Paul Krugman Isn’t on Twitter Because He Can’t Control His Inner Demons

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Holding back the demons. Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/2009 AFP

For the Olds of the New York Times, writing about the dangers and flaws of Twitter is becoming something of an obsession. First there was executive editor Bill Keller, who bemoaned that Twitter is "nibbling away at our attention spans" and "displacing real rapport and real conversation." Next up was columnist Joe Nocera, who avoids Twitter because people might say mean things to him. Today it's Paul Krugman's turn. 

In a blog post this morning — Krugman is decently tech savvy! — he explains the manifold reasons he eschews Twitter, save for an account that merely tweets out links to his stories. 

One reason is that I have better things to do with my time. 

Probably true. 

Another is that I don’t think my instant reactions to things are especially interesting.

This is bullshit coming from a celebrated economist and Times columnist and frequent TV guest. Paul Krugman's instant reactions to things would definitely be interesting, and he probably knows it.

Most of all, though, Krugman just doesn't trust himself not to say anything bigoted on Twitter:

But I have to admit that I’ve also been aware for some time how many people end up destroying themselves by tweeting something really offensive.

Why do people do this? Well, it turns out that many prominent people have inner demons of one kind or another — often homophobia, but also racism, sexism, or just some kind of generalized contempt for large numbers of other people. And social media make it all too easy for those demons to slip out in front of a large audience.

I don’t think I have any demons like that, but who knows? And if I do make uncomfortable discoveries about myself, I’d like to do it in private, thank you.

This is kind of an odd concern. True, it is undoubtedly easier to make a fool of yourself on Twitter than on other, slowed-down platforms. But avoiding Twitter because you're afraid of saying something bigoted even though you don't think you possess bigoted feelings seems overly risk-averse. It's like not owning a gun because you just wouldn't be able to trust yourself not to rob a bank. 

Krugman's concern is particularly amusing because he simultaneously seems to believe that Twitter is mostly just a place where people reveal mundane details about their daily lives. 

I don’t tweet .... I do blog a lot. But 140-character reflections on what I just ate, or something, not.

Whenever someone over 50 says something to this effect — and this does seem to be the consensus about Twitter among the vast majority of people over 50 that we encounter — we're reminded of Jerry Seinfeld's exasperation as he explains to his dad that the Wizard is not just a tip calculator. It does other things!