A brief Twitter exchange reminded me why that site is so bad at fostering productive debate. It always takes effort for different sides not to talk past each other, but Twitter is uniquely poised to make all parties involved think that they know what the debate is about while at the same time making sure they are talking about different things.
In this particular case, the article that started it for me is the one from my previous post. The title of the article — “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid?” — biased me towards thinking that the matter under discussion would be, well, why have the past 10 years of American life been uniquely stupid?
But have they really been that unique? Or have the past 200-some years of American life been one long free-fall towards… higher living standard? Cleaner air and water? More educated populace? Obviously, I do think the past 10 years have been a deviation. While I don’t completely agree with putting all of the blame on poorly thought out social networks — some of it surely falls on abysmal primary and secondary education American children have been getting for at least the last 30 years — Twitter does make fights over stagnating pieces of prosperity pie more vicious than they need be.
As soon as I realized the conversation was turning towards original sins, corruption built into America’s core, and the very impossibility of the country existing for this long… I checked out. Without attention, most debates will degenerate into a topic like this, at once polarizing and vague, which Twitter is so good at promoting without ever resolving. It is a skill worth developing to identify those debates quickly, and to avoid them like the plague.