Thursday, April 09, 2015

how to tell if you're a Twitter idiot: a message to new followers

Why do you follow someone on Twitter? Specifically, why in the world would you follow me on Twitter? Read through this handy guide to not being a Twitter idiot.

Rule #1: Don't be fickle. If you follow, then commit. Don't unfollow later. If you're fickle, you're also a fuckle. That's Scottish for fuckhole.*

Rule #2: Exercise due diligence before following. If you want to know whether someone is worth your time, do some research: read a couple hundred of that person's tweets. It takes only five minutes to read through that many tweets, and it's a good investment of your time. Does he have your political leanings? Does he match your sense of humor? Does he think the way you do? Does he provoke strong mental and emotional reactions because he thinks opposite the way you do? If yes, then go ahead and follow. If not, don't follow and then unfollow later. That's a stupid waste of time—your time and his.

Rule #3: Don't be random. Live your life as if rationality actually guides your decisions: you'll be a happier person for it. People who merely—and constantly—follow random impulses are fucking dumb. Have a reason for following someone other than, "Duh... he seems interesting..."—an assessment that you make after reading exactly two of that person's tweets.

Rule #4: Don't be needy. No one respects you when you're needy. Did you follow someone because you're just looking for a followback? Then you're a goddamn moron, and I'm better off without your stupid ass on my list. Fishing for followbacks is lame and a sign of insecurity. Stop it. Show some backbone. Have some pride in yourself.

By the same token, it's equally needy to do a followback out of a sense of polite reciprocity. You are under no obligation to follow anyone back. Remember that. You're not "returning a favor." Follow someone back because you aren't being fickle, because you've done your due diligence, and because you aren't being random or needy.

Twitter Neediness Quotient: [# following] / [# followers]

If the above fraction gives you a number above 1.0, you're a needy bastard, and that has to change right fucking now. You should always have more followers than people you're following. You're a human being, remember—not a hungry puppy trotting after people and hoping to receive some of their scraps. Have some dignity, for Christ's sake.

Rule #5: Block spam followers and barnacles. This rule is a bit different from the ones above it in that it applies to your "followers" list, but it's important to keep yourself honest about how many real people are actually following you. Maybe you think you're popular because your profile photo includes a hot chick showing off her cleavage. But how many of your followers are actual humans and not, say, bots and porn spammers?

Also: how many of your followers actually know you to some extent? How many have a real personal connection to you? How many have bothered to interact with you via an "@" message or a Twitter DM (i.e., direct message)? Some of the people who follow you are mere barnacles: they attach themselves to the hull of your Twitter account and just... hang there, doing nothing. Not reacting, not interacting—nothing. Again, what a goddamn waste of time. Life is short. Block the barnacles.

Rule #6: Don't follow if you say "true" to any of these statements:
•I'm following this person just because I want a followback.
•I'm following this person just because he followed me. As a courtesy, see.
•I have not read a couple hundred of this person's tweets before hitting "Follow."
•I'm unable to say what this person's sense of humor is like.
•I'm unable to say what this person's political views are like.
•I'm unable to say what this person's religious views are like.
•I have no idea whether this person thinks the way I do about any given topic.

If you said "yes" to any of the above, then don't follow. If you follow despite your ignorance, you're being an idiot. Again: life is short. Don't waste your precious time. If you want to follow someone, then be a wise follower. Choose carefully. Choose people whose tweets somehow enliven your day, make you laugh, make you go, "Huh... I never thought of that before." Be worthy by choosing the worthy. There are plenty of morons out there. Don't be one.

One last thought: in no way am I implying that you should follow only those whose views you agree with. Go ahead and follow people you disagree with: their points of view might piss you off, but they're guaranteed to make you think. And what could be better than associating with people who expand your mind?

*Regarding the fickle/fuckle/fuckhole etymology: I just pulled that out of my ass, so please don't take it seriously.

More to the point: I can think of only two legitimate reasons to unfollow after following: (1) the person you're unfollowing unfollowed you first, and you're honestly disappointed in that action; or (2) the person you're unfollowing hasn't tweeted anything worthwhile in months—he's either inactive or he spends all his time either retweeting stupid shit or linking to stupid shit, i.e., not tweeting his own original thoughts.

Hey, everyone's entitled to retweeting and linking now and then—even to the occasional retweeting/linking binge—but when a tweeter does nothing but retweet and link, you can be sure that that person has no original thoughts of his own. As Ben Kenobi once observed, "Who's the more foolish—the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

Don't be the bigger fool.



  1. I would describe myself as more of a Twitter reader or consumer than producer. Your point about neediness:
    "Twitter Neediness Quotient: [# following] / [# followers]

    If the above fraction gives you a number above 1.0, you're a needy bastard, and that has to change right fucking now. You should always have more followers than people you're following."

    - Well, I follow 110 people and have 32 follow me -and at least some must be fishing for reciprocation - that is, that I follow them.

    I don't think I am particularly needy - at least regarding Twitter even though I score a '3+' on your scale.

    I guess I am curious why you use Twitter. You have been open about your financial straits; are you looking for ways to monetize your online production?

