In his column today, Joe Nocera joins the illustrious tradition of Old Times Writers Fretting About Twitter.
There are tons of good reasons for anyone to be on Twitter, but, particularly for those in the journalism business, Twitter has become an integral tool. If you write for a newspaper and you’re not on Twitter, you really need to have a good reason. In “My Case Against Twitter,” Nocera says his primary reason for avoiding Twitter is that people on Twitter are mean:
What I object to most of all is that, like other forms of social media, Twitter can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life. For several years, Douglas Kass, the investor and CNBC commentator, regularly tweeted his investment thoughts; with 63,000 followers, he was one of the most popular investment gurus on Twitter. Recently, however, he decided to stop because he had received so many inexplicably nasty messages. People who opposed his investment views denounced him in the foulest language imaginable. “I received several life-threating tweets,” he told me. “I concluded it wasn’t worth navigating the sharks to find the good fish,” he added.
It’s undoubtedly true that people can be jerks over Twitter. But who cares? Maybe Nocera is just a particularly sensitive guy, but part of being a public figure means having thick skin and ignoring anonymous trolls. To eschew a revolutionary form of communication because some people might say nasty or possibly threatening things to you seems like an overreaction, but hey, you do you, Joe Nocera.
More to the point, though, people are assholes everywhere on the Internet. They’re assholes over e-mail. They’re assholes in comment threads. They’re assholes in blog posts. We recently received the following (oddly capitalized) message from a stranger on Facebook:
You must be the biggest Peice of shit to walk the earth! The few people who know or care who you are, don’t like you or anything you write! You are a biased writer which never makes a good one! Hope you don’t have a family so they don’t have to feel like a Peice of shit knowing you!
If somebody really wants to insult Nocera, or even send him a death threat, they could easily do so without Twitter — he publicizes his e-mail address on his blog.