Does Twitter make people more extreme?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

An interesting essay by Moya Lothian-McLean:

In fact, Twitter offers the perfect conditions for developing and calcifying polarised positions. It silos people off into echo chambers in which their interaction with like-minded individuals can vastly change their perception of reality. (For instance, at the 2019 election I truly thought Labour had a chance.) Twitter users are also in constant combat mode, hackles raised in anticipation of the most dreaded event: public disagreement. Dissent on Twitter is rarely ever expressed politely: it is gladiatorial. Twitter communities often show up to back their chosen fighter, furthering the sense of “us” v “them”.

Extensive research shows that disagreement – even the well-evidenced, politely delivered kind – does very little to change someone’s opinion. Often, it simply pushes that person to drive their flag further into the ground. Rather than change minds, exposure to opposing views can actually further shunt people to the other end of the spectrum. One 2018 experiment paid Republicans and Democrats to follow Twitter bots collating messages from the opposing side; they discovered both groups became more polarised, not less. When I am on Twitter, I find myself hating everything and everyone – especially myself – wasting their lives arguing about nothing. I lose my ability to empathise, to see humanity beyond the avatars. Never am I more disconnected than when I am plugged in.

Even those ostensibly on the same side find themselves locked into death spirals of disagreement. As the academic Julia Bell writes in her clarifying 2020 essay, Radical Attention: “Consensus politics, or even any kind of politics, becomes impossible, because we are too outraged to actually think. So busy interacting, raging and denouncing that we are tricked into thinking we are actually changing something, rather than just responding to these manufactured demands on our attention.”

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