My mom informed me about the federal court’s ruling on voting fraud in the last election before it was reported in the mainstream media because she was tracking it on Twitter (not that the mainstream media seems to be too interested anyway).
A couple days later when I asked how the Globe and Mail paywall affected her night-time news-reading ritual, my aunt informed me: “Guess I’m getting more of my news from Twitter.”
Plenty has been written about the death of the newspaper; and it seems like for some of my family, they’re replacing it with Twitter. Maybe I’m not the best person to comment. Initially, a complete Twitter-sceptic, I now observe from afar: I regularly read my favourite hockey writers and my mom’s feeds, but I don’t have an account of my own. As frequent readers may have guessed, the 140-character limit does not suit me. I find that it limits the capacity to communicate nuance and therefore increases the possibility of being misunderstood. There was one point about a year ago, where I warned my mother that her Twitter feed made her sound like more of a political extremist than she was. So, while brevity may be the soul of wit, I am a long-winded Polonius. You could say that my attitude towards Twitter is better suited to a grumpy old man. However, the more I reflect on it, the more I realise Twitter doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table; rather it simply magnifies, extends, and intensifies the way we already interact with the media.
“The Readers’ Prejudices”
The internet has been praised for opening up dialogue and breaking down barriers. However, while it’s very easy to find viewpoints with which you don’t agree on the internet, this ideal is generally not what happens. Instead, people tend to use the internet to find and interact with like-minded people. As Twitter feeds are filled with people who they choose to follow, Twitter acts as a personalised collator of information that confirms people’s pre-existing ideas. I found it interesting how after the recent murders in Woolwich, my Facebook feed filled up with condemnation of the racist backlash, but was itself devoid of any racist backlash. Not that the confirmation bias arrived with Twitter. The following clip from the satirical 1980s British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister does a fairly good job of describing today’s British print media.