Why Twitter makes smart people say dumb things

Slate’s Jack Shafer on if and why Twitter makes smart people say dumb things. It’s an interesting read, not least because everyone who uses Twitter probably reads a whole bunch of stupid stuff in the course of a day. Shafer doesn’t believe that all those people simply don’t get social media (as some have proposed). Instead, he thinks it’s rather a problem of the broadness of one’s audience:

In the pre-Twitter days, nobody could attract an audience of a hundred or a thousand instantaneously unless they hosted a radio show or commandeered a stage. Even daily newspaper columnists, who mine controversy for a living, had to triple-jump over an editor, a copy desk, and space constraints to deposit a barbed idea in print. Blogs have always had the potential to “offend,” but I don’t recall them having provoked the sort of responses tweets do. Perhaps composing more than 140 characters at a time pushes the id back a little bit, as my colleague Timothy Noah says.

Shafer goes on to create an arc from Twitter to Facebook, offering the consolation that sooner or later, Twitter will have become Facebookized, in that people will have gotten used to updates not exactly fit for public consumption. I, personally, don’t exactly agree. People are only always as smart as their dumbest moments, so if someone posts something stupid on Twitter, it’s probably not as far from how they really are (unless of course they are drunk – the drunkards are always exempt). And yes, that does include me (go on and rummage through my Twitter account, if you want). In the end, only because it’s become the norm, it doesn’t mean it’s not stupid. It just means that we’ve all lowered our expectations.