  2. I'm basing my judgment of neediness on the (solid and reasonable) assumption that most people, when they follow someone on Twitter, buy into the psychology of reciprocity: if I follow you, you'll follow me out of politeness. Assuming that psychology—which seems to hold for most folks on Twitter—following is a way of trying to gain followers. Since your own experience, and motives, are so different from the norm, I suspect you're more of an outlier.

    So now I'm curious: why join Twitter if you've got little to say? If reading is your thing, you can read full-on blogs to your heart's content. Twitter is microblogging plus social networking: it involves more work, and less content, to join Twitter and read tweets than to read freely among blogs, which generally offer longer blog posts with more content. What's the draw of Twitter? Is it the constant live updating?

  3. Well, "little to say" is not "nothing to say". So far as Twitter is concerned, I'm a dabbler. I myself wonder, "What's the draw of Twitter?"

  4. I was dreadfully disappointed when I scrolled down to read the footnote and discovered that it was not, in fact, a learned discourse on "fuckle."

    Also, "twidiot" is apparently a term people use, although it seems to be used mostly with regard to production rather than consumption.

  5. If Twitter were actually named Fuckle, I might me more inclined. As a reader, I prefer more than 140 characters.

    Sitting down with a cup of coffee or a drink (time of day, you know), opening a blog and finding a nice long juicy post is just such a delicious feeling.

    I savor.

  6. Annie,

    I completely understand people who avoid Twitter. Twitter has little to recommend it, in my opinion. It's a form of social networking combined with microblogging, which is a recipe for superficiality. Profundity goes out the window; everything becomes a one-liner or a punchline. People often argue with each other, but the arguments are reduced to childish name-calling and stone-throwing because the format doesn't allow for lengthy, logical, articulate, well-structured thought and expression. Everyone goes off half-cocked, as I just saw regarding my linkage to this post: some not-so-bright folks took ten seconds to read only a fraction of what I'd written, then passed negative judgment on it, essentially creating a straw man.

    I do appreciate the fact that Twitter's 140-character limit forces one to be more clever within tight constraints, but that's really about the only benefit I see. Twitter's been great for honing my poetry-writing skills.

    Despite that fact, I'm on Twitter because, along with blogging, I often find myself in a one-liner kind of mood, and I also use Twitter to drive traffic toward my blog. So for me, Twitter isn't an end in itself at all: it's merely instrumental, a means to an end. And it's also a lot more stripped-down and less of a time-sink than Facebook, which I quit some years back. As social-networking sites go, Twitter is the least painful to use.

  7. I'm happy to report that, as a Twit, I'm not needy. My following/followers ratio is 0.56. Whoopie.

    I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: Twitter is blogging for people with ADHD. And, as you correctly point out, it also incorporates a social media component.

    As with Farcebook, I see Twitter and other social media as a set of platforms that enable you to broadcast your output to a self-selected audience. It's very different from blogging, in which your audience consisted of the people that were attracted to your content by its quality, either intellectual or stylistic. I liked (and still like) blogging more than Farcebook for that reason.

    Twitter is great for some things. I like it for putting up the little chunks of wit that sometimes appear in my head unexpectedly... random thoughts, et alia. It serves a purpose, but like all technology, it can be abused or misused.

  8. Hey Kevin,

    Your guide seems a bit harsh -- if you can't be a bit spontaneous on twitter then where?

    Anyway, I always read your comments on "Waka", so I decided to check you out on twitter ...

    BTW, I won't be insulted if you don't follow back.

    Y'all be cool,


  9. I must be truly harsh if one of the harshest, no-holds-barred commenters on Malcolm's blog thinks I'm harsh!

    For what it's worth, I don't think my guidelines kill spontaneity; there's still room to be spontaneous. All I was trying to say was "think before you act, and stop zigzagging stupidly through life." Randomness and nonlinearity are inevitable, because such are the vicissitudes of human existence. But it annoys me when people float up to me on Twitter, follow me for no good reason, then float away: why not show some commitment, eh? Why not do your homework before following? (When I say "your," I obviously don't mean you in particular, Henry—just to be clear.)

    So I kind of see my guidelines for Twitter behavior as guidelines for life: live mindfully. Don't bumble about randomly—or at the very least, make an effort to minimize wasteful motion. Life is short and should be lived to the fullest. Living it like a clueless dunderhead is no way to live. Or so I feel.

    End sermon!

  10. Kevin,

    I didn't mean to imply you were truly harsh; I just thought your guide was a bit harsh. I think when one signs on to Twitter one needs to understand that it is not like signing up for something really important, like Facebook :)

    I didn't realize that I come across as a "no-holds-barred" terror on Malcolm's blog. I will have to tone it down a bit; maybe bar a few holds. Try a little tenderness ...

    BTW, you are going to follow me back anyway, aren't you?

    Best, Henry

  11. Henry,

    If I follow you back, it's because you have a brain & something to say, not because of any quid pro quo.

  12. Thanx, Kevin. My brain thanks you, too.

    Best, Henry



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