I twit. When Twitter first came on the scene, I was certain I wouldn’t. I was wrong. Before going any further, I call what I do on Twitter a “twit.” I’ve called it that since the beginning, because the place is called twitter. This makes some people furious, because, they tell me, it’s a “tweet.” Is it called “Tweeter”? You can call it whatever you like. I will call it what I like. Get over it.
Over the years since I first wrongly decided Twitter was worthless, I’ve written about it numerous times, as it plays a role in digital life whether I like it or not. It is a poor medium for many purposes: arguments on Twitter are terrible and a waste of time, as it’s impossible to engage in any depth of thought within the constraint of 140 characters.
Serial twitterers are annoying. Any jerk can @me and expect me to twit with them, as if I’m obliged to engage with anyone with a computer keyboard. Oh, and stay tied to my computer for as long as they do, because it’s impolite to get up and go to dinner when they’re still twitting away at you. Sorry, but your twits don’t dictate my life.
Yet, another issue struck me the other day for which no Twitter etiquette exists, and it’s a problem. When you’re engaged in a, say, discussion (or you can substitute debate, argument, dispute, whatever) on twitter and after going at it for a while, someone sticks their nose in out of the blue. Sometimes you know them. Sometimes you don’t, but they weren’t part of the discussion nor invited to join in. And then, Boom!, there they are.
There are a variety of flavors that come next. There is the twitter who doesn’t realize what’s being discussed, and so tosses in a blitheringly idiotic off topic twit to the mix. If I don’t know who they are, my tendency is to ignore them. But if I do, what then? Do I tell them that they have no clue what the discussion is about and their twit has nothing to do with it?
The problem then is that they tend to demand an explanation, both undermining the discussion into which they inserted themselves uninvited and made stupider by their presence, and for which there is no solution because Twitter isn’t a medium where you can easily revisit the last twenty twits for the benefit of any jerk who interjects.
Then there are the comedians. There are some people who are remarkably witty on Twitter, and it’s spectacular when someone twits something truly funny. Most people are not funny on Twitter, and when you’re engaged in a serious Twitter discussion, no one ever appreciates someone not involved deciding to interject their inane attempt at humor into the middle. This is especially true for people who think puns are universally appreciated. They’re not.
And what of the people who decide to hijack the discussion, not merely interjecting but doing so with 50 twits in a row, monopolizing as well as hijacking the discussion? While it isn’t necessarily the case, these twitterers tend to turn the discussion to them, all about them, all about their thoughts, feelings, experiences. Except no one cares. They weren’t part of it to begin with, and they don’t become the center of attention because they have an internet connection.
But it’s Twitter, they say. It’s social media. They’re entitled to twit at anybody they want, at any time they want, as much as they want, about anything they want. Well sure, this is America and you’re allowed to be as big an asshole as you want. It’s the American way. But would you walk up to a group of people at a cocktail party, hear a snippet of conversation, and then spend the next hour talking non-stop about yourself on whatever tangential aspect of the snippet you find personally fascinating?
Is there a name for this conduct? Is there a thing to twit to tell someone on Twitter to mind their own business, stay out of it, not screw up the discussion because they are the center of the Twitterverse and everyone will surely be fascinated by their interjection? There should be, but to my knowledge, there isn’t.
At a cocktail party, the crowd that’s been invaded can give the interloper the eye, the non-verbal cue to the insensitive jerk to shut up. If that doesn’t work, they can walk away. The only way to escape the cad on Twitter is to let the discussion die and walk away from the computer. It’s certainly doable, but it has the unfortunate consequence of killing the discussion you sought to have because of the jerk who doesn’t realize they aren’t part of it and they just killed it.
And don’t even get me started on the person a day later who stumbles on the discussion, after it’s run its course, who wants to reignite it because, hey, I wasn’t there at the time, but I’m here now so let’s do it all over again!!!
Twitter still sucks, but it’s still a part of digital life. Just because you have the ability to be a jerk on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to.