Back in August, I opined about how and why I established accounts on Twitter several years ago and Facebook this year. Since then, there’s been a few things I wanted to opine about those services. First, some broad thoughts about the 140-character universe that is Twitter. Well, I should correct that to 280 characters. Back in September, the geeks at Twitter “launched a test” so that some users could “express themselves easily” in a tweet whose character limit was double what it had been before. It turned out to be successful enough, according to the geeks, that Twitter expanded everyone’s limit from 140 to 280 in November. The belief is that the longer the tweet limit, the more engaged users will be on Twitter.
Now, one good thing about a Twitter user having that extra room is that they don’t have to rewrite, re-rewrite, or abbreviate as much as they had to do so before, and even reduce the risk of someone scuttling what they had planned to tweet because of the shorter limits. The bad thing about this, however, is… well, having that extra room. I always thought Twitter was the prime example of brevity being the spice of wit, and having that extra room could lead to all that wit diminishing. But then again, perhaps a longer tweet could make the reader stop scrolling for a minute and think, hey, there’s some pretty good thoughts in that longer tweet. Which, of course, plays into Twitter’s hope that its users are engaged with the platform more often.
I admit that when I’m on Twitter, I don’t have a strong preference for tweeting in 280 characters versus 140. I think part of that, for the moment at least, depends on whether I’m on Twitter through its website (Twitter.com, of course) or through the app on my phone or tablet. I highlight the latter because the Twitter app I use actually isn’t the official Twitter app. About a month or so after actually joining Twitter nearly 7 years ago, the official Twitter app started crashing frequently on my phone, which caused my phone to crash every now and again. Frustrated with the app but not wanting to give up on Twitter so soon, I uninstalled the official app in favor of third-party apps with layouts and functionality that are more user-friendly than what Twitter has on their app. The app I currently use for Twitter, though it does allow displays of the longer tweets from people elsewhere on Twitter, doesn’t yet permit its users to write 280-character tweets. I presume the app’s developers like to take their time to get things perfect. And that’s okay, because at the moment, I prefer thoughtful words over the need to use every character space, no matter how long the character limit.
What’s not okay, however, is Twitter’s well-deserved bad reputation for allowing the most vile of users to spread their hate and vitriol to the world. And Twitter is finally seeing the light, judging by this news from earlier this week: Twitter’s new rules of behavior will stipulate that users that make threats of violence, wish harm upon other users, or associate with others who promote violence and hate, will be suspended from the platform.
To me, this move by Twitter seems like it’s part “about time,” part “too little too late”: Twitter has let the hate build up for so long, and the resulting (and, again, deserved) criticisms against them left Twitter with no choice but disinfect their platform. But there’s still a great many users who will stop at nothing to terrorize or spread hate and harassment against those they dislike. This includes You Know Who in his role as You Know What, who last month retweeted hateful and unverifiable claims by a prominent English bigot whose account was among those Twitter suspended this week. For as long as there are still those who will continue spreading their hate in 140… er, uh, 280 characters, all the Lysol in the world will not clean up the mess Twitter has fostered.
But if you think the spread of hate on social media is all Twitter’s responsibility… well, Twitter isn’t the only source of vitriol and hateful, unproven claims. Far from it in fact, as I can personally attest. Late last month, I shared on Facebook video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering a formal and remorseful apology on behalf of Canada’s government to those who were victims of a long-standing government practice of ferreting out those in civil service, national defense, or the general public who were gay or were suspected of being gay. (If you can’t access that Facebook link, the video of Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech can be seen here. It’s a speech that was well done and really worth watching, and perhaps I’ll expound on it further in a later post.)
The speech by Trudeau was a rather significant point in Canadian LGBT history, in that it showed that the Canadian government, or at least the current government, recognized the errors of their ways and showed true remorse toward those who were hurt by what was known as the “gay purge.” This American thought it was worth sharing on this side of the 49th Parallel, and that’s exactly what I did on Facebook as well as Twitter. On the former platform, it merited a couple of likes and a good word in the comments by a Facebook friend. However, this relative Facebook newbie left my settings to remain on the default of “anyone on Facebook can comment.” That allowed two way-to-the-right-of-center bigots to add unsolicited comments to my original post, comments that were critical of Trudeau and included comments that were not only anti-LGBT but also anti-Muslim.
Needless to say, just the thought that two right-wing nut-cases would use a pleasant post on my Facebook page to spread their bigotry left me peeved. The instant I saw those comments, not only did I delete them, but I also blocked those accounts and reported them to Facebook’s powers-that-be as accounts that were abusive.
One other thing about this incident: From that point until Heaven knows which point in the foreseeable future, any post I add to Facebook will only allow comments from those I have for Facebook friends. You know the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”? The way I see it, if you’re gonna spread the heat of hate, you better not even come close to my social media kitchen.