LACKIE: Has Twitter normalized outrage?

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I have some love-hate with Twitter.

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What once felt like my most productive distraction, helping to keep my socially private and baby clouded brain updated on all the events of the day, both large and small, has now become something else entirely.

It still keeps me hyper-informed about politics and current events, but now it has also led to an uneasy awareness of a seemingly bottomless sea of ‚Äč‚Äčoutrage. Fury so real and so heartfelt but apparently also lacking in conversations that take place in the real world.

From politics to sports, to the COVID response to the economy, there are entire corners of the internet coming to life in ways I have yet to see in the real world, even over a raucous, wine-soaked dinner.

And I am not talking about bots. I mean real-life humans hitting their keyboards, sharing articles, and expressing their thoughts and feelings, some truly mundane and some dejected, and some still full of rage.

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Does Twitter’s echo chamber over represent the collective sentiments of the world at large? Or do the polite conversations that take place in the dog park betray the true reality of what moves us all?

For example, if one were to rely entirely on Twitter, the Yonge Street bike lanes that have stopped traffic in the city center and stalled and frustrated the neighbors, which, by the way, I know from life’s conversations. Really, they are the bare minimum in a city plagued with inadequate road safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Any criticism, whatever it may be, can only be motivated by bad faith, ignorance, or simply the result of lazy and overly consumerist American sensibilities.

According to Twitter, there are only two sides to the camp issue: Toronto residents with heart and conscience who wholeheartedly support our neighbors in the parks, and soulless ones who want to be forcibly removed by the police. There is certainly no tolerance for those of us who would like to see some compassionate solutions to our homeless crisis and at the same time find it unacceptable that our parks no longer feel safe for our children.

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According to Twitter, our Prime Minister cannot be wrong and any criticism is fundamentally betraying fundamental liberal values, or he is nothing more than a poorly equipped theater teacher with a spending problem.

The mafia lives in black and white. Shades of gray not so much.

After more than 18 months of a global pandemic and month after month after month of varying degrees of crashes, many of us turn to our devices to break boredom and feel connected. The Zoom cocktail hours with friends who helped us get through the first few days eventually turned tedious and we settled into a reluctant acceptance of nothing to do and nowhere to go.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we all saw our screen time increase exponentially. And to what end? The negative consequences of the Instagram effect are well documented: we all know that Instagram is the featured reel and comparison is the thief of joy.

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However, when it comes to Twitter, I wonder if even passive consumption of Twitter as a means of aggregating news has had the secondary impact of normalizing outrage.

The speech in the town square was once polite, even when it was heated. What should be surprising about how far we’ve come is that no one is fazed now when prominent physicians insult each other for differing opinions on patient care.

It will be interesting to see what happens when interactions happen face to face again, and if we remember how to be nice to each other. Or maybe this parallel universe is here to stay.

On twitter: @brynnlackie

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Reference-torontosun.com

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