In a twitch on Twitter

In a twitch on Twitter

Yesterday, Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign and Women Who Tech pointed to the supposed Ten Commandments of Twitter and wondered how many we agreed with. Me? Some, I guess, but it got me thinking first about Twitter etiquette (Twitterquette? sounds like a dessert or a lawn game), and then other old and new netiquette issues.

It’s fascinating to watch unspoken rules evolve in new social systems over time, and then curmudgeonly frustrating when someone tries to write them down. I can see how religions all over the world got themselves into trouble early on. “Wait, when he said ‘honor thy father and mother,’ does that mean I have to go over for dinner every Sunday? Seriously?” I admire the TenCommandments dude for giving it a shot, but… yeah. Telling people how to act is going to irritate some of the people some of the time.

It’s curious to me because I’m a firm believer in using the tools however best you see fit, whatever fits your info-digestion style. Me, I use Twitter mostly to follow people I know in person (I’m training myself to finally stop saying “in real life,” btw, since it’s all real life), and a little bit to get breaking news. It’s been indicated to me in a passive way that I’m not participating in good Twitter karma by following everyone that follows me. There’s even an app that will check your mutual status called Twitter Karma. It’s a bogus “rule” slowly being imposed on a nascent system of social transactions.

It reminds me of 1994, when if you didn’t link back to someone in your little HTML page of family photos, there was bad blood between you after that. People, people, people! Come on. First of all, we’re all adults here. I see people I’m close with, that I’m following, that are not following me back. I know there’s a 99% chance it’s because I tweet too much for their diet, or their community, and I can understand that. (In fact, I’m going to have to clean out some high-volume tweeters this weekend myself.) The point is not for me to thus impose a new rule to counteract the karma rule, but to ask people to live and let live.

We all have different styles of communicating, yes? This is a point we can agree on? In fact, when I’m doing trainings and workshops on using new tools, it’s one of my main points: don’t let anyone else tell you how best to use the tool. Sure, you can take suggestions or follow someone’s lead. I’ve showed people how to use Twitter just to read news feeds, or just to know what their friends are up to, or to stay on top of tech trends.

In the end, social rules are going to evolve no matter what I say (le sigh, my power is not yet infinite and cosmic), and it’s going to be fun to watch these new sets play out. It’s kinda funny that, even after 20 years, you can still make a major social faux pax by not emailing someone back. We come up with all kinds of reasons in our little overactive brains: “she’s pissed at something I said,” “she never got the email,” “he never really loved me.” Maybe they just… forgot.