Does Twitter encourage people to say stupid things?

I got a Twitter account when it first started but have never sent a tweet. It is like Facebook and LinkedIn. I was one of the early people to get accounts on both but don’t use either anymore. With Twitter my reason for not using it is that I do not see what I could possibly say in less than 140 characters that would be worth saying.

It is not like I’m another Henny Youngman, a comedian famous for cranking out funny one-liners, such as, “I was so ugly when I was born, the doctor slapped my mother.” And when it comes to following others, it seems like you would have to read a lot of uninteresting tweets before you one that was worth the effort.

But the big danger of Twitter, as I see it, is that it allows one to blurt out things to the whole world that one might regret later. I suspect all of us have been exasperated by the petty annoyances of life to think or even say under our breath things that we subsequently feel embarrassed or even ashamed about. The problem with Twitter is that people with little self-control send those thoughts out.

Rebecca Schoenkopf highlights an aide to the attorney general of the state of Washington who was the latest to fall victim to the trap of thinking that random transient thoughts that float though your mind are worth sharing with the world.


  1. stonyground says

    I don’t think that the enforced brevity of twitter is a problem, surely it is possible to be profound, idiotic or anything in between, in a concise way? I would suggest that it is perceived anonymity causes people to behave in stupid or unpleasant ways on the internet. As someone who believes in free speech, I feel that allowing obnoxious people to display their true colours is not necessarily a bad thing. The internet allows people to earn the hatred and contempt of everyone and then change their identity and start the process all over again, something that is very difficult to do in real life.

    Personally, I am Stonyground and have been as long as I have commented on the internet. Theoretically I am anonymous but I am pretty sure that some clever person could easily track me down. It is important to me that people reading my comments see me as reasonable, polite, well informed and intelligent. If I fall short of these ideals and someone tells me, I do my best to take their criticism and either defend myself or concede that they have a point. I suppose that Stonyground is a bit like a brand, with a reputation to protect.

  2. didgen says

    Being able to understand a person by the thoughtless or even fully intentional blurbs has the unfortunate consequence of letting other people more easily validate their own feelings of superiority to others less fortunate. For them to spread poison in perceived anonymity is not a step forward.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    Does Twitter encourage people to say stupid things?

    I’ve heard people say some very stupid things without Twitter.

  4. says

    As an avid Twitter user, I can tell you that while Twitter lowers the barrier between “stupid thought” and “stupid statement”, the same can be said for blogs, or the telephone. You have to decide what kind of message you want to send, and what kind of online brand you are trying to build with your Twitter account.

  5. Mano Singham says

    That is true but it takes a little time to write and post a blog post. The telephone is immediate but has a very limited audience and is ephemeral, leaving no record. Twitter combines the larger audience of a blog (perhaps even larger) with the immediacy of the phone and thus is more prone to be used to say things that one might regret later but cannot recall from circulation. It seems to me that Twitter requires a lot more self-control.

  6. left0ver1under says

    It’s not the length of posts that bothers me.

    My annoyance with sites like twitter and facebook is that you have to be registered with them to be able to make comments or respond. Users of those sites don’t post email addresses, which prevents anyone not registered from contacting them. Many times, “writers” on websites deliberately try to avoid and prevent feedback, wanting to vomit lies and distortions without any accountability. It’s not just “social media”, that’s true of alleged “news” sites and many forums where comments are often censored. Email works independently of websites, and the address of the person writing should be available to all.

    There are examples of this on FtB. Ed Brayton does allow comments on his blog, but only by registering with wordpress or another service, and Brayton does not put his email address on his blog. If you want to say something to him, it can only be on blog posts, not privately by email. That is not an attack on Mr. Brayton, I’m only pointing out that the means of contacting him are limited. If anyone deserved outright shaming, it was thunderfoot who spewed garbage, locked posts to prevent comments and hid behind a wall of silence like a coward.

    Contrast those examples with someone like PZ Myers who puts up his email address for private comments, or Crommunist or Mano Singham who both still allow posting on their blogs without registration. I prefer their openness to feedback. They’re not afraid (for lack of a better word) of being accountable for what they say.

    If someone expects to be able the speak in public, the person should have the decency to stick around for a rebuttal, not claim victory and run away.

  7. Schweinhundt says

    @ManoSingham “I do not see what I could possibly say in less than 140 characters that would be worth saying.” #GreatTweet

  8. iknklast says

    I see the same problem with bumperstickers – only with bumperstickers, there’s at least the inconvenience of having to have them printed up before you can stick them on your bumper, so presumably you have a bit of time to think it through. Still, I see a lot of stupid bumper stickers people should be ashamed of.

    I’m not making any comment about Twitter, because I do not use Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or any of the other media that allow people to have the illusion they have something important to say, and that people care what they say. Blog comments? Blog comments, occasionally, but I assume very few people bother to read what I write. On Twitter, you have people following you, and this gives the impression (often mistaken) that your words are important.

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