Would Twitter be better if it was boring?

Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter and make it a less confrontational place.

I can see arguments for that, but I don’t think they are commercial arguments. This may be why Musk says he isn’t buying twitter for commercial reasons.

There’s a very interesting post on Linked in by someone who does violence for a living. It argues that twitter is in a constant state of argument , which is what makes it commercial and interesting and that Musk would be better off with a “plan B” , than trying to turn the argument into another wiki.

Here’s the post

Twitter profits due to its so-called “censorship,” but it’s not really censorship. It’s really more like “attention rules.” Those rules decide who gets the attention which translates to likes and followers, and who gets attention that translates to getting fired and doxxed. What Twitter has fallen upon, probably without realizing it, is a new method for determining the sacred and profane, clean and unclean. The results are the same as always, but the method is new.

Generally, you get likes and followers on social media by highlighting something on the margins of society which defies current categories, like a new vehicle that’s between a truck and an SUV, or a food that’s between a sandwich and a hamburger, or a person who’s between this and that. By highlighting the un-categorized, you’re inadvertently demanding one of the following:

a) the thing be placed in a category,
b) an existing category be redefined to include the thing, or
c) a new category be created for the thing

The paradox about social media is that the longer the thing remains un-categorized, the more attention is placed on it by all parties, and the algorithms therefore reward this un-categorized status with more views, likes, followers, etc. And advertisers like this for obvious reasons. People who are opposed to the thing having any attention at all inadvertently draw attention to it, but if the algorithm finds that they’re attempting to categorize the thing, they are punished. In short, you are rewarded for holding the thing in an un-categorized state. Rene Girard called this an “undifferentiated” state.

Human relations, to remain peaceful, depend on resolving this dialectical issue in one of the 3 ways above. We have to categorize the thing with language, reinterpretations, the creation of new words, etc., or else the thing remains in a constant state of attention like a radioactive idol that’s unpronounceable. If we can’t put it into language, then we can’t defer violence, and so Twitter is a hotbed of violence as a result of holding our attention on un-categorized things for so long.

So Musk has a new social media plan. It will lead to more dialog and less violence, but it will not hold our attention like a radioactive idol does, and advertisers will hate it, and it likely won’t draw people in who offer dialectical challenges. I’m ethically in favor of this, but I don’t anticipate much productive conversation happening there.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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