New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo boasted about spending two months offline in an article this month. However, it has been revealed he used Twitter consistently throughout the period.
“Manjoo wrote about what he learned from his two months away from social media, and dispensed avuncular advice to his readers about the benefits of slowing down one’s news consumption,” reported the Columbia Journalism Review last week. “But he didn’t really unplug from social media at all. The evidence is right there in his Twitter feed, just below where he tweeted out his column: Manjoo remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times, perhaps more than 1,000.”
“He got most of his news from the papers, he wrote. His one caveat: he ‘allowed for’ podcasts, email newsletters, and books and magazines,” they explained. “But he also ‘allowed for’ continued Twitter use. And not just a little: he tweeted nearly every day during the 58 days of the experiment.”
The Columbia Journalism Review noted that during the first two weeks of February, “he tweeted, on average, more than 15 times a day.”
“That’s far from obsessive, but it’s even farther from ‘unplugged.’ It is, in fact the opposite of ‘unplugged.'” They continued, “He was clearly using Twitter to follow the news— albeit less so than he had been before starting this experiment.”
Despite the fact that Manjoo never went offline, or “unplugged” from social media, a spokesman for the New York Times reportedly refused to issue a correction for the article, claiming it didn’t constitute a “falsehood.”
On The Media, however, removed an interview with Manjoo in which he talked about unplugging from social media, issuing an editor’s note in its place.
“This program originally contained an interview with the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo discussing an experiment in which he got his news only from print journalism and ‘unplugged from Twitter and other social networks’ for two months,” the note explained. “That interview was pulled after further reporting revealed that he did no such thing.”
Manjoo was quickly criticized for the article, with Gizmodo Media journalist Kashmir Hill declaring, “I, for one, did assume that [Manjoo’s] piece about not using Twitter for news for two months meant he wasn’t using Twitter nor commenting on news there. I don’t know how you can use Twitter without seeing news.”
I, for one, did assume that @fmanjoo’s piece about not using Twitter for news for two months meant he wasn’t using Twitter nor commenting on news there. I don’t know how you can use Twitter without seeing news. https://t.co/OtxcG21Vz6
— Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) March 9, 2018
“I’m a bit confused. I saw you on Twitter during that time, both commenting on news and sharing it,” commented Sunlight Foundation Deputy Director Alex Howard. “When I really ‘unplug,’ I log off & delete the app, or go into dead zones in wilderness. Or at least put the phone in airplane mode. What am I missing?”
I’m a bit confused. I saw you on Twitter during that time, both commenting on news and sharing it. When I really “unplug,” I log off & delete the app, or go into dead zones in wilderness. Or at least put the phone in airplane mode. What am I missing? https://t.co/FLDC7HBvSp
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) March 9, 2018
— Jay Yarow (@jyarow) March 9, 2018
— Sonya Mann Ἰ (@sonyaellenmann) March 9, 2018
Farhad Manjoo lied to readers and so far it looks like he won't face any professional repercussions whatsoever. People who follow media criticism will know that he's happy to double down on trivial falsehoods, but readers will remain none the wiser. GREAT, SEEMS HEALTHY
— Sonya Mann Ἰ (@sonyaellenmann) March 12, 2018
I do find it hilarious that Farhad Manjoo wrote a whole "I unplugged from the internet for two months" article despite actively tweeting that entire time, and yet doubles down on his claim that he unplugged.
— yokotaster (@neontaster) March 9, 2018