At its finest, Twitter is a social medium in which communities are strengthened, news is shared, and witty banter is exchanged between friends and followers. At its worst, it is a universe of tedium, shameless self-promotion, and abject neediness.
Though we all think everything we say is utterly fascinating (myself included), do we really need to know that you just ate a bagel?
No, we don’t. Unless that bagel was served to you by a naked celebrity on horseback. And you supply photographic evidence.
In an attempt to be as I would like others to be ( in Twitter-specific terms) and to help make the online world a more pleasant place to visit, I’ve compiled a short, non-comprehensive list of dos and don’ts for Twitter usage*. Why? Because it allows me to complain and be helpful at the same time– two of my favorite activities. If you have any more ideas, please feel free to add your two cents. I’m still learning.
1. We don’t need to know where you are at all times. More than likely, your mother is not on Twitter, so why don’t you just leave the Foursquare check-ins on Foursquare where they belong?
2. Your life is not as fascinating to others as it might be to you. Unless you nearly choked to death on a severed finger you found hiding in your egg salad or Godzilla personally toasted your hamburger bun, we don’t need to know what you had for lunch. Don’t bore your followers by tweeting every blessed thing you do.
You just ate the most amazing flaxseed muffin ever? Yay for you! I can’t wait for the inevitable tweet about your next bowel movement.
3. Don’t overshare. Delicate matters such as venereal disease, marriage problems, interfamily issues, and the consistency of one’s stool are just a few examples of things that are best not discussed on Twitter. Unless, of course, you are Direct Messaging your doctor or marriage counselor.
4. Play nice. Don’t criticize a friend or follower publicly**. If there is a problem, the kindest thing is to send the perceived offender a private, direct message. If, however, the Tweeter is openly seeking to damage another person by making unwarranted personal attacks or spewing racist, sexist, homophobic or any other sort of hateful venom, then go in with guns blazing. I might even join you.
5. Put your links into context. Have something you want to share? Excellent. However, merely tweeting “This is awesome!” in front of your link is entirely too vague and your followers will feel their time has been wasted if, for example, your link is to the new silicone garlic peeler you’ve just purchased from Amazon.com. Instead, attach a new header such as “I just got a new torture device for people with swollen finger syndrome!”
6. Follow Fridays. For the uninitiated, Friday is the day unofficially reserved for the pimping of one’s favorite tweeters and is indicated by the sign #ff, an abbreviation which in some fetish circles has a very specific and fairly disturbing meaning.
While it is a compliment to be included in someone’s #ff, the ensuing thanks are often irritating, however well meaning. Instead of cluttering up everyone’s feed with re-tweets like the one above, do your followers a favor– thank the sender personally. By direct message, if possible. This way, the rest of the world doesn’t have to read about the same thing ten times. Thank you, Ben, for the suggestion.
And, if you are going to send a Follow Friday shout out, please put it into– I’ll say it again– context. Here is an example:
The above is a very, very short list of people I enjoy following. Why do I enjoy following them? Because they are, all of them a) smart, b) funny, c) able make the mundane interesting, and d) possessors of a social conscience. It’s an alphabet soup of qualities to which I aspire, but do not always succeed.
7. Don’t re-tweet yourself. Unless you enjoy public masturbation (in terms of social media or otherwise). If you are clever or influential enough to have been re-tweeted by another person, again, just quietly say “thank you”. Attaching the nice things someone else has said about you and then re-tweeting the already re-tweeted compliment makes you look like a tool. Please see below image:
8. Don’t spell like a 15 year old sending a text. This one came from another wonderful tweeter, Marcia Gagliardi (@tablehopper on Twitter). It is paraphrased, but I could not agree more. U wanna cum acros like a idyit? OMFG! Go for it, but don’t expect anyone to take anything you say seriously. Spellcheck is there for a reason. Use it. Abbreviations are fine, but if you can’t say what you want to say in 140 characters or less, then maybe you shouldn’t.
I might suggest you study the art of haiku and then come back to Twitter. Or, if you happen to be a famous ex-food critic who rhapsodizes over sun-dappled, runny eggs, I strongly encourage you to abandon your study of the art form and try a different approach entirely.
9. DO NOT REPEATEDLY TWEET ABOUT YOUR BLOG POSTS. I have written this in all capital letters because I cannot shout it loud enough in real life.
The phrase “In case you missed it…” has become the bane of my personal Twitter existence. My friends all know it and taunt me mercilessly about it.
Be smart about when you tweet news of your latest post. And tweet about it once. Twice is even acceptable, if it is done tactfully. Using the above-mentioned phrase gives the impression that the Tweeter: a) thinks his or her followers have nothing better to do than read their new piece about quinoa and garlic scape macarons, b) is sending out a desperate cry for attention, c) is a complete narcissist (see: #7), or d) all of the above.
If your post is really that good, others will tweet about it. If I missed it, my apologies, but I will catch up with your blog when I have a little more free time.
Or, in case you missed it, I just un-followed you.
10. There is no number 10, because I can’t stand Top Ten lists.
*Contrary to public opinion, I do not see myself as the Moses-type, receiving God’s Twitter laws from on high, but I do happen to think these are good commandments to live by. And there are only nine, so they’re much easier to remember than Mosaic law.
** Although I must admit I’m a sucker for a good fight. In fact, I’m reading one right on my Twitter stream as I type this.