Posners Are Quitters

Out of the blue, Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner announced he was quitting the bench to spend his waning years reading hand-written pro se habes crying for the denial of doooo process and the peculiar flavor of Nutraloaf. Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.

Chicago lawprof Eric Posner turns out to be a chip off the very old block.

Twitter works on the same principle. When you send out a tweet, the reward is variable. Depending on the number of followers you have, your tweet will normally not be retweeted or retweeted only occasionally. From time to time, you will hit the jackpot—a media personality (or his or her factotum) retweets it to thousands of followers, generating a cascade of retweets and likes. At other times, you receive a small reward of a few or dozens of retweets or likes. I suspect the power curve strongly resembles the slot-machine version.

And with that harsh analogy, Eric Posner quit twitter.

I suspect the real reason that the chattering class—the academics and journalists who filled my feed—uses Twitter is that they are afraid of falling behind. If everyone tweets but me, am I no longer important? Does my opinion no longer matter? In this sense, Twitter is the Instagram for intellectuals—a negative-sum game that users play purely because everyone else does.

And with that, the twitter account of @EricAPosner went dark. But the deep thinker wasn’t yet done deconstructing the slot machine, the Instagram for Intellectuals. Next came the Lutherian listicle.

TWENTY THESES ABOUT TWITTER

1. People sign up for Twitter for two reasons: to obtain information and to exert influence.

2. Twitter serves these functions poorly. If you want information about a specific topic, a Google search is a more efficient way to obtain it. If you want information about current events, you do better by reading a newspaper.

3. Twitter provides information poorly because tweets are mostly driven by the latest outrage and are hence redundant. The rare tweet that contains an interesting or unusual idea is lost in the cataract.

4. Twitter is a poor device for exerting influence because of #5.

5. No tweet has ever persuaded anyone of anything.

Granted, there is an excellent likelihood that Posner’s expectation of the twitters differs from that of mere mortals, such that the twitter he sees is a different color, shape, dimension, than what you or I see.

Posner signed up for twitter to “exert influence”? Well, that could be the root of his disappointment, as set forth in #5. Was there a reason why he would be more influential in the ether than he was in real life? While it’s impossible to ascertain Posner’s reach on twitter now that his account is deleted, let’s assume he followed, and was followed by, the very important members of the chattering class. If they weren’t buying what he was selling, does the fault lie with him, them or the medium of transmission?

6. Twitter’s real function is not to help people obtain information or exert influence.

7. Twitter’s real function is to enable people to obtain validation for their beliefs.

8. People send tweets with a single overriding purpose: to get the tweet “liked” or retweeted.

This is revealing, as this may be true for 12-year-olds and academics, but not for grownups. There are definitely substantial groups on twitter of people desperate for confirmation of their ideas and validation of their self-worth via being “liked” or retweeted, especially by someone of importance to them, like Kim or Kanye.

But there are a great many other purposes served by social media, from seeing very funny things to cute cat pics, learning of the existence of people wiser than yourself to learning that people you thought were smart are kinda dumb. Hitting the jackpot of viral RTs may be the goal for some, but this, #9, may be Posner’s Viagra but not mine.

9. When your tweet is liked or retweeted, you enjoy a dopamine surge.

10. It doesn’t matter why the tweet is liked or retweeted, or even if the person on the other side read your tweet. You enjoy a fleeting illusion of mastery.

Perhaps it’s just my un-bluechecked status or trivial number of followers, but I neither get, nor enjoy, any fleeting illusion of mastery. Quite the contrary. I cringe a bit when twits are liked or retwitted, wondering how my thoughts will be translated by those on the twitters to align with their vision of the world. If I’m supposed to get a dopamine surge, I feel cheated.

13. Tweets are either snide or outraged.

This seems to reveal the most about Posner’s hate on twitter, that the reaction to his dissents isn’t the tummy rub of a changed worldview that he desires, but that tone thing that academics and feminists hate. They’re so finely attuned to, always ready to scold those whose tone offends them. Sure, there are snide (often referred to by the woke as “snarky”) twits, and there are tons of outraged twits, though they usually derive from the wrong side of the argument.

