A Newbie’s Adventures in Twitterland #4

Replying, retweeting and DMs
If you want your reply to be seen only by the person to whom you’re replying and people you both follow, put their username at the very beginning of the tweet, like so:
If you want your reply to be seen more widely, put a word, a dot or a space before their username, like so:
Hey, @username, what a fabulous post on the Ret

A Newbie’s Adventures in Twitterland #3

When it’s over, it’s over

In my last post I talked about the different schools of thought around following and following back on Twitter. And let me say that since that post, I’ve radically changed my own position on following. Due to a sudden great spewy glut of spammy followers–bots galore and people with whom I share precisely zero common interests–I’m now much more selective about whom I choose to follow back.

But that’s last post. This time around we’re going to take a look at the other end of the stick: the joys of unfollowing and the woes of being unfollowed. 

You Don’t Love Me Anymore…

This whole unfollowing thing seems to be fraught with all manner of emotional baggage for some people, whether they’re being unfollowed or doing the unfollowing.

It feels personal. That’s the long and short of it. You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so instead of giving them the old snip-snip, you skip over their tedious or obnoxious tweets for weeks and months, and you keep hoping they’ll drop you first. Finally one day they cross a line; they say something unendurably slap-worthy or promote their website/book/product for a relentless fifteen tweets in a row, and something snaps. Your Unfollow finger of doom goes clickety click, and you find yourself paddling about in an uncomfortable stew of guilt and relief. (The guilt dissipates very quickly, I promise you.)

And when someone cuts you loose, you’re all, Oh no! What did I say?Am I the obnoxious one now? Or worse: Am I not interesting/amusing/entertaining enough for someone to invest 20 seconds a day in reading my tweets??? OMG, I’m boring! How do I contain my WOE?

Because, let’s admit it, it stings a little when Tweeps whose company you’ve quite enjoyed decide to kick you to the curb. People who’ve been hanging around the Tweetosphere for a while will tell you, hey, don’t sweat it, it’s not personal.

But, you know what? It kind of is. And that’s not a bad thing.

Unless you’ve being unfollowed by a freakazoid bot or are one of the casualties of the recent big-name Tweeter mass-unfollow fests, chances are at least 50-50 you’ve being unfollowed because you’ve either said something that got right up someone’s nose or you consistently tweet about things the unfollower doesn’t especially care about. (Unless, of course, you’re one of the casualties of a Chris Broganesque mass unfollow, but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether and not in the scope of this post.)

It’s just like real life. If someone bores, annoys, or offends you often enough, you’re going to start avoiding them. And if you bore, annoy, or offend someone else often enough, they’re going to start ducking into darkened doorways when they see you sashaying down the street.

It doesn’t mean that you are, in fact, boring, annoying or offensive–or at least not to everyone. It just means that someone who probably hasn’t been reading your tweets anyway will continue to not read them.

I don’t unfollow people very often, but I have done small culls from time to time, and once in a while I’ll respond to an egregiously offensive tweet by unfollowing its perpetrator forthwith. My personal unfollow triggers::

  • Profanity. I don’t have a problem with the occasional sweary blurt, but a steady stream of vulgarity is tedious and not something I want to have smacking me in the face when I check my Twitter feed at work.
  • Misogyny, racism, homophobia. I won’t necessarily wave bye-bye over one random sexist remark–although, then again, I have done–but I hear and see enough of that ugliness in real life without subjecting myself to it in my virtual life.
  • No common ground. Sometimes I’ll follow someone back too precipitously. Ooh, new follower! Clicky-click on the little button of reciprocity and then, oops. Sorry, it’s not that I have anything against Catholic sexual well-being per se, but neither do I have any particular interest.
  • Spam and unmitigated self-promotion. Enough said.
  • Empire-building. I don’t know why this bothers me as much as it does, but I find it truly obnoxious when people follow, wait for a follow back and then unfollow, presumably to make themselves look more popular than they actually are. Are we really going to play that game? Snip snip. No, we’re not.
Next up: Retweeting, replying and DMs, oh my!

A Newbie’s Adventures in Twitterland #2

In my last post (which, yes, was a ridiculously long time ago, but let’s just shut up about that, okay?), I talked about how confusing certain Twitter conventions can be for newbies.  When even long-term Tweeters can’t seem to agree on the Rules of Twitterquette, what’s a poor newbie to do? As I said last post, I don’t have the answers, but I have found some middle ground that hasn’t (yet) sent all my followers flapping off into the sunset.

