Accusation without barriers?
At times, Twitter serves as the exact opposite of “information without barriers.” Beyond keeping us informed, Twitter allows users to set up barriers of the worst kind. A sort of anti-confessional prison cell.
In its helpful form, Twitter is an exercise in chirping out the fresh and the obvious. Good news! The sun is up! When the news is extraordinary, we chirp a little louder. Look out! The hawk is hunting!
Then, with alarming speed and purpose, the chirping shifts from shushing to shouting to outright shaming. Suddenly, your Twitter feed is a dark force inviting you to watch a character assassination take place in real time.
Anti-confession: Accusations from the executioner
Anti-confession weaponizes the traditional features of confession. Where confession requires self-examination, anti-confession places self-appointed executioners at the centre of the drama.
Confession admits guilt; the high priests of anti-confession make accusations of guilt. Confession is voluntary and offers hope of forgiveness; anti-confession demands retribution and ensures no possibility of forgiveness.
Confession affirms common values; anti-confession creates fresh categories of offence. Confession respects individual autonomy; anti-confession invokes the tyranny of crowds.
Unfollowing the crowd
Without a crowd of followers, the spectacle is pointless. On Twitter even those who lead must also follow.
The ancient sport of public shaming has played itself out in many forms over the centuries. I like to think I’m not the kind of person who shows up to cheer at a public execution. But social media makes me a witness to—and an unwitting participant in—the drama.
I cannot claim to be an innocent bystander. I am alarmed at how easily I am drawn into the spectacle. Although I’m not ready to abandon this public square entirely, I am striving to enter the social space with caution and to follow with care.