The good, the bad and the Twitter

I have long had an ambivalent relationship with Twitter – I can write that because I joined it on day 1 of its existence, but did not use my account for a year or two because I did not see the point. Two things happened: Twitter began to attract more people/accounts of interest to me; and applications such as Thwirl and Tweetdeck were developed that made it nice to use instead of constantly crashing and being clunky. But using Twitter regularly bought up another problem that I am always experiencing on the Internet – dual work/non-work personae. I don’t feel the need to keep the two identities secret from each other, but I do want them to be separate and the Internet is making this harder and harder with every device you use seeming to be obsessed with hooking you up with all your “friends” by default, whether they are an actual friend or someone from whom you once bought a second-hand book via Amazon six years ago (or worse, your online bank). Hence this need for separation was not a point that seemed an uncontrollable issue* in the early days of Twitter, as this social media glue mania was not as fully realised as today. So I deleted my account.

Some time later, owing to a request from my employer, I invented two new accounts. In one I tweet in one of my work roles; in the other I tweet as myself (@Petrona_) – which is the account you can follow and read as a mini-blog on the right here. (I wasn’t asked to tweet as myself by my employer! But I took advantage of setting up the work account to also set up a ‘home’ one.)

All this preamble is getting around to me saying that I’ve been on Twitter for as long as it is possible to have been on it, albeit intermittently, and I have some ideas about what makes someone an interesting person or organisation I think worth following, and what does not. (The learning process never ends. I have recently “unfollowed” two accounts and my Twitter experience is immeasurably more relaxed and less irritating as a result). And this is why I decided to write this post (rant?) about my own Twitter likes and dislikes. I find that the only way Twitter is bearable or even pleasant is to be ruthless about filtering! So here is what I like/dislike, and hence who I follow/unfollow.

– I like a neat, personalised summary tweet (with a link to a full article if tweeting about an article) – not a link with no information about what it is or why it is of interest.
– I like tweets about something your readers might be interested in – not a stream of consciousness of each minute of your day. I don’t want to read about your every cup of tea, etc, however much I may like you otherwise.
– I don’t like very frequent tweeting (I prefer reading someone’s ten tweets a day to reading a hundred).
– Promoting yourself is fine if done in moderation, especially if you are funny about it; constant self promotion is boring.
– Promoting your product is fine – if done in moderation and not exclusively, and your affiliation openly stated.
– I like humour and jokes, but not frequent swearing and use of obscenities.
– Tweeting the same post two or three times to catch different time zones is fine, constant repeats are not.
– If you join in “me too” waves of Twitter-hate against a person/organisation, or other momentary hysteria, I’m unfollowing you however justified your cause.
– If you are tweeting on behalf of an employer or organisation, I like it if you inject a bit of personality and don’t come over as too “party line”.
– Tweeting about events you’ve attended in a way that excludes followers reads like boasting, I prefer either not to know or to know something that shares the experience.
– If you want to moan about your hard life, fine, but not too often and vary your complaints with other material – it’s tough for everyone!
– I don’t like “follow Fridays” and other clogging-up activities (eg 20 simultaneous tweets about the page you are on on 20 different books, via GoodReads wonky RSS export!). I have never yet clicked on a link in someone’s FF list and I don’t know why I’d want to read a tweet about what page of a book someone is on.
– On the other hand I’m happy for you to tweet your blog posts, so long as that’s not all you do on Twitter (because if so I won’t follow you on Twitter but will use my RSS reader where they are all saved up for when I want to read them).
– I quite like it when someone decides to do a live-tweet of an event and warns followers in advance so that one can temporarily unfollow until the hashtag-fest is over!

Twittering is like a conversation as many have said – it is a two-way street. So the twitterers I like best are those who behave like human beings – who vary their links to their blogs or books they are publishing (say) with other material, and who interact rather than broadcast. Take all the above with a pinch of salt, though, it’s just my view and I’m probably not a typical Twitter user. Each to his/her own.

Lots of people write books, Storifys and all kinds of things about Twitter of course and this post is but a minidrop in the ocean. However, it is worth drawing attention to Nicola Morgan’s blog and associated upcoming e-book Tweet Right – aimed at authors but I am sure will apply to anyone.

[* Which is it is now. I’ve recently been given a smartphone but it is too smart. I haven’t been able to work out how to use it as a phone, but it automatically has merged everyone I’ve ever interacted with on email and every social media site out there and gives me all their updates, “likes”, etc… aargh! – and I am definitely not “smart” enough to find the delete option – yet.]