11122019Tue
Last updateFri, 08 Nov 2019 4pm

VIEWPOINT: Twitter, the good, the bad and the ugly

To aging tech naysayers Twitter might seem nothing more than a stream-of-nonsense outlet to bolster the egos of self-centered celebrities and non-entities alike.

pg2Actually it is the most useful tool you will find today to access up-to-the-moment information on what is happening in the world. In addition to being an important marketing and information tool for businesses, organizations, charities and individuals, Twitter has also brought many important causes to the fore through “hashtag activism.” As a force for social good, Twitter has become a major player.

Nearly half of all Twitter followers use the platform to get news, either from established sources and outlets, but also from individuals – either expert or otherwise – seeking to raise their profiles, demonstrate their abilities to future employers and extend their global reach. The platform has taken networking to another level.   

The big downside of Twitter is its use as a tool for abuse. Last year Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey issued a veiled apology for the way Twitter has become synonymous with “abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers.” Divisive tweeting has become an art form among groups and individuals seeking to pit neighbor against neighbor in today’s fractious society. The incendiary tweets of U.S. President Donald Trump may be lambasted as cruel, racist or false, but play a key role in maintaining the loyalty of his base.

While derogatory or abusive tweeting is unlikely to topple the incumbent U.S. president, the same is not always true for others. There have been many cases of people losing their jobs due to incendiary or rash tweets. The impulse to opine can either “make or break” a person’s profile.  People who tweet in excess tend to become defined by their tweets, not their real personalities or abilities.

Which is why one tweet this week by the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, seemed so out of place.

Landau had announced his arrival by saying he would be taking in the country slowly and carefully before making any grand statements or voicing opinions. He began by visiting touristic sites in Mexico City and commenting on their color and beauty. But, like his boss, he was unable to control the impulse to opine online after a visit to the “Blue House” of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the Coyacan neighborhood of the capital.

“Trump’s new Mexico envoy stirs hornet’s nest with Frida Kahlo jab,” ran a Reuters headline.

Tweeting in Spanish, Landau wrote: “I admire her free and bohemian spirit, and she rightly became an icon of Mexico around the whole world. What I do not understand is her obvious passion for Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism. Didn’t she know about the horrors committed in the name of that ideology?”

While some responders agreed with Landau’s analysis, many others slammed his simplistic commentary on a national symbol, making references to the United States’ murky history in Latin America, propping up despotic regimes that caused much death and destruction.

Landau, however, achieved his objective of increasing the number of his followers (the major goal of most tweeters).  In a previous tweet he had urged people to follow him, noting rather bizarrely that the ambassador to Greece had more followers than him, despite that country having only a fraction of the population of Mexico.

While Landau on the surface appears to be a likable addition to the Mexican diplomatic scene, a latent tweeting disorder may begin to color his stay here.

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