I’m sick of defending Twitter to non-Twitter users — partly because it’s already a $10 billion company, but mostly because those who deride Twitter have never used it.
I’m talking about average people here, the kid who says: “Oh, that’s just where people just, like, talk about what they eat for lunch and stuff like that, right?”
No, and I’m done talking to you.
I’m talking to the 500 million people who have an at sign prefixed to a name somewhere, the men and women who know what 140 characters look like and what that means. I’m talking to you now.
I’ll confess, I don’t carry much in the way of credibility, but I can be irritable sometimes, and some of you are tweeting all wrong. So, to purge my misanthropy, here’s a list of don’ts and more don’ts to mull over before you dip into those trending topics.
1. Don’t be vague
Twitter is all about brevity. Even if you’re an English major, you’re not spinning layered poetry, you’re simply saying something in a couple dozen words or less. This isn’t your private diary. Remember, you’re accountable to a fickle audience. No one wants to explicate your in-jokes, ever.
2. Don’t be vague and passive-aggressive
Too many slighted people run from Facebook to Twitter like it’s some kind of confidant. Look at your follower count — it doesn’t matter how low it is or if they’re all your friends — they’re reading what you say. When you address you-know-who-you-are in a childish tweet, you’re actually talking to them. And I’m sorry, but they didn’t sign up to hear your delayed comebacks.
3. Don’t retweet irrelevant things
Perhaps the best part about Twitter is the ability to cultivate your feed around your own special interests. If you’re an interesting person, your passions probably don’t overlap with all of your friends. It’s a cruel reality, but occasionally you will be the only one in your circle who cares that your favorite band’s album leaked. Relish those private joys, don’t retweet them.
4. Don’t retweet when you should @reply
Without question, Twitter has become a marvelous venue for humor. Irreverent retweets make perfect punchlines. But not everyone is a champion of wit. In fact, most aren’t. Unless you’re about to coin a brilliant phrase, don’t retweet when your friend says: “R U comin over?”
5. Don’t tweet only links
Twitter automatically shortens URLs containing more than 18 characters. That means when you tweet nothing but a standard link, all anybody sees is a mishmash of letters and numbers and no discernible hint of where you’re leading them. Do a kindness by providing context like a decent individual; warn people so they can avoid your vaguely amusing cat video.
6. Don’t make arbitrary hashtags
I’ve never seen a humorous hashtag, but everyone still tries to include one at the end of their tweets. Try this experiment: take out the number sign, space it out properly, and look at it. Still works as a sentence, doesn’t it? Not only are hashtag-sentences annoying to read, they’re almost universally unfunny. So stop it.
7. Don’t cross the social streams
That last tweet of yours may have been spectacular, but nobody wants to read it again on Facebook. If your followers care to revisit one of your tweets, they’ll favorite them. By syncing Twitter and Facebook, you only flood your cooler friends’ social feeds with redundant information. Drop the coverall messages.
8. Don’t tweet excessively
Sure, Twitter naturally asks what’s happening, but show some discretion. Occasionally, you may have nothing to say, like a normal human being. Doubt your own wit. Maybe you shouldn’t live-tweet your evening at home with “Harold and Kumar,” even ironically. Quit spamming your friends.