Twitter macro and Twitter economics

I’ll compare Twitter macro to blog macro throughout, and here is how I see the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter macro:

1. Super-fast speed of response, and less repetitive than the old blog world.  It is easy to comment right away on the most current happening.  Unlike with (some) blogs, no wind-ups are required.  On Twitter both good and bad ideas go viral far more rapidly.

2. It is more fun than blog macro, and attracts fewer hobby horse drones.

3. It is too easy to tell people that they “completely misunderstand” something, because links, while they exist on Twitter, are not the prime currency.  This leads to many bad tweets, typically tweets that…completely misunderstand something or someone, yet with less verification possible.

4. It attracts a younger set of writers than blog macro did.  That makes it both more left-wing and also less informed about economic history, recent decades in particular.  Very recent evidence and experience is considerably overstressed in its relevance, and this is reinforced by the fad-like nature of Twitter opinion.

5. Twitter macro is poor at spelling out the entirety of an empirical literature on an empirical question.  I am not sure whether this is intrinsic to the medium, but I observe this regularly.  Blogs in contrast are/were most likely to take a more exhaustive approach to literature survey, sometimes too exhaustive rather than focusing on the single best argument.

6. Twitter macro is poor for spelling out mechanisms.  Most coherent macro mechanisms do in fact take more than 280 characters to spell out.  Tweet storms are useful, but more for a series of sequential observations on some new data, rather than for mechanisms per se.  Overall Twitter is poor for “grasping the whole elephant” approaches to economics, and for that matter to other topics as well.

7. It is easier to learn from other people on econ Twitter, due to the “rapid scan” and retweet and “comment on tweet” properties of the system.  At the same time, econ Twitter is more prone to fads and bubbles of opinion, for broadly the same reasons.

8. Econ Twitter involves more “don’t really know anything at all” kinds of people, and sarcastic people, in the discussions.  Overall this has a negative external impact on the tone and thoughtfulness of those who do know something.  In the blog world, we all made each other a bit more “cross-checking, linking, and drone-like.”

9. I genuinely do not understand why more tweeters do not set up free blog or Substack accounts, and, if only five times or so a year, write a longer post or column explaining and defending their views and tying them into the broader literatures.  This seems to me to betray a certain kind of intellectual laziness, which the Twitter medium itself encourages and amplifies.

10. Entry barriers are lower with Twitter, so there is a much broader diversity of opinion.  This can be very good, but see #8.

11. It is easier to express meaningful agnosticism in a successful blog post than in a successful tweet.  This is one of the biggest problems with Twitter macro, and indeed with Twitter more broadly.  It is also hard to express trade-offs in a successful tweet, another major problem.  “We must do this” kinds of thinking are instead encouraged.

12. Both blog posts and tweets very often mix in normative judgments with the positive analysis.  But it is much harder to be sophisticated on the normative side on Twitter.  The morality is often third-rate or worse.

13. The one-sentence (supposed) refutation is very much overrated on Twitter, even serious Twitter.  Such dismissals are usually wrong, or at least seriously incomplete, and their possibility and popularity discourage people from developing deeper understandings.

14. Is Twitter so great for methodological self-awareness?  Yes, you could do a tweet storm but this kind of analysis, as embodied in this post itself, seems harder to do on Twitter, and harder to receive non-sarastic feedback on.



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