Twitter Is Not a Town Square

I skimmed through New York magazine’s list of “Twitter’s best moments” — which is what it says in the <title> tag if not the headline — and made the usual scrunched face I have when I read lists of the “best” or “worst” of something. It is a genre lab-created to incite eye rolling.

But there is one thing in this list which I think is worth your time, and it is this perfect paragraph by Melvin Backman:

Twitter is not a public square where everyone knows everything and can robustly discuss our collective happenings. Twitter is a glommed-together blob of private squares, a place where everyone is talking, always, over and around and at and through one another. Sometimes people talk to each other, but everything is only overheard. If you insist on an all-encompassing knowledge of every word uttered in your immediate vicinity, you need to put in the work.

Twitter has never been a town square, and trying to fit our understanding of it — and any other platform — into that mould is a wasted effort. I spend a lot of time thinking about Chris Hayes’ reflection on the everyday celebrity generator that is social media, and how so much of the discussions about either platform moderation or callout culture reflect worldwide growing pains with everyone being a broadcaster. There are huge benefits, but also new things to navigate. These are not town squares; they are places to have conversations with megaphones.