Breda O’Brien, self-styled “patron” of the ludicrous Iona Institute, recently wrote a long, confused and rambling article in the Irish Times about Twitter and the internet in general, in which she complained that the Twitterverse is a bubble detached from reality.
I thought it might be fun to replace the word Twitter with Iona in the first few paragraphs and see if the article made more sense.
Iona is not the real world. This may seem an obvious statement if you are not in Iona. It may appear less so if you are.
The main requirement to be part of the Ionaverse that deals with Irish current affairs is surgical attachment to a smartphone or computer screen, and a job that allows you to check feeds constantly.
This cuts out a significant proportion of the population. It is clear that the self-employed, and those who work in the media and public relations, are going to be online far more often than the average person.
So are politicians, or at least, their proxies. It is, in short, a bubble, which considers itself to be vastly important.
A Sunday Independent poll last week showed over half of thirtysomethings rarely if ever use Iona, and only 17 per cent use it every day.
One could leave people to their comforting facsimile of the real world, were it not having an impact on media and on general debate.
I know radio and television producers who check Iona obsessively to see the reaction to programmes. They are getting a skewed result, but I suspect they don’t fully realise it. Meanwhile, they are alienating their core audience.
On Iona, very unpleasant people have thousands of followers. So do intelligent, courteous people. But which group has more influence?
The echo chamber gets very loud, as people get “called out” for thought crimes. You never know when a tsunami of abuse will be unleashed. Unsurprisingly, the victims’ response is usually shock and withdrawal.
Of course, it is not just Iona. The internet has allowed a culture of blame and shame that is most notable for its irony deficit.
Judge for yourself.