Notes (sigh) on a Tweet


  • Notes (sigh) on a Tweet - by Adrian Daub

    Un post d’Adrian Daub qui critique la pratique de « journalistes » qui consiste à reprendre un tweet idiot publié par quelqu’un qui n’a aucun écho et en faire une « tendance » sur les médias sociaux. Une nouvelle forme de manipulation : on pourra toujours trouver un imbécile qui raconte n’importe quoi sur n’importe quel sujet. S’en servir comme exemple dans un article de presse est beaucoup plus dangereux : c’est la porte ouverte aux généralisations abusives, autrement dit à l’idéologie.

    In some way, reporting or reflecting on online discourse always risks having the same Achilles heel as everything digital: the danger of narcissism. There’s the risk, in other words, that what you meet in the infinite expanse of the Internet is simply yourself, again — your obsessions, biases, petty grievances. If 10,000 accounts repost an open letter, is it newsworthy? The deeply frustrating answer is: It may be, but it may not be. Still, it does seem important that we be able to demarcate a zone of irrelevance. A zone where someone saying something cannot count, one way or the other, as evidence for anything. And reporting on that zone, even though you know how recherché the niche you’re drawing from is, I fear, everything that reporters like to accuse online debates of: it’s tendentious, myopic and dangerously close to disinformation.

    Update 05/14: This post got some traction on Bluesky among people who seemed to think that this wasn’t really a big deal. (I’d by the way agree that this isn’t a huge deal — it is a pretty perfect example of a problem we all struggle with when talking, and especially writing professionally, about the internet and social media. That’s why I wrote about it.) Still, I feel like I need to clarify something: my point isn’t that picking out a single tweet out of a large group of tweets is somehow illegitimate. You might still want to think about what it means to pick on a private individual in this way, especially if you have a huge platform — but that’s between you and your maker. My point is that the fact that the best example of a discourse you can find on Twitter has zero retweets and zero likes might indicate the discourse isn’t as widespread as you’re assuming or making it seem. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it, of course. But then you’re kind of talking about an online curio (“get a load of these guys who think xyz!”). When I was researching early uses of “cancel culture” on Twitter, all my evidence looked like that — someone confidently using the word and like two people reacting at all. And I pointed that out in the book.

    Anyway, after people got mad at me I decided to grab all the tweets that seem to make the Mandela-comparison as of Monday afternoon PST. Because I am ninety thousand years old, I did it the old-fashioned way and just screenshotted everything. I found about 60 tweets. You can find them all gathered in a Google folder here. I’d invite you to click through them — many of them are pretty crass, but nothing that I think would get anyone in trouble in their jurisdictions or turn their stomachs. And I’d invite you to ask yourselves: does this have the gestalt of a significant trend? The likes and retweets are reliably zero or close to zero — the most popular of the tweets had like 20 retweets. Again, you might read this data differently than I did. But I think it’s good to document what we’re talking about here. And the question I’d leave you with: what are other discourses we could probably find this kind of documentation for (60 tweets, low-follower accounts, bizarrely low engagement) — and would we judge those discourses to be significant? Worthy of our attention?

    #Adrian_Daub #Journalisme #Médias_sociaux