how i use twitter

My twitter bio has read this for a long time:

writes a lot. Hip-hop historian. Celebratory gunfire advocate. Recommendation engine. #noteam but a few franchises. I speak for myself here, not NBCUniversal.

All of that is true - well, the celebratory gunfire part was mostly an inside joke - but I've been thinking I could do better for some time. Here's how I use Twitter, broken down into general rules, followed by exceptions.

Experimentally, though I know it's not an experiment

I tweet in my conversational voice. I use 'Ay' a lot.  I use twenty-five-cent words a lot. I use 'hella' pretty much constantly.  I also make my own fun - using hashtags that no one else is ever going to use, continuing joke forms for years on end:

Playing with language is one of my favorite things to do. Twitter's a really great space for me to do that. I smush together portmanteaus and imagine alternate universes and write stage instructions.

I don't hop on popular hashtags very often; most of the ones I appreciate and learn from, like the incredible #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, make me just want to shut up and read. The people using Twitter to the greatest positive effect and with the most daring innovation are invariably the folks traditionally denied publishing platforms - women of color are better at Twitter than I will ever be. This could be a whole other post, but a strong majority of hashtags I end up following are started by women of color, and I might learn more from those than my timeline.

I only quote-tweet or manually retweet if I have something to add, but my addition might be a simple reaction, like so:

I favorite a lot of stuff and I've ramped it up in the past year. My favorites are tweets I agree with or approve of roughly 70% of the time. The remainder are likely things I passionately disagree with and want to think about or respond to.

Retweets are just passing a message along. I might click retweet because I endorse every word, or I might be retweeting because I'm fascinated by an egregiously bad forum post that @FreeRepublicTXT found. If you're unsure, you can always reply and ask me.

I follow folks easily; one good tweet and a quick perusal of a timeline is enough. I unfollow just as easily; if I find myself wanting to reply to argue, but not confident it would be a good use of my time, I'll probably unfollow.

There won't be any hard-and-fast rules in the rest of this post after this one: I don't tweet anything I couldn't look my mama in the eye and explain. Twitter is a field full of content for the harvesters that populate much of our online media, and I keep that in mind with every tweet. If I get on a front page, I'll have an explanation. To me, the tweet button really means 'publish'.

My mama isn't my boss, however, and my future twitter bios will all contain a similar disclaimer as the one quoted at the beginning of this post - 'I speak for myself here, not my company' - but I know people get fired over social media all. the. time. If I get fired or disciplined for a tweet, I'll either agree that I deserved it, or I'll disagree and therefore find the social media policy so unreasonable I'll be glad to be out of the company. [Love you, NBC Universal. I don't anticipate this happening.]

Frequently, except when I don't

I tweet a ton during the week. I work in news, after all, and a lot of what I tweet is sharing and connecting dots. Mehdoh says I currently average 13.3 tweets a day. That's got to be 80% weekdays.

I lurk on Mondays. I don't tweet much during the weekends. And sometimes I'll take a break before and after vacations - both to be a little bit more present in the vacation, since Twitter is part of my everyday life, and advertise a little less that I'm out of town. I refuse to put location on.

Occasionally, I'll live-tweet a sports game if I'm alone. I don't find this to make the experience of watching a game better, per se - I'm not as engaged in the action because I'm looking at my phone - but there's a reason Twitter absolutely ignites during live sports. It's fascinating to read a bunch of strangers' and friends' immediate reaction to the drama/comedy/agony/ecstasy that unfolded seconds ago.

Sincerely, except when I'm getting these jokes off

Nobody likes a fact-checker, but I can't help myself. I hate misinformation, and I'll call people on it, especially if I like their work. This habit sometimes embarrasses me: I once thought coworker/genius Irin Carmon had misspelled Germaine Greer's name. Uh, no. Usually, I have a pretty good barometer as to what's a joke, what's a hoax, and what's someone trying to put one over on me and mines.

If you suspect I'm joking, I almost certainly am. If I'm tweeting sincerely like usual, you'll probably see me citing my sources and showing my work. This is a joke:

[Portland, Oregon has voted against flouridating their water four times since 1956. A lot of my jokes require some context.]

My Twitter is not a safe space, but it's a respectful one, unless you're Lane Kiffin

I don't use trigger warnings with any regularity, I cuss, and I discuss and share sad and serious things sometimes. Following me won't always brighten your day. If you take issue with the content, telling me likely won't change a thing. I tweet about what I'm interested in: sports, music, Seattle, language, trivial bits of news stories. If you take issue with the style/diction/approach, @ me and I'll probably hash it out with you.

Some things I do to try to be as respectful as possible in my usage of Twitter:

  • I try not to dehumanize anybody.
  • If I quote-tweet/manually retweet someone and I can't quote them verbatim due to the character limit, I'll use brackets and ellipses to indicate what I cut. Nobody appreciates being misquoted or taken out of context, and that's why I've been quote-tweeting that way for years.
  • I don't @-mention people if I wouldn't have a conversation with them. I'll use their name instead. Sometimes I'll use the full name of folks I follow and love, too - they don't always need to be notified that I'm sharing their stuff.

I'm a very gentle person at this point in life, and probably moreso online. I have read so much typed cruelty that I can't be baited into flaming somebody personally. Also, my block button's fully functional. If you call me a name, I likely won't be in the mood for a continued dialogue.

Of course, there are exceptions to that gentleness.

I'd say that to Lane Kiffin's face though. I promise.

Authentically, which is why I like Twitter so much

I like my voice on Twitter. It's really close to my real voice. It's no substitute for my journal, but the aspect of Twitter I appreciate the most is when it spills over into real life. I've met a handful of folks who've followed me first, and I've heard a variation of this a few times: "You talk like you tweet."

Yeah. @ietyler is me.