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Monday, April 15, 2024

Entitled commentary culture is taking over our online feeds

Twitter’s “Fleets” will exacerbate our culture of entitlement — and they’re stupid 

Twitter’s newest feature — “Fleets” — will allow users to post their most fleeting thoughts and opinions, designed to vanish in 24 hours. Twitter claims that the new Fleet feature is a response to users complaining that they don’t feel comfortable tweeting because tweets can be seen and replied to by anybody. That’s the same thought process behind Instagram and Snapchat stories, which seem to be so profitable that Facebook is now prioritizing stories on their Messenger app and Instagram. These features give users the ability to post temporary opinions and are only making it easier for us to have weaker opinions. 

Our culture is becoming increasingly entitled. We criticize and hate when shows don’t end our way or when a free agent signs with a different team. On Twitter, this culture seems to fester as a form of easy expression for our least thought-out stances and takes.

I recognize that it’s ironic that I am hating on opinions in an opinion piece. The difference in long form opinion is that it necessitates development and thought — not just the emotion and angst behind a tweet to garner a reaction, but an opinion designed to provoke thought. Entitlement on social media is often aimed toward just being heard, as opposed to facilitating productive discussion. 

You can put thought into your tweets and create a massive thread, but the platform is inherently reduced to reaction and disappearing commentary. 

Twitter was created as a platform for users to share their thoughts and whatever else it is they want to share, but that doesn’t mean any of us actually want to read it. Opinions matter, but only when they are thought out and especially when they are backed by research and understanding. And those types of opinions are far more exciting to engage with, too — they can go further than just reverting to a lazy, ad hominem attack. Informed opinions make for better discussions and better online culture. 

The loudest opinions are often the most extreme opinions, simply because they garner the largest reactions. This vocal minority is filling in for what the majority of users actually think and stand for. These are the opinions we should be ignoring. We should reward those who go the extra mile to make thought-out arguments, because with the ever-increasing number of opinions online, yours are getting less and less valuable. 

At the Consumer Electronic Show in 2017, Twitter’s Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland called Twitter a “platform, a product, a service, a water cooler, a time square, a microphone.” She’s right, Twitter is a tool that can be utilized for any purpose. But right now, it is lazily used by many, with no added value or substance. 

Twitter’s recent proclamation to prioritize accurate news, however, transitions away from this lethargic utilization of the platform for the better. Discussions built on fact are the ones that matter. We only have 280 characters to get our point across — let’s not waste them. 

Twitter doesn’t have to be used just for fleeting opinions. The platform has been used for networked activism and protests across the world. Using Twitter as a digital tool for organizing and publicity was vital in the Egyptian revolution of 2011. The number one Twitter hashtag in 2011 was “#Egypt” instead of some pointless American trend. 

Even with national politics, Twitter doesn’t provide a representation of what the majority of voters think. Most people are not actively discussing politics online — a lesson we should have learned from the 2016 election, Brexit and so on. The uproar and outcry online leads to echo chambers that see no other way than their own. The perspectives we see on the platform are just a microcosm of who we choose to follow. 

So what should we do if our opinion doesn’t really matter online? We need to understand that Twitter and all other social media are not genuine representations of the reality around us. That is the only way we will be less entitled in our opinions and stay out of shouting wars, name calling and stubbornness. 

In-depth conversations that are based on reality are what these platforms could and should be providing.

Yes, distractions are necessary — but not in abundance. If we want to have a better online experience, we need to change that for ourselves. These companies are only going to make changes that generate revenue for their shareholders, not to create a better culture. Cultivating a better environment is on all of us.

Written by: Calvin Coffee — cscoffee@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie


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