Twitter is the political pornography of our time: revealing but distorting, exciting but dulling. It’s bad for the soul and, as Donald Trump proves daily, bad for the country.
This is the column in which I formally forswear Twitter for good. I’ll keep my Twitter handle, and hopefully my followers, but an editorial assistant will manage the account from now on. I’ll intercede only to say nice things about the writing I admire, the people I like and the music I love.
Why now? Because, while reading a cover story in New York magazine, it occurred to me that Twitter is the political pornography of our time: revealing but distorting, exciting but dulling, debasing to its users, and, well, ejaculatory. It’s bad for the soul and, as Donald Trump proves daily, bad for the country.
The story, by Maureen O’Connor, makes use of a decade’s worth of big-data analytics from the website Pornhub, which attracts 75 million visitors a day. The result is what she calls “the Kinsey Report of Our Time” — an unvarnished and unfiltered portrait of the unchecked libido.
Since this is a family newspaper, readers will have to learn the more salacious details of O’Connor’s article by consulting it for themselves. But one important point stands out. “Pornography trains us to redirect sexual desire as mimetic desire,” she writes. “That is, the sociological theory — and the marketers’ dream — that humans learn to want what they see.”
Steve Jobs expressed a similar thought in 1998: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Technology doesn’t merely service needs. It also teaches wants. You never thought you’d need an iPhone, but you do. You didn’t know you were into kinky massage videos, but you are. We discover our innermost — and bottommost selves — only when someone else opens the basement door.
That is what Twitter has been for our politics. Short-form writing can be…