It's a good thing Abe Lincoln didn't have Twitter

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It seems like only yesterday that Twitter held daring promise for journalism, all full of clarity, brevity and immediacy. It was a big deal when “tweet” began appearing as both noun and verb in serious news coverage.

Now there’s a back lash, apparently.

“The social sharing tool was once a vision. Now it’s a prison,” says Matt K. Lewis, a columnist for The Week, who has become gruff indeed about the 140-character online message generator and its cheerful bluebird logo.

“Twitter has become like high school, where the mean kids say something hurtful to boost their self-esteem and to see if others will laugh and join in. Aside from trolling for victims after some tragedy, Twitter isn’t used for reporting much anymore. But it is used for snark,” Mr. Lewis observes.

“What used to be talk around the newsroom watercooler is now on full display for the world to see. During Wayne LaPierre’s ill-advised NRA press conference in December, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg observed that, ‘Reporters on my Twitter feed seem to hate the NRA more than anything else, ever.’ He was right. My colleague Alex Pappas documented some of the biased and downright mean things that reporters tweeted about LaPierre,” the columnist continues.

Indeed, the National Rifle Assoc. CEO gets much mean press these days, on Twitter and elsewhere.

“Look, I’m no saint here. I’ve said some things I regret on Twitter. The medium is dangerous and tempting. When Abraham Lincoln was mad, he would famously write people scathing letters. He would then file them in his desk drawer, never to be sent. Abe was lucky he didn’t have Twitter,” Mr. Lewis.

He adds, “Just as I was once an evangelist for Twitter, I’ve had a conversion. I’ve repented. I’ve reformed. Writers should be thinking of big ideas, but Twitter sucks you into small, petty battles.”

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