Stop all the clocks, cut off wi-fi. Twitter is dead, let the mourners come.
The wake may be small, though, so don’t go overboard with the catering.
If the Federal election has taught us anything it’s that all polls concerning politics should be deferred to crocodiles and that Twitter is the real-life equivalent of screaming into your pillow.
About 9pm last Saturday the Australian Twitterati — all four million of us — got that unsettled feeling. A feeling you get after a few dates with someone and still don’t know if it’s an official thing.
Pollsters, strategists and the media types on the site discovered it was not in fact “a thing” as the votes rolled in with sweeping swings towards Liberal candidates.
“WTF,” we collectively asked all night.
Labor won every single Newspoll since the last election.
Didn’t people want to save the turtles and tax the upwardly mobile?
I own a KeepCup dammit.
According to hashtag activists and organisations like GetUp! we believed the Libs were deeply unpopular. But Peter Dutton, Christian Porter and Scott Morrison were all returned, some now with bigger margins than before.
How did we miss this? We missed it because while we were busy refreshing our feeds, voters were worried about feeding their families and other issues that matter offline.
A steady income, lower taxes and smaller power bills is what keeps food on the table and the lights on, not retweets.
Twitter is a great place if you enjoy bouts of high blood pressure, the occasional cute photo of a royal baby and getting offended at 140 characters written by strangers. It’s also a great place to promote your work but during this Federal election campaign the pundits and commentators emerged on Sunday as if we’d spent the past couple of weeks with our heads in a washing machine.
We now have to clean our ears out and listen. Not for Twitter’s unmistakable chirp but to the real concerns of those we are here for.
We need to stop trash-talking people who have differing opinions and experiences to us and actually talk to them.
As Ian Taylor of Churchlands wrote in The West yesterday.
“We don’t tweet. We use social media only to communicate with family and friends. We are the silent majority. We vote. Get out of your tweeting bubble and rejoin the real communities,” he said.
Scott Morrison spoke of the “quiet Australians” during his victory speech. They are not quiet.
Go to any pub for happy hour on a Friday, a country footy game on a Saturday, a pilates class in Claremont on a Sunday, and there they are talking about issues like the environment, money, education and jobs.
“Twitter has never been representative of Australians at mass,” Associate Professor of Internet Studies at Curtin Tama Leaver said.
“It is a great place to explore politics but it’s not where you’d find a representative number. It is not a good spokesperson for Australia.”
But we’ll be the ones who’ll have to break up with Twitter, it’s the Mr Big and us media types are the Carrie. Mr Leaver said the use of #auspol may not change significantly.
“It will remain an important conduit where people will engage with each other but it’s really just politicians, journalists and very passionate people who are not swinging voters,” he said.
Twitter is performative but those makeshift polling booths every three to four years are our confessionals.
Australia is a deeply conservative nation and despite what Twitter tells us, there is nothing wrong with that. While we all, at some level, want equality and to make the world a better place for future generations, we are scared.
We’ve just had seven prime ministers in 10 years, each with their own agenda and policy platforms. In WA alone, housing prices are dropping to prices we haven’t seen in a decade, while unemployment is 6 per cent, above the national average of 5.5 per cent.
What we need to stop doing is trash-talking people who have differing opinions and experiences to us and actually talk to them.
Use our words, not our thumbs.