But there are brilliant twits. There are hysterically funny twits. There are informative twits. There are enlightening twits. There are idiotic twits too, but so what? Posner fundamentally misunderstands social media, and because of that, promulgates negative theses about this dreaded medium. If you don’t like a “snide” twit, ignore it. It magically goes away in a few seconds and @Snuckleberry178 will cease to ruin your dopamine high.

Better still, should social media not fulfill your high expectations of mankind, you can always x out, even turn the computer off. You see, social media is as real, or as unreal, as you want it to be. It will go on without you, and will disappear without you, as you choose it to be. Whatever horrors it dishes up today will miraculously cease to exist tomorrow.

Rather than delete his account and put a significant amount of time and thought into explaining the psychological mechanism of the slot machine, the laundry list of evils that twitter perpetrates on the fragile psyche, Posner could have just enjoyed the twitters for what good it brings and ignored it for the stupid. Instead, he deleted his account. You know why? Because Posners are quitters.

14 comments on “Posners Are Quitters

  1. Billy Bob

    Posners’ noses are sensitive to offensive smells. The real reason Eric is dropping out is because our President uses Twitter extensively. And, it is safe to assume, Eric does not want to be in the company of the Prez, either in the ether or on the ground. He will not be visiting the White House anytime soon. This is a noteworthy development in the blawgosphere, and you are the first to pick it up. Now if only that famous [nonsensical] Harvard law prawf would follow suit, life would be a lot easier for us Twitter dumdums who can scarcely read or write.

    Can’t wait to hear what Fubar, Barleycorn and Dragoness have to say? Who knows, maybe Judge Kopf joins the discussion! He’s on top of social media, no doubt! I will say, Posner’s list of books published is impressive. Makes me wonder if I’m missing anything by not reading?!?

      1. Morgan O.

        The murder of puppies is tragic
        But the lim’ricks of Fubar are magic
        While the Posners seem dopey
        And the choices all Sophie’s
        The twitter mobs are autophagic

        1. Billy Bob

          We knew you could do it, Morgan: Step into the vacuum left by Fubar, MIA. He has yet to return from summer vacation.
          Nicely done, but “autophagic”? Is that an amalgamation of automatic/autopilot, fantastic and tragic? Just askin? Maybe it’s a medical condition awaiting the latest diagnosis! CDC, Atlanta might be interested? Hope it’s not “contagious”.

          1. Fubar

            To mention my name is a curse,
            on you or on me, which is worse.
            But this bears repeating,
            autophagic’s self-eating.
            !esrever ni won ereh attuo m’I

          2. Morgan O.

            I just hope Fubar doesn’t come after me for muscling in on his turf. Limerick writers are a tough bunch; I hear they eat their own.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    Posner messed up. You have to nail things titled “theses” to the door of the thing you oppose. He really missed an opportunity there to put these up on twitter before leaving it.

    If someone tweets and no one is around to retweet it, does it make a difference?

    Best,
    PK

    1. SHG Post author

      If someone twits and everyone is around to RT it, does it make a difference? That’s what makes it fun, and why poor Eric was so miserable. Had he asked me, I could have explained that it was just a way to kill time between classes in the hope of seeing a cute kitteh pic.

  3. Mario Machado

    “Dopamine surge”?

    Maybe Twitter is the newest “opium of the people,” and Twitter’s just another drug infested den?

    Maybe for Eric Posner criticism (or lack of retweets) has plucked the imaginary flowers from his Twitter feed, not so that he will wear the Twitter chain without any fantasy or consolation, but so that he will shake off that chain and cull the living flower.

  4. Jake

    “But there are brilliant twits. There are hysterically funny twits. There are informative twits. There are enlightening twits. There are idiotic twits too, but so what?”

    Which one of the 22 people you follow on Twitter is the idiot?

    1. SHG Post author

      People I don’t know (affectionately known as eggboys or randos) twit at me. All the time. That’s the most I’m going to say.

  5. John Barlycorn.

    All I can say is that when your future grandkids and their friends start comming over on saturdays you sure as heck better not interrupt their dirt clod or snowball fights with something along these lines:

    “Why don’t you kids come inside now and send some tweets or play Zelda before dinner. You are making too much racket and I am trying to finish Posner’s latest book.”

    P.S. How come nobody ever packs fortune cookies inside snowballs?

    http://siberiantimes.com/upload/information_system_52/4/6/4/item_4649/information_items_4649.jpg

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