Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Twitter making us emotionally numb?

Are we disconnected?

Yesterday on CNN's Technology page an article was posted about Twitter possibly being connected with emotional numbness and a lack of compassion. The full article can be found here.

The theory they pose is that while we can register physical pain quickly, it takes our brains a certain amount of time to connect with emotional pain and sympathy. With Twitter being such a fast paced news source, the hypothesis is that we can't empathize quickly enough and as such don't feel anything. The speed of Twitter is making us emotionally and morally numb.

I, respectfully, disagree. There have been numerous events recently that could support my disagreement but I'll use one close myself personally: the Binghamton shooting. I read about it first on Twitter, as it was one the highest tweeted topic on Twitter Search--updates on the Binghamton shooting were coming in every second. A friend of mine goes to school there. I didn't just read a tweet on it and move on and based on the sheer volume of tweets coming in, no one did. The information wasn't flashed by and ignored: every tweet that came in with more information, repeated information, clarified information was processed and added to what I knew, compiling further what I knew on the status of events.

I do not doubt scientists are right that it takes longer for us to be empathetic and compassionate, to connection emotionally with a story. What they're missing in their report is that tweets don't just get ignored once their read; we don't just move on and say "what's the next tweet say?" The recent Amazon fiasco testifies that people don't just move on when they read something on Twitter--that information was passed far faster through Twitter's network than any corporate media outlet.

The number of retweets (RT posts) and hashtags (#amazonfail) on every subject and the communication people have with one another through this network proves that people are not just quickly reading tweets and moving on: we process them and decide whether or not we wish to learn more. And when something serious does happen, we do push to learn more and spread the word.

In regards to moral numbness, I cannot imagine how anyone could argue that by talking to more people internationally and being more interconnected we could care less about each other. By talking to one another, by communicating with people in other parts of the world more often, we only learn that we are in fact all the same--very much the same meanings in the films Crash and Babel. Except this isn't a film. This is real life. If I see someone in Japan twittering about a new film they saw, or someone in Poland twitter about watching the same tv show I do, it connects on a personal level. I could never imagine supporting a war with another country because I now know, on a real, personal level, that people there are the same as I am.

We're connected.

People hurt one another when they stop identifying with each other, when they dehumanize one another. Twitter and Facebook connect more people internationally than anything else. They show us that we're all human and that we all need help sometimes. The news media goes through filters and censors before we see it, the government even moreso. Twitter is uncensored, unfiltered, raw human interaction. In that sense, I fail to see how one could argue it does anything except strengthen our morality and humanity towards one another.

1 comment:

--jeff * said...

from the opening lines, i knew you were going to write a refutal of the article.

and i think you explained your reasoning very well.
good work.