In this post, I’m going to talk about one of the biggies: following.


Ah, who to follow, who to follow. 

There seem to be two distinct schools of thought when it comes to following. Actually, who am I kidding, there are way more than two, but I’m only going to talk about two because I have a life to live once I finish writing this post.

School 1 says: 

  • Follow the people who follow you. Follow all of them, except possibly the zero-tweet bots and the spammers (although some people seem happy. to follow them and, even more startling, to suggest that you follow them too, but more about that when I talk about #FollowFriday).
  • Follow the people who tweet things that make you want to smack them.
  • Follow the people who tweet all day about things you don’t care about and will never care about and who bore the pants off you.
  • Follow the people who say vile things that make you wish there were a virtual equivalent to barfing in their laps.
  • Follow the people who say “comprised of” even if seeing the phrase “comprised of” makes your eyeballs seize up in your head and your heart start thumping like a drummer on speed (okay, maybe that’s just me).

Follow them all, says School 1, because, well, what does it hurt? It’s not like you have to actually read their tweets, and everyone’s trying to build their social media platforms, and shouldn’t we all support one another like a great big happy family of total strangers? As with any family, you take the bad, boring, obnoxious and slap-worthy along with the good, right?

School 2s position can be summed up more succinctly: Follow the people you find interesting. Life is too short to arse around sifting through a barrage of tweets that make you want to take a hammer to the fingers that have wrought them.

The Twitter Equationists:
It’s also worth mentioning that there are a couple of interesting little cliques within School 1 and School 2 that I think of as The Equationists. These are the tweeters who seem to view Twitter as a finely (or perhaps not so finely) balanced equation, like so: 

Clique A, School 1: # of Followers = # of Following (+ or – x-dozen)
Clique B, School 2: # of Followers must ALWAYS be > # Following (by a LOT)

Clique A, School 1: These tweeters espouse the #teamfollowback philosophy. You follow me, I follow you. I follow you, you follow me. No follow = snip, snip. No exceptions. (The plus or minus x-dozen is, I believe, illusory; it reflects the allowance of time for people to follow back. No followback = unfollow!) 

I don’t get this philosophy at all. At. All. There are so many people whose tweets I love. They don’t all follow me back, and nor do I expect them to. Well-known authors; politicians; news reporters; lexicographers; tech gurus: am I really going to snippety-snip them out of my Twitterverse because they don’t reciprocate?  

Clique B, School 2: These people probably aren’t following you at all. They want you to follow them, but unless you’re an A-lister, have great whacks of Klout or have something other than your stellar wit to offer, you’re just not going to be one of the cool kids. These Tweeters, like you, are trying to build their social platforms, and make a nice splashy name for themselves in whatever Twitter niche they’ve ensconced themselves. 

Please note: I’m not talking about actual celebrities here. While it would be singularly delightful to wake up and find that @stephenfry, @ladygaga, @mashable, or @MargaretAtwood has decided to follow you, most of us aren’t delusional enough to think that’s really going to happen. And most of us would agree that’s okay. No, I’m talking about those folk who do a regular cull of their “following” list to make themselves look a whole lot more popular than they actually are. Lame, you say? Um, yes.  

So, where do I stand? 
I guess I’d have to say that I have a foot in the playground of each school. Or at least a toe. The people I proactively follow are people whose content interests me. I’m not very niche-y, and my interests are pretty eclectic, so I tend to look for people who tweet about writing, publishing, social justice issues, politics, music, technology, science and nature, cupcakes…that sort of think.
I don’t pay much attention to Twitter’s “Who should you follow” feature, because I know from experience that I can do a much better job of figuring that out for myself. I find people to follow by checking out retweets, searching for specific hashtags and engaging in a certain amount of stalking careful research.
I do tend to follow back most people who follow me. Come on, I’m Canadian, what else am I going to do, eh? But I don’t blindly follow back and I never, ever autofollow. The people I choose not to follow are:

