Twitter's daily storm in a teacup feeds our news porn addiction.
People are quick to label Twitter as "good" or "bad" but it's neither -- it's simply a tool which brings out the best and the worst in us. It's the latest in a long line of communication methods which have change the way we interact with the world, for better and for worse.
Twitter is certainly a powerful tool for quickly disseminating information around the globe. But when it comes to the concept of "news", I'd say Twitter has done more harm than good. It's driven the concept of a 24-hour news cycle to new extremes, turning the news into sensationalist entertainment which could best be classified as "news porn" -- whether it's Apple versus Android or Abbott versus Gillard.
Amanda Dunn's opinion piece on the weekend -- Right on skew: news takes a tumble in the Twitter hole -- summed up how I've been feeling for a while and I'm sure I'm not alone. Every wild rumour, ill-considered opinion or off-the-cuff comment on Twitter triggers a new wave of outrage which spills into the mainstream media and creates a self-sustaining storm in a teacup. I've had my fair share of Twitter controversy and faced the consequences. I'm not trying to shirk responsibility for my actions by blaming Twitter. I just think that the Twitterati's appetite for outrage, and the mainstream media's habit of lapping it up, has reached the point where it's distorting public debate.
At the risk of biting the hand that feeds, I'd say trivial Twitter controversies are driving the mainstream headlines of the day -- controversies declared newsworthy by journalists scrambling to feed the hungry beast with a diet of newstainment. Such tactics might boost page impressions but they do little to raise the level of debate or redeem the mainstream media in the eyes of those who feel it has lost its way.
It's easy to blame the mainstream media for the rise of newstainment but, judging by the comments on news stories and the tone of Twitter debate, I'd say many readers are willingly along for the ride. The rise of adversarial politics has infected every level of public debate, with people more interested in attacking their opponents than addressing the issues.
We bicker like children on Twitter just as our politicians bicker like children in parliament and it's hard to say which is following the example of the other. Trolling and news porn seem to go hand in hand, with Twitter providing the perfect outlet.
Of course for every spiteful troll you'll find a self-righteous Informed Citizen 2.0 who speaks of the democratisation of information but is just as much a news porn addict -- driving the Twitter outrage machine while claiming the moral high ground. By feeding Twitter's outrage overload, under the guise of democratic participation, they're actually part of the problem. Actually they're a bigger part of the problem than the trolls, because self-righteous outrage junkies can't even see that they're part of the problem.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't discuss politics on Twitter or their favourite brand of smartphone, I'm just saying that we need more informed debate and less people playing Outrage of the Day. Outrage junkies actually damage democracy because the really important issues are lost in the noise when you turn every little issue into a big deal.
Australia's nine-month election campaign will provide Twitter with the perfect fodder to feed news porn addicts. As the outrage machine goes into overdrive, it could be the last straw for many people who were already contemplating turning their back on Twitter or at least filtering out newstainment and the outrage junkies.
Will Twitter ever jump the shark? Not until people lose their taste for newstainment and childish bickering. History would suggest that outrage junkies will only tire of Twitter when they find an even more effective way to feed their news porn addiction.
What do you think? Could Twitter jump the shark as we tire of news porn and 24-hour controversy?