Independent Thinking Blog

Context and the Twitter Echo Chamber

Have you ever deleted a tweet because you were afraid it might be taken out of context? I did, and I’m not sure I made the right decision. But I have seen enough mob mentality on Twitter recently that I didn’t want to make lots of people mad at me on January 2. Not without the context.

So here’s what happened. I was reading through blog posts and monitoring my Twitter feed on Friday afternoon when Gennefer Snowfield at Acclimedia tweeted something that caught my attention:

I think the words ‘authority’ and ‘influence’ are completely overused and no longer have any meaning or weight. That is all.


We tweaked back and forth a couple of times, and then I said:

I wish people would stop equating influence with numbers and look instead at actions and results.


Then we tweeted back and forth a couple more times, and I sent out the tweet that is no more. It said (appoximately):

Too many wannabe prom kings and queens. Works in the echo chamber. Outside, they’re hollow men. No substance.


Pretty shortly thereafter, I thought the tweet probably should have been sent as a DM and I deleted it. This prompted some additional (and private) back and forth about echo chambers and context. And since then I’ve been thinking about the whole topic a little bit.

No one who knows me personally will ever accuse me of being shy or holding back an opinion. But usually those opinions are in the context of a conversation–and context, along with tone and body language, help soften the offhand remark. Plus, I’ve already written about value vs. numbers on Twitter, and my position is pretty clear.

But Twitter, like e-mail, has a tendency to magnify things. The echo chamber makes it easy to pull things out of context. Look what Chris Brogan went through, and he’s well known and respected in this space. I’ve also seen the crowd turn on lots of less-known people for real or perceived differences of opinion.

And so I censored myself. It’s not that I thought my tweet was so relevant, or that lots of people are hanging on what I say. But it was on a hot topic, and you never know what gets picked up. I just didn’t want to deal with the possibility. Hopefully next time I won’t self-censor.

What do you think? Does Twitter magnify everything? Are you self-censoring your tweets?

Photo by wonderferret (Flickr).

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