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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Elizabeth Bernstein wrote a keen piece in the WSJ today about the potential for relational peril in social media.

Clearly, the communicative drawbacks of typing have held many an “IM” conversation in a state of comprehensive limbo. Whether in a tweet, a status update, a text, or an IM, forgetting that “:-)” can be the difference from “X is now single”, “the men in white coats are coming for X”, “I”m getting a restraining order against X” versus “X is such a funny guy”.

Now take a moment and think of all the inutile posts, updates, texts, and tweets you peruse on a daily basis – those posts which probably permanently vitiate your intelligence (not to mention your faith in humanity). Bernstein finds our social media habits, which produce these inutile posts, as rather boring to everyone but our naive selves. Solution: before posting or updating, ask “is this something I’d want someone to tell me” and “is this something I would have said to a friend in person”.

Yet, the very nature of social media (especially outlets like Facebook and Twitter) defeats such a check on our tedious, irrelevant posts.

Take Twitter, for example. It’s a stage. The user/actor has full control for the spotlight to be on him at any moment with a (supposedly) waiting audience – aka followers – that (must) listen to his online orations (in 140 characters or less, of course). Given this chance at instant indulging of one’s narcissistic nature, even the humblest soul will credulously post the most inane tweet at some point believing in its significance.

Thus, it is quite difficult for an individual to impartially evaluate whether his potential post is something of actual importance to others…whether it is something he would be willing to say face-to-face with a friend. I mean it’s not like we ever ignore sum and substance for pointless inputs in actual conversation – “good story, tell it again”; and, it’s not like awkward (“turtle”) statements ever slip into daily discourse.

Another problem is that gauging interest for a tweet or status update is quite relative. One person may find your continual thoughts on classic rockers like Zeppelin, Clapton, Hendrix, and Guess Who annoying, while another person eats it up and replies to you almost all the time.

So, what to do? Well, I personally don’t care what a person posts or how much. Twitter and Facebook help fill psychological and social voids while imparting a purpose and release for some people (interesting to note more older people using twitter – maybe this applies but that’s for another post). True, there are often times that I just want to put a damn “hit” out on the next person who tries to recruit me or asks help for “Mafia Wars”; yet, to each his own. And still, more to the point, Twitter and Facebook are so much more than games like “Spymasters” – if that’s what it’s called – or some teleological pursuit.

I joined Twitter at the imploring of talk radio star Hugh Hewitt, who basically lambasted me as a young politico for not having one. After learning the ropes, I soon realized that Twitter offered an unique experience for each user based on interests, temporal commitments, and tweeting style. I found myself focusing on making connections with many involved in politics and grassroots activism. Link sharing provided me with political news and commentary I either didn’t have time to seek out or had missed. Responding to others allowed me to keep my political prowess sharp when often stuck in the library for long hours studying. I also enjoyed relating with fellow cigar and beer enthusiasts. Some of my followers have even become friends and others have blessed me with opportunities that I would never have come across or known of otherwise. Finally, I often find 140 characters quite restraining and resort to using “TwitLonger” to have truly enjoyable exchanges with others – definitely recommend it.

So, I’m not going to sit here and lecture you about how everyone should post to their facebook walls and twitter profiles. If saying it makes you happy even if you get no responses (if only there was a “dislike” option on facebook), then that’s okay in my book. I mean why is it, in the first place, that we get so bored with all these pointless updates and tweets? You can always unfollow or block on twitter as well as hide the updates of those users who type forth their monotonous musings. Also, maybe you’re spending a little too much time perusing through every single update instead of actually calling and talking to one of your friends or maybe even doing something called “work”. :-)

Still, in my opinion, there are certain instances where tweets and updates apply to such a mundane happening or fact that I feel it importune for me to mention. Again, you don’t have to abide by anything I’m about to say; these points are mere suggestions I hope you at least take into account:

SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS

  • Twitter–>Facebook: if your tweets forward to your facebook wall, make sure you’re not also forwarding your replies. That’s like you and a friend walking up to a person in between y’all and having a conversation without him.
  • Reply! As much as I can be a shameless self-promoter (and thus give leniency and respect to other shameless self-promoters), try to keep a 50/50 cut with your tweets solely focused on yourself versus your replies to others; if possible, have a good majority of your tweets be replies. I’m not following you to simply read how good your Chipotle burrito is – I already know that.
  • Lauding food: if you must mention food, like that Chipotle burrito, make an aside or comment that adds some unique life or character to your tweet like “I swear Chipotle is served in heaven – vegetarians need not apply”. Try to spark a reply. P.S. – twitpics give a little more legitimacy to your food posts as well.
  • Lauding food II: in general though, just don’t. Unless you’re having a special occasion, you’re are at one of the world’s nicest or coolest restaurants, or you’ve cooked an amazing dinner, I really don’t care if it’s bottomless pasta at the Olive Garden. Now, if you’re slipping each bowl of pasta into tupperware you snuck in, then you better post that as well as some pics for proof.
  • Auto DMs: no, no, no! So impersonal and mere pathetic ennoblement. If you want to plug your work or site, take the time to personally address and thank the individual for following you. Also, actually take a sec to look at their profile to see if y’all share any interests or backgrounds; mention that in the DM.
  • With family: as much I love spending time with family (and being amused by all the drama), I keep to a minimum letting the world know about it every second I am. Now, I unabashedly share when I’m helping my Momma out or doing something fun with her. In all honesty, this is because I’ve realized that girls love it when guys do stuff like that, and so I proudly and publicly say when I do. :-)
  • Zzzzzz: just don’t. If your friend keeps annoyingly posting this, reply with something like “good, now I know I can come over and watch you sleep”. Actually don’t – even a “:-)” won’t stop the restraining order on that one.
  • Listening to: this one’s tough as even a simple “I’m listening to X” can spark numerous replies and discussion. That said, out of courtesy, like with food, be creative and expound. Instead of saying you enjoy the acoustic version of Hotel California, also throw in the album (“Hell Freezes Over”) on which the song’s found (for your reader’s reference) as well as maybe comparing the performance to the original.
  • Diversify your Twitter portfolio: we already mentioned focusing on replies. Be also conscientious about the content you’re posting. If your self-focused tweets continually resemble mundane points like “X is heading out to do some quick real estate work… (15 minutes ago)” and “X is back and working on tonight’s show (9 minutes ago)” – actual posts of a friend – please stop or keep it to a minimum – those were actual posts of a friend. The “no to monotony” also applies to someone who just copies and pastes links all day. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Maybe a link here, a self-aggrandizing assertion there, an awesome twitpic next, etc – you get the point.
  • Political pontifications: admittedly, I am very biased in my political nerdiness when I say that I find these kind of updates the most interesting and especially engaging. Yet again, don’t be a simpleton in your post – it’s embarrassing to you, eye-rolling (though sometimes amusing) to your friends and followers, and doesn’t really invite progressive discourse. For example, don’t just say “Sarah Palin speaks for America”; provide some endeictic backing unless your point is a priori demonstrable – i.e. “Sarah Palin is hot”.

So I guess, in short, as much as 140 characters or less entails a brief reflection, try not to jade your friends and demean yourself with continually trivial and tedious, vain and vague posts.

Thank you for your time. Well, I’m off now to do some effrontery and plug this piece on Twitter and Facebook. :-)

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