Don’t be so thin-skinned

Most of this advice from Nate Silver this afternoon of things for journalists to do, rather than quitting Twitter completely, is decent enough:

—Stick to topics you know well, or random ephemera. Avoid the middle ground.
—Turn off notifications from people you don’t follow.
—Don’t give too much of a fuck about the idiots. And you usually shouldn’t read the replies.
—If you feel like being combative, punch up & not down.

The advice in bold is pathetic, it reminds me of media companies removing comment sections from their websites. The latter was supposed to improve the experience for readers who didn’t want to see low quality commentary, trolling, and outright garbage feedback. It also threw out the baby with the bathwater, removing quality commentary, citizen fact checking, citizen editing (which is so badly needed when nearly every article and op-ed today is riddled with spelling errors, duplicate words, grammar errors, improper capitalization, double words, etc), valid and insightful counterarguments, and other forms of criticism.

Now you see intelligent but apparently thin-skinned people taking those mistakes to another level, preselecting who they will receive commentary, criticism, and questions from based on who they personally like, which is practically guaranteed to create an echo chamber effect.

I read through replies to Tweets from journalists and commentators every day, and it grosses me out every day. But that’s the price you pay for being a public figure. And I think far too often, journalists forget they are public figures, too. You know what you’re signing yourself up for by speaking loudly to the people: you’re going to get a lot of garbage. But if your response to that is to close your eyes and cover your ears, you might as well cover your mouth as well because that’s about all you’re good for.

I’m beginning to lose count of the number of journalists I’ve tried to contact via Twitter — replying to Tweets that themselves have fewer than a dozen replies, so we’re not talking being lost in the crowd here — and gotten nothing but dead air from them, because they were hiding behind walls of technology that make them feel safe and tucked in at night from all the Twitter troll monsters.

The trolls seem more worthy of respect with this issue. At least they listen to what you have to say first, before telling you to fuck off and then blocking you. Journalists these days block you before you can even speak, they are so fragile.

About Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.