contain abbreviations and jargon instead of correct grammar and syntax, such as leaving out personal pronouns, punctuation and articles. It’s no wonder, then, that this compressed Twitter language (“U” for “you”, “4” for “for,” etc.) has trickled into students’ school exams. It’s gotten to the point where universities are even introducing remedial English classes for their students. In fact, a Cambridge Assessment survey of more than 600 university lecturers listed academic writing as one of the top three areas in which new undergraduates were least prepared.

 

Everyone’s watching!

These days, mostly everyone is on Twitter – including your boss or clients. Therefore, misuse of the social channel can devastate your work opportunities and, by extension, your home and community life. (Not to mention any inappropriate behavior offline that’s caught on video may be uploaded to Twitter and shared globally.) Furthermore, unlike other social media platforms, Twitter has allowed your tweets to appear in Google search results since 2015.

This means a lot of extra, perhaps unwelcome, exposure for any regrettably or hastily written or spoken sentiments. Take comedian Kevin Hart. He was scheduled to host the 2019 Academy Awards until his homophobic tweets were discovered and got him fired from the gig.

 

Enables cyberbullying

Yesterday’s old-school playground bullies tend to hang out online today. But cyberbullying doesn’t just affect kids and teens; adults are also victimized by cyberbullies, especially on Twitter. As users can open and operate multiple fake Twitter accounts, it is easy for anyone to claim to be someone else – impersonating people to either spread fake news or hurt others. In fact, it’s easier to create a fake personality on Twitter than on other social media platforms, since it demands much less visual evidence of users’ private lives. Take feminist writer Lindy West, who was stalked and harassed by a fellow Twitter user pretending to be her deceased dad.

Even those who don’t hide behind fake profiles can troll others, taunting users with abusive, racist and anti-Semitic tweets. The former US president himself was also known to make offensive tweets. Even before the Jan. 6 riots, Twitter, which was used by protestors to encourage participation in events that day, had already started making efforts to mitigate cyberbullying and tweets that were perceived to potentially encourage or glorify violence. However, the platform is challenging to monitor; it’s often healthier for innocent victims to close their Twitter accounts.

 

The Bottom Line:  Twitter’s nature and access to information has enhanced our lives in many ways, but it has also negatively impacted the quality of our daily functioning. Time will tell what changes Elon Musk will do to the platform, and whether it will be for the good of the company or for society. So, will you start or continue to tweet regularly, or will you steer clear of this social media platform?

Co-written by Rachel Segal

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