At times twitter feels like some demonic binary beast. An imaginary world full of traffic flow, night and day, as phantoms pass by catching the odd glance or, every now and then, stopping to take a longer look. As in any real world twitter has many rules, some are obvious others unique to its world. There are places to go and shadows to avoid.
Firstly, this is not going to be some long rant about an argument I know nothing about. I naively stumbled into a twitter row this week. I thought I was handing out some semi-robotic affirmation to someone I have met twice and whose book I have read and respected greatly but, in fact I was walking under a deadfall trap. If I caused offense or upset to @oldandrewuk then I am genuinely sorry. That was not my intention.
The problem is twitter. We treat debate in it as we would the real world but I have found that this is a mistake. This blog is the perfect example. When I press that button to publish this is no longer my ‘free thoughts’ trying to make sense of something. This is no longer a late night conversation or a pub talk where after a fiery row we can all hug. As soon as I press publish I am inviting everyone in to operate on my meaning. “I am not as clever as I think I am” Should be writ large above every laptop.
Twitter can feel like the playground and at times (me included) we are children in this world. Kicking autumn leaves into each other’s faces with robust arguments and quick wit. We seem terrified that a string of 140 characters might leave us in a puddle, our knees bloodied and the laughing stock of the dinner hall. But we still press that button…
Can there truly be ‘freedom of thought’ if offense is so easily provoked?
Freedom to say what we want still comes with a price. I like @StarterforFive – it is a good idea but should it be allowed to publish advice that is so clearly offensive to sections of the twitter world? I think it should. I believe in freedom of thought unless it harms another. Harm is a difficult variable to grasp but most advice is on a spectrum, only a small section would cross the line into the extreme, violent, racist, sexist or homophobic realms…
…but, who is the censor?
Ultimately the censor is the person taking responsibility for the posts or tweets. Therefore, @StarterforFive should not be surprised it is getting flak from sections of twitter as I should not be surprised I am blocked by someone who takes offense at my stance. I would be interested to know where the line is for @StarterforFive? If I wrote that ugly teachers make the best teachers – would that be ok for a 5? What about the best teachers being those that do not have their own children? When is my ‘freedom of thought’ in fact crossing the line? (I don’t believe any of those by the way!). Worse still when does our freedom to express our thoughts suddenly become offensive? I imagine many of the contributors knew how controversial their posts would be. I am still ok with all the posts posted to have happened. I think that they open up debate but what happens when we are back to the playground? Debate is only good if we can engage in it at a level that does not take offence or offer up offence… In that arena twitter is just like a 1950’s icy playground on a dark February morning.