Muting

One of the most poisonous elements of modern technology is the ability to mute both content and people. 

On the surface, it sounds perfectly acceptable. You grow tired of a certain topic or the exhaustive sharing habits of certain friends, and, without going all the way to remove them from your day-to-day experience, you simply quiet the portions of noise that bother you the most.

In a world of highly-curated opinions, deeply polarizing and heavily-politicized views, and rampant tribalism in the consumer sphere, however, the ability to simply remove certain opinions that are not adherent with your own is irrefutably dangerous. 

You ought to know — and embrace — opinions divergent from your own. Moreover, if you respect someone, you ought to listen to all that they have to say, rather than selectively censoring them.

On a more trivial level, muting discussions during a conference or live event is marginally palatable. But, in my eyes, it's still troublesome. Is it really so difficult to contend with a flowing river of collective discussion over a mass-consumption event? Surely not. 

Knowledge is frequently defined as a justified true belief. The justification portion is one of the most important, as it requires you to have circumstantial awareness of opinions both supportive and conflicting.

Without apt justification, we can easily fool ourselves into a false sense of knowledgeability on a vast spectrum of topics. In the technology world, for instance, we can pay attention selectively to analysts, writers, or publications — all of which skew toward one brand or another — in order to seemingly justify our particular allegiances and habits.

The danger is, obviously, minimal. Nevertheless, it does pose significant damage to intelligent and measured discourse.  Without circumstantial awareness, it's far too easy to succumb to extremist opinions and flagrant unintelligence regarding certain — frequently important — topics.

For all of this I mean to simply argue that when you're next confronted with an opinion you disagree with on Twitter, a website, or another such outlet, do not simply tune it out. Equally, do not reflexively attempt to counter. Instead, simply absorb and consider. Keep it in mind. 

Obviously if someone's expressing outrageously offensive opinions, this does not apply. But, in the realms of business, politics, and artistry, I cannot stress enough how important and conducive such tolerant and rational behavior can be. 

Removing people and opinions from our daily experience for the sole purpose of alleviating our own anxieties and insecurities of our own opinions — or, worse, for the sake of expressing superiority over someone else — is destructive. And, in a world of highly-curated content, it can result in us missing important information and circumstantial awareness, thereby fostering disjointed beliefs and ever-worsening extremes in opinion.

Muting ought to be used extremely sparingly, rather than as a means to support your comfort.  If you don't like what's being said, I daresay there's plenty more constructive means for you to contend with such rhetoric. And if you don't appreciate an event that's happening, just avoid Twitter (or similar) for an hour.

We have more power than ever in terms of shaping the way we comprehend our world — business, media, politics, or otherwise — and, although it might take more work, I'd say opening yourself up to opinions outside of your own is of the utmost importance.

"Twitter is Now"

Matt Buchanan, The New Yorker:

For all of the ways in which Twitter has evolved since its creation, in 2006, when it was known as “twttr,” what has not changed is how profoundly Twitter relies on nowness. Nowness is not simply newness, or the new: the question Twitter used to ask of users when they went to compose a tweet, “What’s happening?” is a direct inquiry about the state of now. Twitter’s intense focus on immediacy has manifested in many small ways—for instance, users can only see their three thousand most recent tweets (and the service only recently added the ability for users to download their entire Twitter archive and conduct searches of tweets from the past). But, most important, when a user logs into Twitter, what they see is a raw, unfiltered stream, with the newest content at the very top. Facebook, by contrast, shows users a curated feed; the top of the feed is not what’s new, it is what the algorithms think is best.

In the aftermath of the Reddit and Twitter-driven vigilantism over the Boston Marathon, there've been plenty of calls for revisions to the manner in which Twitter functions as a firehose for information.

Loudest amongst these was Mat Honan's call for editable — and therefore accountable — tweets. In principle, the notion of higher accountability makes plenty of sense as you'd be able to address your mistakes as items of information began to spread.

In reality, however, it would add an element of retroactivity to Twitter that's utterly ill-fitting of the so-called "nowness" of the platform. Twitter thrives upon now and not upon what you once tweeted. Accordingly, it's what you say now — whether it's the acknowledgement of a mistake or the act of reporting a news item — that matters.

Perhaps there's no easy route to retroactively address inaccuracies in tweets, but that certainly does not discount accountability. If you get something wrong, address it and own it as you would in real life.

Sure, it'd be nice if we could edit virtually anything in our lives for accuracy, but that's just not the way life, or accountability, works. The only tool to combat and avoid such problems is self-restraint and basic intelligence.

If you're worried about spreading misinformation via retweet, then don't retweet. If you're worried about getting a fact wrong, wait a moment to check before you tweet in the first place.

Twitter isn't broken and it's not in need of such a feature. People just need to adjust to this consumptive vacuum of information and learn some level of accountable maturity before engaging.

Israel Defence Force Announces Major Assault on Gaza via Twitter

Fruzsina Eördögh, reporting for Slate:

Wars are started via Twitter now. I am not talking about flame wars, but actual wars with actual bombs with in-real-life targets.

At 9:29 Eastern this morning, the Israeli Defense Force announced via Twitter that it would be attacking targets in Hamas today, as part of an ongoing mission “to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in the #Gaza Strip.”

The IDF tweet wasn't just an idle threat either. Within minutes, the IDF spokesperson tweeted that forces had actually already carried out an attack on a target, the “head of the #Hamas military wing,” Ahmed al-Jabari. IDF is live-blogging the attacks, too.

The IDF Twitter account is now live-blogging the apprehension and deaths of a number of high-ranking dissidents.

This entire situation feels like something out of science fiction. I can hardly believe this is being broadcast in such a cavalier way and in such a transparent and propagandistic manner.

Although I suspect this will prove to be an extremely effective communications tool, it's the first time I've seen state-sponsored propaganda ever be delivered via such an open medium.

And, in many respects, it's very worrying, indeed.