I joined Twitter in 2009, but I didn’t really get it. I followed a few accounts, mostly friends, and some other accounts I can’t really recall. In 2015, as the Presidential campaign heated up, I started to get more active. It turns out there are are few interests that draw people to a live feed platform, like Twitter. From my observations, twitter is meant to be a public forum, unlike Facebook, which is more where friends and families can connect, and can keep their circle closed if they want. Twitter is great for live-tweeting events (and tv shows) , and for engaging in news of the moment.
My interests on Twitter are mostly politics, activism, and news. I also love all the kitties and following actors I like, but when it comes to politics, Twitter is great. It at least has the potential to be great. I can follow my reps. I can follow excellent journalists covering elected officials, and I can engage with them using tools like resistbot. In college, a senior student came to speak to one of my poli sci classes. He said something to the effect of “This 4 years here, will be what you make of them.” It seems the same goes for most social media platforms.
Many complain that Twitter is a cesspool, because of all the trolls, and hate that can infiltrate conversations. They aren’t wrong, and that is a problem. It gets made worse, because foreign interests are paying for bot accounts to pop up and fuel discord and online fighting. How can one avoid it? I imagine it would be pretty difficult. I often get caught up in fighting with someone, before realizing I should just block them. But that is only one part of the problem. The entire concept of the platform is geared for people to seek having high follower accounts, lots of retweets and likes, and to get the elusive blue check mark. That’s the golden ticket to being legit on this site. All others might be bots, trolls, an account that was bought and sold, or some pathetic loser like me, who just wants to be part of the conversation.
Following a number of well-respected and verified accounts, there are often a lot of tweets reprimanding people for bad twitter etiquette. Most commonly, this is tagging someone in a reply or retweet, that the original tweeter did not tag. I have to agree, it’s a crappy thing to do. You open up that person to attacks that they did not sign up for. It was their decision to tag someone or not. To overrule their decision is certainly something another tweeter can do, but it’s also a bad move. This contributes to the cesspool environment.
I have learned a lot in the last 3 years, as I have become increasingly active on Twitter. My follower account is in no way impressive, though I feel I make up for it with the massive amount of accounts I follow. I’m a liberal Democrat, and I see a lot of people posting with a hashtag of #FBR which is for the follow back resistance. I don’t really get this. It seems like a disingenuous way to up your follower account. People can certainly pay to promote tweets, which is most certainly disingenuous, although I would understand if it was for a political campaign or for someone selling products or services.
What baffles me, is the way some people use the platform, in what seems like a manner that doesn’t align with the values they profess. People will like tweets from people they don’t support, and I don’t understand that. They will retweet a post from someone hateful, which they are mostly doing to say, “Hey look. This awful person said this awful thing.” but they don’t add any context or refute the original tweet in any way. What purpose does that serve, other than to spread the hate or misinformation? It elevates it with your account.
I consider myself a newb on the platform because I don’t use any analytical tools, or promote my tweets, and I don’t have that pretty blue check mark. I tweet and follow people/accounts I like hearing from. I refuse to follow people who I don’t support or like. I will never follow Trump. I blocked him a while ago, because I think Twitter has a bad exception to their policy, by saying they will suspend and ban accounts that spread hate, but they won’t apply that standard to a world leader. Does that mean if Hitler or Stalin were alive today, they would let them spread their hate, free from consequence?
It seems to me that we, the users of the platform, have the power and responsibility to use this tool in a way that will ensure it is one that promotes the good and bans the bad, whether the company’s admins are consistent or not. These are my self-imposed guidelines for being a good tweeter:
- Don’t tag someone in a reply or retweet, if they weren’t tagged in the original tweet. If you want to tag that person, write your own tweet. If they were sharing an article, bring up the article, grab the link and make your own tweet. The exception to tagging someone not tagged in an original tweet, is if the account is not a person, like a media outlet such as The Washington Post.
- Don’t follow people you don’t support. You up their follower account, and legitimize them. The exception is for journalists who have to follow people to report on them. I feel for them. This also applies to elected officials, who may need to follow other representatives they don’t disagree with. If it’s for your job, that makes sense. Otherwise, I don’t get doing that, as it elevates that person.
- Don’t like tweets that you actually do not like. It offers no context and gives the illusion that what was said is popular.
- If retweeting something bad, the retweet should contain context, correction of any lies/inaccuracies, or refuting what was said. Only retweet tweets without saying anything, if what was said stands as is. If someone said something and said it well, don’t feel the need to say more on top of it. Retweet it and elevate that voice.
- In line with 3 and 4, think of retweeting and likes as endorsements and recommendations. If you don’t agree with the original tweet, say so, or don’t like/retweet it.
- Make sure to tweet your own tweets, so that your entire timeline isn’t just retweets and likes. It’s important to make sure your twitter timeline has your own voice, as much as a feed that shares and elevates the voices of those you admire and agree with.
- Be respectful. This should be number 1, but I didn’t really go in order. It can be hard, when firing off your passionate response to something, but keep in mind that there is a human being (generally) on the other end. I am not always good at this, but I always try. Don’t put something online, that you wouldn’t really say to someone’s face. If your argument is that you would be rude to someone’s face, I wouldn’t brag about that.
- Give credit where credit is due. I’ve seen that there are accounts out there, who steal tweets from other people. Not cool. When you find out someone you follow is stealing someone else’s words, un-follow them, and follow the original tweeter. It’s not easy being original and coming up with good content. Don’t reward accounts that steal from others.
- Report, report, report. When an account is threatening or harassing someone you follow, report them and block them. It helps Twitter to weed out the bad actors. I would say that 99% of the tweets I report come back as an account that Twitter found violated their policies. The trick is identifying what the account is doing wrong, so that you pick the right reporting option. Is it just offensive? We can’t really expect Twitter to respond to every person being offended. Are they harassing someone? Are they threatening someone? I consider that the most important to report. Are they spreading hate toward a group of people? Get that content off the site, by reporting it. Then block them, so they won’t end up in your world again.
- Verify if you aren’t sure. If someone tweets something, but they don’t have a source, take a minute to look it up. If you have to, bookmark the tweet, so you can go verify it later, before sharing it. I know, how annoying. We want everything to be easy and convenient, but if we want quality, we may have to sacrifice some of the quantity. Take the time to do some searching and find a source that either proves or disproves what is being said. If it will help, include the source you find, in your retweet or reply. Make it your standard that you demand receipts be part of the conversation.
These aren’t exactly visionary guidelines, but I think if everyone followed them, we could make the platform better than it is. Those spreading hate and being hateful, would have less visibility, and those creating good content, would be seen.
If everyone follows good guidelines we can, as a mass user base, affect how the platform works and is used. It takes some self control and discipline, but it gets easier and easier, once you employ the standards that will make it a better place to be.
That’s at least what this newb thinks.