Okay, maybe it’s like not the worst place on the internet – that would probably be something illegal off the dark web or like some dodgy anti vax forum. Those are, probably just two of even worse places to be on the internet. With that cleared up, I recently wondered how Twitter is even for free. I’m talking about the amount of memes and screenshots I take from there. It’s pretty much on the verge of maxing out my phone’s memory at this point. Not trying to give Jack Dorsey some ideas but, some of the things posted up there are comedy gold, man.
What I love about Twitter the most (besides the dank memes and being able to communicate with the national railway company of the Netherlands every time theres a slight delay) is just the sheer speed of how information and content is being shared and how fast you can follow a trend. Depending on who you follow of course, the content you get is catered to you in various ways (that’s just how algorithms work). Sadly, with every positive side of things, there are always a few negatives. Weirdly enough, because information and content is shared so quickly, Twitter to me is a good mix of being both the best and the worst place on the internet and here’s a short rant on why I think so.
Besides the few news apps I have on my phone, Twitter is increasingly becoming a favorite place for me to look for what’s going on in the world (disclaimer: not always a good idea). With the pandemic going on, the Netherlands is still keeping it’s “semi”-lock down. That being said, staying in a student flat for most of the days made me realise how slow time passes by, how bad I am at cooking the simplest of dishes, and how dependent I am with my phone. In case you haven’t heard, 2020 introduced a newly added word into the dictionary – one that really highlights current social media use. “Doomscrolling”, which is defined as “endlessly scrolling through bad news without stopping or taking a step back”. Based on a newly added social media habit that people tend to do on a regular basis.
But why are we always on the lookout for bad news?
Is it because we’ve just come to terms that the world has just lit itself on fire lately?
Or are we just reinforcing that idea with the content we choose to look at and interact with?
That being said, I’m not trying to say that the solution here is just to turn a blind eye to everything going on. In fact, I think not caring about the things going on around the world is just a matter of privilege. It goes without saying that the process of educating oneself about current issues through the means that we have access to, is more of a responsibility we have. However, it just so happens to be a responsibility that gets difficult throughout time. Especially when all sorts of information is so easily found and really catered to you.
This made me think about Twitter in particular. Going to pull out a fairly trending example that got everyone hooked on all kinds of social media: the US presidential elections. Here in Europe (and I guess everywhere else in the world), we were all about the memes and the straight up drama that unfolded. Twitter increasingly became a hotspot as it certainly highlighted the season finale of the US election shit show to absolute perfection.
Everyday leading up to the vote count you would see various polls, rants, news, memes, you name it. It was impossible to get away from it all. Eventually, this led to baseless claims and misinformation. To add to the problem, Twitter’s fact checking didn’t really stop much of the distorted rhetoric. That sucked. Not only because dangerous misinformation was spreading faster than COVID at an anti mask demonstration (lol), but it ultimately meant it would be difficult to actually find “the truth” to anything about the elections. This was even more difficult when the US president himself maintained tweeting the biggest bullshit throughout the days leading up to the vote.
The world sucks at the moment, and Twitter kinda pointed that out even more
The shooting in Vienna that happened early last month came as a shock. As the world was slowly understanding what was going on, the people of Twitter were there to highlight what had happened. While I was following the live Tweet updates from various Austrian news accounts, the speed of “#Vienna” was trending. This unfortunately also provided a way for what the attackers especially wanted. Videos of the attacks started showing up on the search results, which was quickly highlighted by Austrian police as they urged users to report them instead of sharing them. As far as user responsibility goes, it didn’t take long for Twitter’s algorithm to eventually take the videos down.
As the hashtag intended to be a quick access to understanding what had happened, it also became a serious potential starting point for a doomscrolling session. Even when videos were being taken down, the hashtag still gained traction in the following hours to come as all sorts of people reacted in their own way. A series of tweets from different accounts falling in the right wing political spectrum immediately showed up, some of which were met with arguments. Others paid their respects and still encouraged unity. Various opinions presented in all kinds of content that was easily accessible by clicking on the hashtag. All within a few hours of the incident taking place.
When it comes to hate speech, misinformation, and other harmful content being thrown out there on the daily, Twitter recently announced that they’ll be putting more responsibility on AI for further content moderation. But can AI really be the answer in solving it all? With people posting the content they choose to put out, it won’t just be up to algorithms or AI to mitigate the damage the posts can make. On the contrary, it’s the algorithm’s robust “pull” medium that will most likely reinforce particular content to people. To sum it up, only users can clean up social media. Until we choose to do so, only time will tell just to what extent how that will put a dent to our doomscrolling days.
And on a lighter note, K-Pop Twitter is still a difficult concept to understand
Another factor that makes Twitter the best and worst place to be on might be down to the users on it. As with every platform on the internet. That being said, referring back to where I mentioned the responsibility of users being the core of Twitter, there’s just no way to ignore a set of particular users. In this case, I’m talking about this type of “K-Pop stans”. I can honestly say that with any trending topic you look for on Twitter – you’re going to see at least 20-something different GIFs of one of the bands or singers. Picture me in the early hours of a morning commute trying to understand what the latest lockdown measures were going to be as I try to filter out the never ending fan-cam of “STAN JAE-MIN” GIFs flooding the super trending #persconferentie.
K-Pop stans run Twitter trends, but this might not always be a bad thing. Annoying (for some), but certainly not always a bad thing. The last thing you want to do is probably start an argument with one. Which is still funny to see, I mean it’s funny when it isn’t happening to you. Otherwise then it’s just pure annoyance. But talking about K-Pop stans, you can’t forget about how they hijack hate speech content being spewed out on the platform. Talking about putting a dent into anyone’s doomscrolling habits, maybe all it takes is just censorship in the form of BTS GIFs.
Nevermind putting trust in AIs, maybe K-Pop Twitter is just bringing in the right type of balance in making Twitter the best and worst place to be on the internet? Anyways, Twitter will always be a top favorite when it comes to understanding the stupid things going on in the world right now. Whether or not that process of understanding becomes distorted along the way is something we’ll eventually find out with the years to come.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite tweets about the vaccine.
(*this would be Zoom calls in my case)