Underneath my yellow skin

Let’s Talk Social Media Etiquette; Just Call Me Miss Manners

gotta have the last word.

Social media is not going anywhere, and since it’s become a mainstay in the way we converse, I decided to address a few issues I have with it. First of all, Facebook, stop switching my feed from Most Recent to Top Stories. Also, do not wish me a good morning, afternoon, or evening–it’s none of your business how I’m doing. Third, ‘suggested posts’ are ads, no matter what you call them. Stop it. Twitter, don’t sit there in the corner smirking; I have my issues with you as well. One, while I appreciate you taking out the @s as part of the 140 character count, making it more difficult to take people out of the conversation is not welcomed. Two, where you at on that banning trolls thing? Bueller, Bueller, anyone, anyone? Three, please show me the tweets of everyone I follow, not just who you decide I should see by some weird algorithm you’ve concocted. Actually, that last one is also aimed at Facebook as well. Oh, and while we’re at it, FB? The background color thing is silly as hell, and you can get rid of it at any time.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on to the real reason for this post. First of all, full disclosure. I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’m probably considered a heavy user, and I get most of my news from Twitter (followed by Google research in order to confirm), and I have several Twitter/FB friends with whom I would not interact in any other fashion. Side note: I don’t consider social media friends to be the same as IRL friends, unless you take the friendship off social media. It’s too easy to present a persona in small doses on social media, and, yes, we all have personae in real life as well, but a mask is much harder to sustain on a regular basis. It’s not to say that social media friendships aren’t important or valuable; they are. Friendships come in all different flavors, and this is just the newest kind.

With that said, I have been slowly pulling away from social media in fits and starts. I used to spend most of my time on FB, then I switched to Twitter when FB seemed too slow. Twitter was up to the minute and always happening. The downside to that is that everything on Twitter is ephemeral, and a new poutrage of the day seems to arise on an hourly basis. We’ve all been there. We see a tweet being RT’ed and all the outrage surrounding it (or praise, but it’s usually outrage), and we eagerly jump in to pile on the original OP. I would like to say that’s not my style. Even if I don’t agree with a tweet, I rarely out-and-out shit on someone for what they say. Sometimes, an outraged response is called for, but I think it should be a last result. It’s like when W. had the color terror alert thing and it was always on orange. We all just chuckled and laughed when we say that the terror alert was orange because it lost any meaning when it didn’t ever change. I feel the same about the constant outrage on Twitter; my tendency is to tune it out. I don’t want to be mainlining anger as it’s exhausting, and some people just want to be aggrieved all the time.

Back to RT’ing. I’ve also been guilty in reading a tweet and deciding I’m completely for or against it and RT’ing with a snappy comment. The problem is, one tweet rarely encapsulates what that person is actually saying. I am the queen of threaded tweets, but I struggle with how I can make it clear it’s a thread. Many people know that you can respond to your own tweet and make a thread that way. That’s how I do it now, and I find it neat and economical. When I first started doing threads, I’d use [1/3] (for example), but the problem was I never really knew how many tweets it would take. Then I did [1/?], but that never felt right. I moved to [1], which is fine, but it takes up three precious characters. Just responding to my own tweet is my favorite way of doing it, but too many people don’t bother reading the whole thread and only respond to one tweet. I had an example of this happening recently. In hearing that this president had hired someone to be the manager of the draft, I tweeted:

Now, I knew perfectly well it wouldn’t matter, but I was trying to make a point. It would take me several tweets to get to that point, and in the meantime, a beloved persona on liberal Twitter who has 81K followers and follows me for some unfathomable reason, responded to my tweet while quoting it. He had a valid point, and I responded, but, of course, that sent many randos into my mentions who didn’t know me or bother to read the rest of my tweets. The ones who were polite and pointed out that rich people evaded the war despite the rules, I responded to equally politely by saying I mentioned that in further tweets. In fact, a few tweets later, I said this:

Again, I was trying to make a point, however poorly, and you had to read the whole thread to understand what I was trying to say. I received several sarcastic tweets in response to my first tweet in the veins of, “Hey, stupid, that’s been the case in the past and it doesn’t matter.” I didn’t respond to any of them, but it stuck in my craw because it was clear that they only read the one retweeted tweet, which wasn’t the point of the thread. Here’s the thing. They didn’t know me, and they didn’t know my style of tweeting or what I really believed. They only knew I was being quote-tweeted by this famous liberal political guy, and they were quick to jump on me. I could have easily responded in kind by saying, “I know. Read the rest of my damn tweets before you think you’re saying something I didn’t know”, but I simply ignored them because they weren’t worth my time.

Now, I am a tiny fish in a big Twitter ocean. I don’t even have three thousand followers, which is nothing, so I don’t have to deal with this kind of response very often, and it was exceedingly mild. Still, I got irritated, so I can understand why someone with a million followers might get defensive at getting yelled at for what is considered by the Twitter collective a bad tweet. I am not a confrontational person at all, and it was my impulse to tell these pompous randos to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

That’s the problem with social media. It’s far too easy to become part of the hive mind and to assume you know everything you need to know about a person from one tweet or post on FB. Now, if the person is a politician and you follow politics closely, you might know most of what you need to know, but if it’s not a well-known person, then maybe you’re misinterpreting the tweet or there are layers that you haven’t seen. I’ve done it myself where I’ve jumped on a tweet, only to realize later that I didn’t have the full story. I’ve been fooled by a fake news story being circulated on Twitter a few times, and now I have the policy to verify before retweeting. Twitter rewards impulsivity, hitting you with a dopamine high every time you fire off that angry tweet. That high wears off quickly, though, which is why you have to do it again and again with increasing frequency and heat. It’s like being addicted, and I wouldn’t be surprised if social media addiction became an actual diagnosis in the near future.

Here’s the thing. You’re not adding anything of value if you jump into someone’s timeline whom you don’t know and show your ignorant ass. Social media is weird in which it feels like open public space, but many of the conversations are more like what happens in the living room between friends. When do you step in? When don’t you? I don’t have a solid answer because everything is more porous online.  If I see two people I know on social media chatting, I might join in if I have something to contribute. If it’s people I don’t know (through RTs), I’m more likely to be reticent. I liken it to overhearing a conversation at, say, the grocery store between two people I don’t know. Would I interject? No. I know other people don’t necessarily view it in the same way, but that’s my feelings on the matter.

In addition, look at it from the OP’s point of view. If they don’t know you, they probably don’t care as much what you think as you do. Again, imagine if you were saying something to a friend, and someone you didn’t know jumped into your conversation. You probably wouldn’t appreciate the interruption, and it’s not much different online. It’s funny because most of us probably wouldn’t intrude in a conversation in real life that we weren’t a part of, but so many of us do it so easily online. Again, it’s partly because things are more translucent online, the wall between me and them isn’t as clearly delineated, but it’s also because it’s easy to say anything you want online without being held accountable.

Here’s the thing. My story is a very minor example of what happens on Twitter every minute of every day. Someone gets RT’ed, and other people decide to jump in, and the person who made the original tweet either gets defensive or simply checks out. There is no conversation to be had, which is how social media tends to skew, anyway. Bottom line, think before you respond to someone you don’t know. You don’t have to add your two cents to every conversation you see on Twitter or Facebook, and if you do decide to comment, make sure you know what you’re actually commenting on. I know most people will ignore what I’m saying here because THERE’S SOMEONE WRONG ON THE INTERNET, but I’m hoping, gentle reader, that maybe I can make at least one person’s social media experience a better one.




*Someone wildly unsuited for the job, not surprisingly.

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