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My Official Twitter Policy: Read It and Tweet

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Wildly Exaggerated: My Official Twitter Policy: Read It and Tweet

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Official Twitter Policy: Read It and Tweet

Everybody get your "Unfollow" fingers ready! Use the middle one, cuz I'm about to piss you off!

I love Twitter. I'm on Twitter, Google+, tumblr, and Facebook, but Twitter is my absolute favorite. That's why I refuse to let anyone ruin it for me. This includes you. If you aren't on Twitter and don't get what all the fuss is about, I'll explain it thusly:

On Facebook, you have a dedicated page that you have to curate at all times. I've had to delete offensive posts with which I didn't want to be associated. I've had to stop fights. I've been unwittingly dragged into fights. I've been flirted with against my will, had unflattering photos maliciously tagged, been forcibly added to groups about which I neither knew nor cared, had intimate details of my life revealed to distant relatives... Facebook is a full-time job, and you have to stay on top of it lest you wake up one morning and find that all 200 of your friends have been treated to a graphic photo of you vomiting, and you have been made "President" of the group "Racism not Placation!" It has its good points too, of course, or I would've deactivated my account by now. But it's a hassle nonetheless.

Twitter, on the other hand, is like a cocktail party. Your friends are there, and if you have something to say to them directly, you can find them and have a little chit-chat. But there are also millions of other people there, and if you hear something interesting going on, you can join right in! Play a hashtag game! Make a new friend with a fun accent! And Twitter has been the best means of finding new blogs, books, music, TV shows, etc. I don't care what the media thinks; Twitter has REAL people telling me what they GENUINELY like. As long as I've managed to find people who generally share my tastes (which is also pretty easy to do on Twitter), I have reliable opinions coming at me from all sides! It's fantastic! Sure, people can smack-talk about you if they want, but their word-puke won't be automatically broadcast to everyone who follows you.

I just joined Twitter earlier this year, so I'm a relative newbie. "No big deal," I thought at the time, "I'll follow some celebrities I like and some friends from the theatre. Cool!" And those first heady days were cool. God, they were so cool. My timeline was nothing but fun/funny tweets, and I stumbled on some strangers I quite liked, some of whom had blogs I quite liked, or YouTube videos I quite liked. It was a great way to find like-minded people and have a little burst of cheery sunshine in my life. Aaaaaah.

But now that I've been on Twitter for a few months and am pushing 50 followers, I'm older and wiser. I've learned that you have to be somewhat thick-skinned on Twitter. You just have to. No one has to explain why they follow, unfollow you, retweet you, don't retweet you, reply to you, don't reply to you...and you have to accept that.

I did the "follow back out of politeness" thing - where you follow anyone who follows you - for about 10 minutes, and suddenly my timeline went from a cheery ray of sunshine to a bile-inducing stream of shameless, repetitive self-promotion, vulgarity, and straight-up offensive hate speech. I was shocked. I didn't want to unfollow, of course, because I'm a nice person and I know that no one likes to be unfollowed. Instead, I invested $5 in a Twitter client for my iPhone that allows me to "zip" certain accounts so I can technically follow without having them raise my hackles (that's Olde English for "blood pressure") (not really).

But before I found TweetCaster (recommended!), I struggled to understand these people. In most cases, I ultimately just felt sorry for them. Sometimes, late at night, there would be a desperate-sounding tweet - you could almost hear the wailing sobs - from someone who had lost a follower and "needed" to replace him/her. To these people, I say: If that follower had any value to you as a human being, then they are irreplaceable. If they only had value as a number, then what you need are stronger meds, not additional followers.

I don't pity-follow.
I don't promo-follow.
I don't mention goods and services in exchange for money (*note: it shocks me how many bloggers are obviously being paid to endorse products in their Twitter feeds. It shocks me even more to see how graceless and heavy-handed they are about it.)
I don't pity-retweet.
I don't promo-retweet.

A lot of people (like, A LOT of people) will call this bad Twitter etiquette, and that's fine. I am well aware that literally millions of people believe very strongly in the pity- and promo- use of Twitter. But I adamantly do not.

