The tempest in a teapot effect of Twitter

At any given moment, Twitter broadcasts what millions of people are most inclined to comment on. It does not broadcast what is most important to us. It does not broadcast what is most “worth” commentary. It does not filter or curate. If I walk into a room full of people and sound an air horn, it will suddenly become the most popular topic of conversation, at least for a few seconds. That doesn’t mean anyone cares passionately about air horns. Nor does it mean people will still be talking about the air horn a week later.

Some will passionately decry the topic’s popularity. They will throw up their hands and ask “Why are we all so concerned with this air horn? Can’t we go back to talking about something that matters?” Others will respond “Ah HA! But by commenting on the commentary, you too concern yourself with air horns!”

A few will say something really funny about air horns.┬áThere will even be a contingent that turns the air horn into an interesting metaphor for an issue that matters far more than the basic fact of a loud noise. Others will retort “How dare you make light of this issue? Do you have any idea how many people are killed by air horns every single minute?”

Eventually, the echoes will fade, and life will go on. History will embrace the air horn as a noteworthy matter, or it won’t. That the room was temporarily obsessed with it is less a statement about us, and more a simple affirmation that the noise was very loud.


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