For the most part, email and social media have been fantastic developments for keeping family, friends, citizens, colleagues, businesses and customers in touch, informed and connected – instantly.
While apps such as Facebook and Twitter have hurt my business – newspapering – they have democratized the news, opening up information gathering and dissemination to nearly everyone with a smartphone. In the long run this is a positive, liberating information and reducing the number of filters between newsmakers and ordinary people.
But modern communications have also coarsened our public discourse, made it angrier, more rigid and less civil. You should read my emails and Twitter responses when I question climate-change theory or wonder aloud about the wisdom of feeding the victimology of First Peoples or even when I suggested a massive public investment in bike lanes is unwise in a country that gets winter five months of the year.
The detached and anonymous nature, especially of Twitter, has made people much more willing to express their angriest reactions to every issue, immediately. No pause to reflect, no time it takes to compose a letter. Just tap in 140 characters of vitriol and bile about how stupid, cruel, racist and (did I mention?) stupid the other side is and – presto! – your unguided thought missile is whirring its way to your intended target.
Twitter is frequently the intellectual equivalent of road rage.