Tag Archives: Twitter

Unfiltered Information Could Be Our Undoing

Donald J. Trump has 65.2-million followers on Twitter. So, whatever idea might pop into his head, no matter how crazed, he can immediately blast it out to all 65.2-million of his minions. That, is political power. It is also frightening, because it is totally unfiltered.

Not long ago, in a time before cellphones, there were the newspapers and three major over-the-air broadcasting networks controlling most of the flow of information in America. For the most part, they had professional news organizations staffed with journalists who took their craft seriously, taking care to uphold the public trust with a standard for quality journalism, while serving as a filter for their readers, listeners and viewers, ensuring a degree of accuracy and truthfulness in what Americans read and heard. The worst thing these journalists could do, and they knew it, would be to betray the public trust and lose their credibility. And so, they took their work seriously.

Consequently, when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told America that the Vietnam War had us mired in a stalemate, that the war was unwinnable and that a negotiated settlement was needed, the nation listened. Polls indicated Cronkite to be the most trusted man in America. There were calls for him to run for public office. Journalists were held in high esteem.

There were lapses of course, like “Yellow Journalism” during Hearst’s battle with Joe Pulitzer, but for the most part it worked pretty well. For the most part, America was protected by her journalistic filter. Then came cable, satellite news and the internet, and all bets were off.

And now here we are, with no filter to protect us and a highly questionable personality in the Oval Office with his finger not just on the nuclear trigger but on his massive Twitter feed as well. I’m not sure which might turn out to be more threatening to the country, or what we should do about it going forward. Clearly, what technology has given us may be more than our Democratic Constitutional Republic can handle. In a very real sense, it may be a clear and present danger.

Wouldn’t We All Be Better Off Without Twitter?

For me, the exchange of information, much of it valid news, is a chief advantage of being on Facebook. Beyond that, there is the ability to stay in touch with friends scattered around the country and the world.

That said, I have been trying to determine what value, if any, Twitter has? It seems to me to be nothing but a vehicle for celebrities with a huge fan base to communicate their personal feelings to their fans. Their personal feelings and opinions may or may not have any informational value, they may in fact be spreading misinformation, but Twitter gives them free reign to disperse what may be blather to millions of adoring subjects without any fact checking or editing. In as much, it could be considered a purveyor of intellectual chaos.

For the rest of us, who don’t have millions of fans and who have no desire to lock horns with strangers in meaningless confrontations, what possible use does Twitter have – other than being a social networking gossip channel for kids? Why are we even using it, considering one of its most noteworthy impacts has been to assist DJT (and others like him) in threatening our democracy by giving him instant and free contact with his base? Even now, some argue that the very threat of a flurry of angry Trumpist tweets is preventing the Congress from taking action on the government shutdown.

I’m pretty sure the founders never imagined anything like this when they came up with the First Amendment. Extending freedom of the press to the massive white noise that is Twitter, is quite a stretch. Or maybe not? How far can and should free speech be extended with regard to all this new technology?

So why are so many of us still using it? Could it be because we continue hoping it will fulfill some promise of providing us with something – a credibility perhaps, or a purpose that gives it value – that simply is not there?

Is Twitter potentially too dangerous, too politically and culturally toxic, to be left to its own devices? Like putting a loaded shotgun in the hands of a small child? Equally troubling is the obvious fact that much of the Congress is largely ignorant as to how the Internet functions, much less the way dozens of various applications might impact our national security.

Tweeting In Code

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I’m a fairly bright guy.   I try and remain as current as possible – a big fan of John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Jon Stewart and Silicon Valley.   I built a computer just to see if I could and it worked.   I was an early webmaster on the Net, fooling around with html when most folks had no idea what html was.  Come to think of it, most folks still have no idea.  I think I know what’s happening out there.   And then this shows up as “trending” on Twitter.

App Store ?@AppStore 9h9 hours ago

#WWDC15 is the epicenter of change. Experience the keynote live today at 10 a.m. PDT at http://apple.co/live .

Are we mere mortals supposed to be able to make any sense out of this?  Seriously?  It’s “trending” on Twitter?  It appears to be an ad for something from Apple, but what?  When is an ad not an ad but an “event?”   Should we care?

Studies show that social media can cause anxiety and depression. This depresses me and I’m not even sure why.   Maybe because there appears to be a whole subset of humanity operating in a separate universe with a language and thought patterns all their own, and it’s just a matter of time before those of us here on planet Earth are left totally behind.   Clueless and drooling.  Wondering what went wrong and why nothing is understandable anymore.

Is there any percentage in slowing down long enough to try and understand where we might be headed, or is it now our nature to spiral out of control?

You’ll have to forgive me now, while I leave to Google “WWDC15.”  Having no idea what it is except that it’s “the epicenter of change,” is giving me anxiety.   A deep gnawing anxiety only made worse by the thought that whatever it is, it’s apparently happening for the 15th time and I’ve only just found out about it.