It’s time for major institutions to make their employees get off of Twitter

Twitter’s very format encourages the sort of thing that is likely to get one canceled: short and context-free, composed in an instant, posted without reflection. Moreover, that very speed and effortlessness make it easy to form — or join — a mob going after someone else’s tweets. The result resembles the proverbial standoff where everyone has a loaded gun pointed at the head of someone else.

Ideally, everyone would simultaneously disarm, but no one trusts anyone else to do so. So instead, people try to make themselves safer through preemptive revenge. Or take refuge in communities of extremists who will at least protect them from anyone on the other side, no matter what they say, as long as it is sufficiently far left or right.

In exchange, of course, they demand that you smile tolerantly at the worst your own side can dish out. And that “worst” keeps getting worse because of a phenomenon well known to social scientists: When you sort people into ideological groups, the pressure of groupthink tends to push both the groups themselves, and the people within them, to become more extreme than they were before. Within each ideological space, there’s tightening conformity to radical views; between them, growing interpersonal viciousness and a total lack of understanding.