Gini Dietrich

Twitter Broke the Internet!

By: Gini Dietrich | June 8, 2017 | 

Twitter Broke the InterentYesterday, I had an interesting conversation with Bob Dunn about Twitter.

While it was centered around how online retailers should use Twitter, it opened a discussion about the pros and cons of using the social network for customer service.

A New York Times article described Twitter as Pandora’s box:

Evan Williams is the guy who opened up Pandora’s box. Until he came along, people had few places to go with their overflowing emotions and wild opinions, other than writing a letter to the newspaper or haranguing the neighbors.

And that’s exactly what Bob and I talked about—Twitter can be either a really good or a really bad thing for organizations.

People say things on Twitter (or anywhere else online) they wouldn’t necessarily say to a person—or group of people—face-to-face.

Their emotions are overflowing and their opinions are wild—and they have a place to share it all.

Twitter has opened a world of direct connection, fast-faced conversation, absolute delight, and unnecessary criticism.

Twitter Broke the Internet

We also have the President of the United States using Twitter to document his every thought—#alternativefacts and all.

(He’s reportedly going to live tweet during Comey’s testimony today.)

Which has both reinvigorated Twitter and done away with distinguished, elevated thoughtfulness.

And it’s not just Twitter.

According to the aforementioned Times article:

People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings, and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant. Four out of 10 adult internet users said in a Pew survey that they had been harassed online. And that was before the presidential campaign heated up last year.

Today, just like the article’s headline states, the internet is broken and we’re all to blame.

We Need to Get Back to Distinguished Thoughtfulness

The internet has been fabulous for me, personally and professionally.

When I chose my career, my parents were surprised I didn’t choose one that was solely focused on writing.

It’s what I love—it’s my passion (and it’s also why we continue to focus on the written word as the majority of our content here).

But, as you well know, writing doesn’t tend to pay the bills.

I had to find something that allowed me to incorporate my love and make some money.

When the internet blew up and blogging became a thing, I was able to incorporate my love even further.

Social media has also been fabulous—it has completely flattened out the world.

I guarantee, with the exception of one of my colleagues, I would not have met any of them without social media.

We’ve built a brand, a community, a team, and a suite of products because of the internet.

It has been very, very good to us.

And it’s broken, which has never been more evident than in 2017.

We need to get back to distinguished, elevated thoughtfulness.

Professional discourse.

Conversation that is respectful, kind, and open-minded.

The Change Begins with Us

Evan Williams is attempting to do that with Medium.

Its ambition: Define a new model for media in a world struggling under the weight of fake or worthless content. Medium is supposed to be social and collaborative without rewarding the smash-ups. It is supposed to be a force for good.

Google and Facebook are attempting the same.

But we shouldn’t wait for the social networks and media companies to do this for us.

We also have a responsibility.

As communicators, our industry is the media industry.

The change begins with us:

  • Support the industry by paying for our content. That’s the only way investigative, fact-based journalism can continue. We get what we pay for.
  • Share the news outlets that are most decidedly not fake.
  • When a news site hits our stream that looks fake or to not have any credibility, we must speak up and most definitely not share.
  • Use your critical thinking skills and always do your own investigation in content that crosses your screens.
  • Flag anything that looks to be fake—and report the stuff that is.
  • Attempt to overcome your own bias. This means accept your own ignorance, don’t be seduced by something you want to be true, and look outside of your bubble.
  • And, as my mom always said to us as kids, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.”

It’s really easy to get fired up and share a story that supports our beliefs.

Be Part of the Solution

If we want to fix the internet…

If we want to get back to distinguished, elevated thoughtfulness…

And if we want to continue to have a democracy that allows First Amendment rights…

We have to be part of the solution. And that means being really smart about what we share and discuss online.

(It’s also true about offline conversations, but even more so on the web.)

How else do you think we can fix the internet?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I completely agree on the value of Medium – a cyberbullying-free community of thoughtful writers and connectors.

    That said, I also agree on the role of users – it’s not a matter of technology, is a matter of empathy and humaneness.

    • paulakiger

      It’s so interesting – this take on Medium. For me, it’s the place I go to post the things that are too raw for my “real” blog —— not that they are (hopefully) cyberbullying or threatening but I’m not sure I view it as “safe” in the sense we’re discussing here. But now I’ll be thinking about that!

      • I understand you perfectly – on Medium, I write about “sensitive” topics such as Politics, Culture and so on.

        • paulakiger

          Exactly. I do write about sensitive topics on “my main blog” but when it’s a) raw and b) I don’t want to do all kinds of Yoast gymnastics to position it for SEO, etc., Medium is my go-to.

          • paulakiger

            I just have to laugh, y’all, at the timing of receiving Medium’s “don’t you want to become a member for $5 a month?” pitch on the very day we had this discussion!

          • Really? LOL!!

          • paulakiger

            Really! I’ll forward it to you. I guess I should be “honored” to be “one of the most loyal readers.” 🙂

          • I received the email too and was going to subscribe. It has been useful for work and personal reading.

          • paulakiger

            Keep us posted; I’d be curious to hear what value you get out of the membership!

          • Sure. I’ll post on Slack if I sign up. Will re-review over the weekend.

    • It really is up to us to make change…on the internet, in politics, in life.

  • So true. I find I’m spending less and less time on both Twitter and Facebook for those very reasons. Less productive conversation and more ranting, bemoaning, hate-spewing does not make for a positive (or constructive) experience. ☹️

    • It’s REALLY hard to get on the social networks right now. It’s going to be rough today (after the Comey testimony). I may avoid it, altogether.

  • PhyllisAnnNichols

    Great solid tips – we can change the course. If there’s anything we’ve learned about the internet it’s that traffic matters. If fake news stops getting it, then it will cease to exist.
    Hard to do? Yes, but often things that are important take effort. This is one of those things.

    • YES! If we stop giving the fake news sites traffic, they’ll cease to exist. Exactly!