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In its coverage of the Vice-Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, ABC News devoted some time to skimming—“analyzing” would be too strong a term—the concurrent Twitter feed to see what handles and hashtags had been “trending.” Plucked from the stream was one devastatingly self-aware tweet: “Before, we would all just yell at the TV,” it read, “Now, we have Twitter.”
As a recent, reluctant member of the Twitterati myself, the remark caught my attention for the way it captured the ambivalence some of us feel towards the power of social media. On the one hand, there’s something undeniably thrilling about being able to blast passing thoughts and put-downs out to a cyber-public sphere, and to surf the tidal currents of metacommentary. On the other, for those of us who still believe that a text takes time—that reading, writing and thinking are, necessarily, bound together at the root—the breathtaking pressure of accelerated communication seems to suck the oxygen required for proper brain functioning out of the room. What’s your reaction to the idea that anything worth saying can be said in 140 characters (or fewer)?