From the Trenches

Twitter Town Hall—Does Only Stupid Exist on the Internet?

Right Source | July 7, 2011

If you’ve ever closely followed a top Twitter trend, or read a thriving Reddit thread, you’ll appreciate this comic strip, which claims that “Only stupid exists on the internet.”

Yesterday, during the Presidential Twitter Town Hall, I saw a good dose of tweets that made me agree with that comic strip—but I was also invigorated by the amount of intelligence I saw (and heard) on the internet.

First, some background about the whole “Twitter Town Hall” deal. Tweeters asked questions using the #askobama hashtag, questions that were retweeted became top tweets, and 8 moderators sifted through the questions.  Twitter Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey posed the selected questions to Obama, who answered them in a live webinar as @whitehouse tweeted brief versions of his responses.

But of course, the questions that made it to the live webinar were only the top of the pile. At the bottom of the pile, on the hashtag at large, tweets rolled in such as:

And at least those were funny (or at least trying to be) and coherent, not a consistent quality in tweets, in general.

The good news, however, was that there were decidedly non-stupid tweets about non-stupid topics while all of this was going on.

Some examples:

What do I take away from this?

In my work as a social media and marketing strategist, I hear a lot of fear from companies, non-profits, educators, and politicians alike—people are terrified of social media because of what they perceive to be the sheer power of stupid, poorly thought out, or just plain crazy voices. They’re partly right. Twitter, and many social media properties, can sometimes be a tsunami of stupid which can overpower even the most intelligent conversations.

However, when you take the time to weed through the stupid, as you had to for this Town Hall, you get something heartening: a mix of media, businesses, citizens, and politicians coming together to talk about big issues. I’m an unflagging optimist, but in my opinion, that mix creates an unparalleled potential for connection and change.

What do you think about the Twitter Town Hall? Did you really want to know if the President could send the Secret Service for chicken wings? Does only stupid exist on the internet? Comment here or tweet to @tracycgold. I’d love to wage war against the stupid.

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