Used to be, if you had a question about etiquette, you turned to Emily Post. But who do you turn to for expertise on Twitter etiquette?

I have some Twitter etiquette questions that I need answered. For starters:

How do you tell Twitter friends that their tweets are irksome, vexatious, nettlesome, and sometimes just plain irritating?

Maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe it’s “should” I tell these Twitter friends about how I feel in the first place? After all, they may have other Twitter friends who want to know that they’re currently spreading butter on their toast.

I know what you’re thinking: Just unfollow this person.

But it isn’t that just as offensive as telling them that their tweets are annoying? After all, for those of us who use Twitter to have conversations (as opposed to those Twits who seem to just want run up the total number of people that they follow, or worse — be followed by), the mutual act of following each other creates a kind of bond between two Twits.

In one regard, Twitter is a form of “permission” communication. By following you, I am permitting you to interrupt what I’m doing with your Tweets. And it’s the same when you follow me. Before I tweet, the unwritten/unspoken criteria for determining if a thought is tweet-worthy is “will this add to, or start, a conversation?”

I recognize that not everybody is going to use that criteria, and that I may have to compromise. But really, what’s going through someone’s head that makes them tweet every damn thing they do during the day? Are they that self-centered to think that somebody cares? Or just clueless?

And where is Emily Post when we need her?

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17 thoughts on “Twittiquette

  1. rshevlin, I think your first thought was the correct response. Unfollow them. Do you get offended if you don’t see someone for a while? Do you get offended by others if you haven’t seen them in a while? Do you take it as a slight, that they are no longer around as much as they were?

    The social aspect of this medium is similar to a person knowing a lot of people, but can’t always be on the same page or desire to be around everyone of them.

  2. It is this issue that lead me to suggest that Twitter change the prompt from “What are you doing” to “What are you thinking”

    Would that change the twitter stream that much? It might.

  3. I’ve unfollowed some people who just Twitter too much and make it difficult for me to follow the people I care about what they’re doing.

    So, go ahead un-follow me Ron, I know you’re talking about me…

  4. I think that unfollowing is the right approach. The great thing about Twitter is also the most annoying thing–it’s nearly unfiltered access to some peoples’ lives.

    That goes away if there emerges some twittiquette wherein it’s understood that you should only tweet a few times a day (or hour, or whatever).

    However, it should also be understood that no offense is necessarily implied when you unfollow someone. You’re just adjusting your timeline so that it suits you.

  5. Ron, if you don’t want to cut the Twitter relationship with someone completely, send a private message with suggestions for improving the Twitter experience. The person may change his/her ways with a little gentle guidance or get ticked and unfollow you. Either way you win.

    BTW: I had two donuts and a cup of gas-station coffee for breakfast.

  6. Just for clarification: twitter does not send out a message when you unfollow someone. It’s not like the un-followee will get an email saying “Egads, that cad Ron Shevlin just un-followed you!” Therefore people with north of 50 or 75 followers will most likely not notice if you stop following them.

    Also, twit-intimacy is not an appropriate level of relationship for everyone. I really like Guy Kawasaki, but I don’t love him so much that I want twit-level contact with what he’s doing. He blogs nearly once per day; even that can be too much for me.

    Point three: With nearly all twitter-helper-apps, such as Twitterrific, you can change the frequency of your twit-updates. I like once per hour during normal business hours, and once every five minutes on nights and weekends. When you are getting your twit-updates only once per hour, then the frequent twitterers are somewhat less annoying, though it still does make it more time consuming to wade through the tweets. If I find myself ignoring most of what a person tweets, that’s my clue that an un-follow is warranted, no matter how much I may like the person personally or professionally.

    In summary: No matter what, you need to develop the ability to quickly scan, and mostly ignore, the twitterverse. But don’t be afraid to un-follow if you are not feeling good about a person’s tweets. With all of twitter’s technical glitches lately, you can always blame it on a twitter hiccup if that person discovers that you’ve unfollowed him/her.

  7. Ron, For the most part, I focus on the conversations that interest me – when the Tweets begin to focus on the latest Lakers’ score or which Grateful Dead album was their greatest, my virtual eyes glaze over. I zone out in the same way when the Tweets focus on daily tidbits. There are times, though, when I find these details interesting. They bring an intimacy which is endearing. I wonder if a commonly agreed upon Twitter etiquette is possible? I’m not sure I’d like to be the one to set the ground rules – the anarchy of Twitter has its charm.

  8. Welcome to the intersection of “social media” and “corporate workplace.” Some show up to screw off. Some show up to do business. Most justify it as both: “a work-related diversion.”

    If you can find an extra hour in your day, Twitter is great. I can’t. I don’t have enough time to keep up with my own family and friends, much less the comings-and-goings of professional peers and acquaintances.

    Surely there is some dialogue and information of value. But is it worth wading through the mounds of irrelevant Twitter silliness (that Ron is complaining about) to make it an integral part of my daily life?

    @john has sick kids
    @jane had taco bell for lunch
    @jim is stuck in the airport
    @amy loves coldplay’s first album
    @sally can’t believe archuletta didn’t win American Idol

    Not for me.

    I’m sorry to all the die-hard Twitterati fans, but if I have to choose between Twitter and a half-hour extra with my dogs, I’ll take the dogs.

  9. I think communication is key. If my tweets are annoying or nettlesome, I know I’d want to know.

    After all, the rules of twetiquette are still being written.

  10. I have a friend whose tweets largely consist of telling me what she eats, where and when, and they are more enjoyable to read than most of the tweets by the cognoscenti. Ppl tweet about whatever you want, don’t filter. Let those who enjoy them follow, and those who don’t, not. EOS. No one needs to get offended.

  11. Just to be clear, you DON’T want to know about each time someone tells me hello when I walk by their desk…

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