As pertains to following: I am currently following nearly 120 people, and most of them are endlessly amusing, fantastic, kind, funny, amazing people. I truly, genuinely, honestly wonder what they're up to at various points throughout the day, and I love cranking up my phone to find out. Lisa started her new job! Jacque went out for ice cream! Drew went to Willy's for lunch AGAIN! Lauren and Grace had a witty and hilarious exchange about 90s-era raves! Bret booked another commercial! And both Nathaniel and James posted new videos in character as their alter egos! Those guys crack me up! If human beings were TV channels, Twitter allows you to tune into your favorites 24/7, which is amazeballs. Why the hell would I deliberately add commercials for things I don't want? Or random narcissistic whining? Answer: I wouldn't. As Grace Dent says in her brilliant book (see link in final paragraph): "I think life's too short to have people pissing you off in your timeline." I follow people who add value to my timeline by way of personal relationships, common interests, or because they generate content I enjoy. Those are the only reasons I follow anyone.

As pertains to retweets, #FFs, and other means of promoting friends: I assume that everyone else follows the same rules I do. I know that isn't the case, but I can't relate to using Twitter purely to harvest followers, so I can't adapt my behavior to accommodate that kind of person. SO: if we assume that all of my followers are following me for a reason (personal relationship, common interest, or because they enjoy my content), then I owe it to them to be true to myself and not fill their timeline with things that won't interest them.For example, I generally avoid politics and sports. It doesn't mean politics and sports are uninteresting or "bad". It just means I and my followers aren't the target audience. Comedy, Brit-centric things, etc., on the other hand, are pertinent, and I retweet them whenever I see something I genuinely like and genuinely think others will like too. People act like retweets should be reciprocal in the same way conversational compliments should be reciprocal. That's not true, and here's why:
Normal, polite conversation between two musicians who just played an open mic:
BOB: Hey man, great set! I told all my friends how great you were.
DAVE: Hey thanks, man - that's really cool of you to say! I liked yours too.
BOB: Thanks!

Normal, polite conversation between two musicians who just played an open mic and obey the reciprocal retweet rule:
BOB: Hey man, great set! I told all my friends how great you were.
DAVE: Hey thanks, man - that's really cool of you to say! I liked yours too.
BOB: Great! Then you won't mind turning to face this camera crew I've brought and announcing to this worldwide video feed that you wholeheartedly endorse literally everything I did and said on stage, and also selling my stuff out of your booth. You know, since you liked it so much.

Bottom line: Don't tell me what to say/do/endorse in my feed. It won't end well for you.

As pertains to other people's egos: I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, ever. I've been unfollowed, I've had nasty comments on my blog, and I've gotten nasty @mentions on Twitter. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But I also know it's not my job to make sure everyone else in the world feels good about themselves. It can't be my job. I have insecurities of my own, just like everyone else does. I worry that the blog sucks. I worry that the sketch show sucks. I worry that my acting sucks, I'll lose my job, I'll never meet a decent guy, my condo will burn to the ground, my friends will abandon me, and it will ALL be because I'm too weak to say "no" to that second slice of pizza. But you know what? Those are my issues. I might go to a very close family member or friend for reassurance sometimes, but I DO NOT, nor will I EVER go to Twitter to publicly announce that "I think I'm a terrible failure and will be available to hear otherwise from the general public between the hours of 4-6." (You non-Twitter users think I'm exaggerating, don't you? You people don't know the meaning of the word "needy".) I don't leave nasty comments on blogs or make nasty remarks on Twitter because I'm not a troll and I think there's already enough animosity in the world to last us for the next few eons. But I categorically reject the idea that "not saying something nice" or "not retweeting something" is tantamount to being mean. It isn't. I don't owe you anything. Besides which, I like to think it makes it more meaningful when I do say something nice or retweet something. Because I only say nice things if I mean them. And I only retweet things if I both liked them *and* thought they would be relevant to my followers.

Obviously, if I intended to use Twitter *solely* as a promotional tool, I probably would do the mutual followback, promo-retweet, etc. etc. It's just good marketing. But the @kwerky_girl Twitter account is for me. Not my blog or my job or whatever else: just me. So I don't (and won't) run it like a PR department. I will run it as an exclusive club with me as the bouncer. You don't have to like it. That's what the Unfollow feature is for.

Also: if you want to read the absolute greatest summary of what Twitter is for, what kinds of people suck the fun out of it, and what makes it great in spite of those people, you HAVE to read Grace Dent's How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop, which is basically an expanded/funnier/more well-written version of my Official Twitter Policy. And I don't say that because anyone paid me money to say so, but because I read it and I liked it. That's the thing about me: if I recommend something, you know I mean it. I'm not just scratching someone else's back. It's this whole new concept. Happy tweeting, everyone!

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