The Benefits of Twitter
By MADELINE FITZGIBBON ‘21
I have received a lot of mixed messages about social media—it ruins self-esteem, serves as a distraction, and builds a profile for college and work. The one common theme I’ve heard in all of these remarks? People present their best selves on these platforms. Most people post pictures when they look their best, and no one misses the opportunity to show off an exotic vacation or an exciting concert. Instagram, in particular, acts as a platform for everyone to post their best moments. However, with Twitter, many people have found a way to be more open and honest about themselves as well as open discussions not always possible on other platforms.
Twitter facilitates discussions in a way that other platforms cannot. Celebrities tend to interact more with fans, and people make friends more easily through the conversation-based design. In addition, many people feel that without the need to post a picture, they can be more genuine and honest about themselves. Instead of posting their ideal selves, people on Twitter can express their in-the-moment thoughts and feelings, from idle thoughts to more serious emotions. As Shannon Kim (II) says, Twitter feels more intimate because “it gives [users] a more personal voice without having to worry about [an] aesthetic.” Likes are also less important. With its threads and easy reply format, people can respond and react to each other users quickly, whether to offer support, share a joke, or engage in political discourse. Users can instantly share thoughts on news stories and current events as well as connect with international users to start discussions and advance ideas. Instead of stressing about presenting their ideal self, users can discuss their day or an embarrassing moment to which they think others might relate; rather than comparing themselves negatively to others, Twitter users can commiserate and be entertained together.
However, despite its positive components, Twitter has a reputation for bigotry and hurtful discussion. Recently, many people have attacked Twitter regarding its inaction surrounding white supremacists on the platform—particularly politicians who have made harmful and racist remarks. Supporters of those politicians claim they are simply exercising their right to free speech. But in some instances, when these politicians attack others on Twitter, those being attacked—notably, politicians Alexandria Occasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar—receive hateful messages and even death threats. These occasions raise the question of how far is too far regarding free speech; after all, the law does not regulate social media platforms, and many feel Twitter has been ineffective in moderating hateful comments from white supremacists. In contrast, Twitter often cracks down harshly on more diverse users, such as Jovan Hill, a black, gay former Twitter user who often gets suspended within days of remaking his account. Hill’s tweets are often vulgar, but he never attacks others based on race, gender, or other identities. However, Twitter seems to work harder to censor him than known bigots on their platform. He and his supporters have spoken out several times about this unequal treatment, but Twitter has made no comment. However, according to an NPR article from June 2019, Twitter announced its intent to censor politicians’ hateful tweets by marking them with a warning. But the company claimed that the public should see the tweets, and therefore the tweets would not be deleted off the site. Twitter finally seems to be taking action, although many users still believe this action is too little. Despite this controversy, one positive feature of Twitter is users’ ability to speak out against the platform’s policies through the platform itself. Thus, Twitter allows for users to connect in activism, including against the platform’s complacency in fighting bigotry.
Despite negative components, users have helped make Twitter a platform of positivity and understanding. From users sharing everyday random thoughts to uniting for a common cause, Twitter facilitates conversation and helps many users feel better about themselves. With the help of its users, Twitter can continue to become a way to share opinions without bigotry.