Opinion Brief

Is Twitter really making us stupid?

That's what New York Times boss Bill Keller says in his latest column — and the backlash from techies has been brutal

In his latest column for The New York Times Magazine, executive editor Bill Keller suggests that social media outlets — particularly Twitter — are "aggressive distractions" that are "nibbling away at our attention spans." Keller also compares Facebook to crystal meth, and argues that Facebook friendships "and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation." In a "masochistic experiment" designed to explore his hypothesis, Keller recently tweeted “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss.” The response, both to Keller's column and his tweet, has been withering. But does Keller have a point — is Twitter actually making us dumber?

Twitter's not perfect: Keller has "at least half a point," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. For a long time, I hated the service "for precisely the reason Keller identifies." Twitter makes it easy to call attention to news or crack jokes, "but you simply cannot have a decent argument, or even discussion there."
"Bill Keller is sort of right about Twitter"

If anything, Twitter advances the way we think: "Twitter, and any technology, is what you make of it," says Mat Honan at Gizmodo. Sure, new technologies "change the way we think and interact," but that hardly means that we've "lost something as a society." In this era of "information assault," the ability to process and filter the loads of data coming at us is more important than simple memorization. "That's not a cognitive loss, it's an evolutionary advancement."
"New York Times editor is a horrible troll who doesn't understand the modern world"

Keller is just desperate for attention: The New York Times editor "is a Luddite," says Dylan Byers at AdWeek. "The world is changing, and the Times hasn’t caught up." This is just another "inane" piece from a guy who doesn't really have anything to say, and is just "trying to achieve with his column what the Times, despite its status as the paper of record, has such a hard time achieving: 'buzz.'"
"The Bill Keller trap"

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