Something happens on Twitter after you’ve gathered enough followers to become at least a “semi-public figure” and I don’t think it’s healthy. Expanding outside your immediate social circle of IRL friends and into URL friends tends to include what I’d call “tribe followers” — an increase in the number of people who are expecting a certain type and tone of content in-line with whatever the tweet was that caused them to follow you. “Hate followers” usually come next, which are basically the same but opposite: accounts waiting for you to say something they can fight about, even if they have to misrepresent the meaning or context of your words. This interplay, plus the basic physics of the system (RTs, RTs w comments, Likes increase tweet reach), tend to implicitly and explicitly shape *what* you tweet and how emphatically you say it. And the followers are waiting to high-five or poke you in the eyes, depending on why they’re there. And the cycle repeats.
So after a lifetime on the social web, and 14 years on Twitter, I have one piece of advice: Never Become The Person Your Twitter Followers Want You To Be. Don’t be egged on by the adrenaline rush of online fights or the euphoria of being applauded. Don’t measure your success by the popularity of what you say or the attention it receives. If you do, you’ll slowly be pulled to the extremes of any position.
Now please note, I’m not saying bite your tongue or temper your beliefs. I’m not saying don’t be expressive or contrarian. I’m not saying abstain from discussion, even defending your position in the face of resistance or accusations. I’m just saying check yourself that you are expressing what *you* care about and not just cooking up meals for an audience. You don’t need to drag yourself into the mud with bad faith repliers. And you don’t need to put more hate or anger into the world over stupid shit.
I’m writing this not because I’m above it but because I used to fall victim to it! How’d I find my way out of this Twitter trap? A few suggestions:
- Auto-Delete Your Tweets: I use TweetDelete on a rolling 30-day delete option (ie my tweets get deleted 30 days after they were originally sent). When I first turned this on folks thought it was because I didn’t want my history public forever. That’s actually not it — I stand behind everything I said when I said it. My tweets autodelete because it protects me from getting too enamored with whether or not something went viral because I know regardless it’s gonna disappear. The ephemeral nature is freeing in that it limits the performative nature of tweeting.
- Turn On Notifications Quality Filter: A few years back Twitter gave us more control over our Notifications stream. You can turn on a blackbox quality filter, which hides replies from your notifications stream that the algorithm deems low quality. This removes many of the “ha ha cuck” replies.
- Be Careful About QTs: Ah, the QuoteTweet. So many unnecessary QTs when a reply would have sufficed. The sender always feels like they’re punching up at some horrible take, or calling their followers to see what kind of bs is taking place in the world, but it also injects the dumbass content into everyone’s feed and often turns into tribe vs tribe. These escalations then force each person into a more extreme version of their argument and before you know it, it’s a bunch of time and emotion wasted. Try QT’ing only for positive amplification and see how it feels.
Any other tips on being an active, engaged and productive user of Twitter?
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