“So many of them are blown about by every wind of social-media doctrine, their attention swamped by the tsunamis of the moment, their wills captive to the felt need to respond now to what everyone else is responding to now.” In his American Conservative article “I’m Thinking It Over,” Alan Jacobs discusses the peer pressures of social media and his unpopular decision to get out of it.

When Jacobs decided to leave Twitter to simplify and change the way he communicates with others, he was criticized and told the following:

I was wrong to leave public Twitter. […] That without Twitter, the only people who can give me intellectual feedback will be my students, that I should consider whether it’s un-Christian of me to ‘stop engaging,’ and that if people who want to respond to my ideas have to go to the trouble of writing emails they might not respond at all.

So why did he check out? Jacobs found it troubling that, in a world dominated by social media, everyone rushes to voice their “half-cocked” opinion on whatever the issue of the moment is, and they expect others to do the same. He grew tired of all the uninformed, kneejerk responses. So he changed communication methods to bring about more thoughtful dialogue and get to a place where he could actually “think it over.” To lift a quotation from our “Hashtag Heriocs and the Short Life of Online Empathy” piece, Caitlin Dewey puts it well: “We need time for sustained, contemplative thought. And there is no time for anything, ever – the Internet moves on.”

What can we do about it? Jacobs has a few helpful suggestions:

  • I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
  • I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.
  • I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.
  • I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.
  • If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.
  • Private communication can be more valuable than public.
  • Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.
  • Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.

For another excellent article on technology and the destruction of language, see Larry Taunton’s “A Failure to Communicate.”