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Does Twitter worsen our soundbite culture?

We've always been a headline-driven culture, but is Twitter exacerbating this?


Last week the Web was a'Twitter with news that a court had overturned Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage.

There was just one problem with the 'news': it's not true.

As The Los Angeles Times reports, someone pulled an archived story from, neglected to check the time stamp, and started a raging wall of tweets and retweets.

Some people have a problem with Twitter's 140-character message limit. I think there's a bigger problem: most people don't seem to actually read all 140 characters, much less click on referenced links, preferring instead to graze on headlines.

Twitter, of course, isn't to blame. There's nothing that prevents people from following links, and there's nothing about Twitter that forces people to be headline-driven.

That's just kind of how we are, or at least, how the media thinks we are, given, for example, the news shows that increasingly depend on fast-moving soundbites with little analysis. (Something that is being blamed for Scottish children's poor attention spans in class.)

What Twitter does is facilitate our participation in the soundbite nation. We've become producers of soundbites (or, at least, regurgitators), and not merely consumers of them.

Is this progress?

I don't know. For my part, given that I, too, get sucked into the retweet/soundbite vortex at times, I'm committed to clicking on links before I retweet. I promise to read at least the first sentence of the linked-to article. I've got to start somewhere. :-)

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay. But focus on those first few characters--the last 50 are always throwaways.