  • Tweeters who express their political, religious and/or personal views in a way that’s likely to make me homicidal. Don’t get me wrong; I follow all kinds of people who think very differently than I do on all manner of issues, but if you’re going to take your sexist piggery to obnoxious new heights or try to cram your particular version of god down my throat on a regular basis, sorry, you don’t make the cut.
  • Businesses that are a bazillion miles away from where I live and are trying to sell me something (not online)–unless they give good tweet. I’ll forgive a lot if the ratio of interesting tweets to marketing is weighted toward to former.
  • People whose entire twitter stream consists of quotations, lists of meals eaten, fashion/beauty tips, or celebrity gossip. 
  • People who tweet primarily in a language I don’t speak or read. 
  • Tweeters who relentlessly self-promote. I’m actually pretty tolerant on the self-promotion front. As a writer myself, I want to support other writers trying to make a buck. BUT. A litany of “buy my book! buy my book! buy my booooook!” unleavened by anything amusing, entertaining, or thought-provoking makes your followers what to hunt you down feed your book to you page by page.
  • People whose entire Twitter stream seems to be a tedious and frequently cryptic conversation with the same three people. Ho freaking hum.
Right now I check out every person who follows me. I look at their timeline, I frequently have a boo at their blog or website. Obviously, if I become staggeringly popular, this will change, but since that eventuality doesn’t appear to be lurking anywhere near the immediate horizon, I try to get a feeling for each and every person, business, organization that follows me. Isn’t that supposed to be the point of Twitter? Connecting???

So, tell me where you stand on these thorny following issues. Are you School 1 or School 2? Or some other school altogether, you rebel, you?

Next up in this series: 

  • Unfollowing
  • Retweeting, replying and DMs, oh my!
  • Hashtags: friends or foes
  • The delicate art of self-promotion

A Newbie’s Adventures in Twitterland #1

You know, this tweeting thing isn’t quite as straightforward as a person might think. I mean, it sounds simple enough, right? Trot out your delightful and delicious 140-character bon mots, reply to or retweet other people’s equally delightful bon mots, play nice or play mean–how hard can it be?

Except, as a relative newbie to the Twitterverse, I have to tell you, it’s not as 1-2-3 as it looks. As friendly and welcoming a social media platform as Twitter is, it does have its own quirky lexicon, its own rules of etiquette, and its own tricks and strategies–and not all of them are entirely intuitive.

When I started tweeting in earnest towards the end of May, I decided I’d better do a bit of Google research before I committed some gaucherie so heinous that all (10 or so at the time) of my followers decided to abandon me en masse. Coming from a long line of co-dependent, please-let-me-please-you enablers, I wanted to do the right things in the right way at the right time. I wanted, in fact, to be smacked in the forehead with the shovel of rightness.

But do you know what I discovered as I plumbed the depths of Google wisdom on this subject? I discovered–shocker of shockers–that there is an essential disharmony in the realm of Tweet. In fact, to paraphrase Newton, it appears that for pretty much every opinion on every convention, practice or definition in Twitterland, there is an equal and opposite opinion.

For you long-time tweeters, I’m sure this disharmony is nothing new, and I’d guess that it barely even ruffles your sails as you navigate the Twitter waters. But imagine the plight of the poor newbie, stranded without a lifejacket in a sea of #hashtags, DMs, RTs, spammers and bots, looking for advice so she doesn’t wind up making a big splatty fool of herself. What does she find? I’ll tell you what she finds: 

  • Only follow people who follow you back! 
  • Follow everyone who interests you!
  • Hashtags are annoying and pointless! 
  • Hashtags saved my life! 
  • Old school retweet rules and new retweet sucks! 
  • Old retweet sucks and new retweet rules! 
  • #WatchWednesday and #FollowFriday are lame! 
  • #WatchWednesday and #FollowFriday are the building blocks of your social media empire!

So, what’s a newbie to do? On which side of the Twitter divide is she to cast her anchor (to belabour my metaphor beyond forgiveness)?  I’ll tell you what I’ve done. As any self-respecting middle child with co-dependency issues might do, I’ve tried to chart a course right down the middle, with the occasional veering off into one side or the other.

Over my next four blog posts, I’m going to share with you how I’ve made sense of and come to terms with a few of the contradictory Twitterlaws around: 

  • Following and unfollowing
  • Retweeting, replying and DMs, oh my!
  • Hashtags
  • Self-promotion

Do I have the definitive answers? Very much not, I’m afraid. Feel free to chime in along the way with your thoughts and your own personal Twitter rules of survival.