Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Twitter and the election

Twitter has been bothering me the past few days. I can't quite put my finger on it, so excuse me if the following sounds a bit jumbled, but my feelings go a little something like this...

A few days ago, I tweeted that "If anything, this #ge2010 I've learned that twitter is worse than rolling news. Moves too quickly for actual events, can't sustain itself."

I saw somebody, I forget who, tweet that the German media, long used to covering coalition negotiations in their own government, were taken aback by the impatience of our media who were making talking points out of nothing. (See the ridiculous helicopter coverage of party leaders being driven around).

It wasn't just the traditional media that were hankering for something tasty to talk about, so too were many people online.

My thinking was, and still is, that in the absence of actual developments in such a tense situation as a hung parliament, people on twitter only hear what they want to hear and willfully misinterpret or make inferences of other people's comments. Admittedly, this only comes from the people I was following myself, but these people cut across all political persuasions as did the type of behaviour I'm writing about.

This led to petty and reactionary squabbling over minor points or people simply airing their thoughts and pondering out loud. Reason and rational thought seemed to fly out the window as people struggled to have their voices and opinions heard over everybody else. All the while nothing was happening or actually being constructed in real life, away from the internet.

It was, simply put, a deluge of speculation. People were going round in circles of non-existent opprobrium, contributing to a gigantic mess of 'debate'. And it was all rather off-putting if truth be told.

That was before negotiations for a new government came to a disappointing close but I still stand by it. Moreover, I still think it's pertinent even after things came to a conclusion.

Now, my twitter stream is full of people expressing their dismay at the situation in a giant anti-Tory echo chamber. That's all well and good, I have nothing against that, but after you've seen the same sentiment for the 100th time it starts to get boring.

I now find myself in a strange position where I don't feel like I have anything worthwhile to contribute to the 'discussion'; much of what I feel has already been said. I tweeted that it was simply "ineffective fury". By this I mean fury that has no direction, no actual target. OK, the Tories are now in power, but it doesn't actually mean anything yet as we're yet to see this power manifest itself.

This differs from occasions such as Trafigura or Jan Moir, where wrongs had clearly been committed and twitter united to right them. Until there are policies and proposals that we can actually physically fight, all we have at the moment is a rather abstract idea of somebody being in power that we don't like, but with no real idea how to go about fighting it, leaving us with a public sphere in which people may as well just be shouting into an empty room.

I realise I'm making massive generalisations here. There has been the odd nugget of reason with people pointing out logical flaws or bringing others back down to earth. Still, I feel like twitter has become a beacon of impotent rage for the time being. Until this rage calms down, people begin to see the bigger picture and realise that being angry on the internet isn't always the best prescription, I'm going to resist jumping into the melee and quietly contemplate what can be done offline instead.

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