Social media–and Twitter in particular–is an amazing innovation. We can talk to people around the world! All the time! For practically free (thanks, unlimited texting!)! Twitter is like the telegram taken to the nth degree; maybe all we need now is to have it download directly to our brains for truly instantaneous communication.
But–that’s not how most people are using Twitter. And let’s be honest, a lot of those people are writers, because they’re my peeps.
This isn’t the kind of inane “I’m eating breakfast!” tweeting that used to be the top complaint about Twitter users. No, thanks to the rising wave of “using Twitter for business,” now writers feel required to have a Twitter presence (to “build a platform”) and to use Twitter to try to sell books. And much of the advice on those subjects starts with “tweet; tweet a lot.” So what you get is a lot of empty-headed jibber jabber.
- Every danged day, I see someone (sometimes even the same someone as yesterday!) trotting out Hemingway’s bleeding into a keyboard quote. We get it. Hemingway was melodramatic. Move on already.
- Then there are the people who use programs to report how many new followers they’ve gained and how many lost–which I think is supposed to be some way of competitively “keeping score,” but always seems antisocial and weird when you read them.
- There are the people who promote the same joke every day, or every week, because someone told them that it’s best if you can be funny on Twitter, because people like that. And people DO like that. But people really like original humor. As soon as I see someone repeating a joke verbatim they used last week, I unfollow them–I know they are trying to trick me into following a nothing account.
- And perhaps those with the best intentions are those who are trying to sell a book. That’s great. Try to sell your book. I hope I can, one day. But don’t do it by constantly haranguing people on Twitter. I’m not on Twitter to buy your book, so why are you on Twitter to sell your book, and nothing else?
I’m by no means a power Twitter user (and the above complaints are big reasons why), but I really do want to be able to connect with people who have similar interests. That means I don’t want artifice. I don’t want bullsh*t, basically. I certainly tweet things that are inane–I saw someone running barefoot in the heat, and I felt that was tweetable–but that’s part of what life is. I’d prefer the “I’m eating breakfast and it’s great!” tweets to the crap I listed above, but it feels like 85% of my twitter feed is just churned out words, with no purpose and no meaning and no real person behind them.
I have a personal rule for my Twitter account: I don’t post anything that I don’t mean. If I can’t care enough about it to believe in my own statements, why should I expect a reader to? I go for authenticity in my social media, and if that makes me a bad Twitter user/platform-builder, well, so be it.
What kind of behavior on Twitter frustrates you the most?***
*Neil Gaiman once retweeted my tweet and it was possibly my best day ever. Until Margaret Atwood did the same thing a little while later. Then I had two best days ever–at least, social media-wise.
***I’ve read about the harassment/threatening/abuse button scandal currently gripping Twitter. It’s dreadful. So I’ll go ahead and assume everyone finds that kind of behavior frustrating. I’m talking about the less-mean-spirited stuff.