As my book argues, people do not go to social media hoping to learn things about the world. They go to social media hoping that attention will be paid to them. That’s what social media is: a sad, sprawling bazaar in which attention is exchanged and bartered. There is no profit in it for anybody other than Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey and, to a considerably lesser financial extent, people like me. Social media is not about information. People go there hunting a feeling of significance, which they try to achieve by associating themselves in trivial ways with public events or public figures. A failed actor retweeted the NARAL fabrication, and then corrected himself and apologized for spreading disinformation, and then decided to uncorrect himself and declare that he’d been right all along. No one responded to any of it. (I suppose you could say that this is me paying him attention, but paying attention is my job. Twitter is about emotional investment; I am more like an oncologist, who doesn’t blame cancer for being cancer.) And no personal connection is too distant: As the rage-monkeys on Twitter howled, a man who says he used to work with me scolded Morning Joe for having me on the show, insisting that he himself would not have invited me. But, of course, no one asked him, and no one ever will. His tweet just sat there, without response, an item of no interest to anyone.
And that is what this performative outrage is really about.