My Twitter Manifesto

This post has been brewing for a long time. See, I am kinda obsessed with the workings of Twitter. As are many of you, I know. But this is where my psychology minor comes in to play. I love watching the inner workings of Twitter, the comings and goings, seeing how this simple web site has almost become a living, breathing, Borg-esque thing.

Now, before you go worrying that I need an intervention, I am not THAT fascinated.

But I did kind of have an epiphany recently.

Are you ready?

Twitter is what you make it.

Here’s the thing. I was kind of getting frustrated, watching conversations that annoyed me, watching companies get nominated for a Shorty Award after twittering for about, oh, 3 seconds, or better yet… watching people do, well, nothing. And I was talking to people – lots of people, because like I said, you all are just as fascinated as I am – and getting really interesting perspectives left and right.

Someone reminded me of Maggie’s great article from this summer about Twitter Etiquette, and how some people are “responders” and some people are “broadcasters.” That responders interact all over the place, and broadcasters, well, broadcast. Dude. Totally.

And just like most things in my life, I am a mix of responder and broadcaster.

No wonder it kind of bugs me when some people who only tweet once in a millennium have 30,000 followers. It feels like they are not contributing to the community. And no wonder when some people have private conversations in a public space, it also, shall I say, irritates me. As documented here.

But here is where the epiphany came in.

Who the fuck cares?

People tweet as people see fit and I am free to watch or not. That lovely unfollow button is a release valve. And if someone gets irritated that I stopped following them, all the more reason I am glad that I stopped following them. Twitter is a fun place for me, not about business for me, and when it comes right down to it – really NOT ALL THAT IMPORTANT to me. (OK, kinda important, but when you think about the grand scheme of things, compared to the mortgage and world hunger – NOT THAT IMPORTANT.) The point being, I can shape it how I like.

Sure, I have little rules for myself as to how I “do” Twitter, but they are MY rules. And sure, I totally agree with Maggie, that Twitter has overarching etiquette just like any public space – cyber or solid.

But it really comes down to one thing.

Twitter is what you make it.

Personally, generally, I follow people with like interests, who are smart, who are funny, who inform me, and who I genuinely like.

Who do you follow and why?

This article has 32 comments

  1. Schmutzie

    Absolutely. I concur. Follow, don’t follow, tweet about whatever you like. The pieces will fall into place, and you will find your community.

  2. zipper

    great post. I have not stepped into Twitter, but i think this applies for most things online.

  3. Sizzle

    Total agreement with you on this. I’ve found myself annoyed at certain people on Twitter and them am like, WTF? Just ignore it or unfollow them. I’m a mix of both broadcaster and responder, like you. I think though, that in the new year, I might need to be more disconnected from Twitter. It has a way of sucking me in and giving me that sense of community that I should maybe find outside the computer more often.

  4. KTP

    Not much rhyme or reason with me. It’s a mini-adventure to help my boring workdays move along. Helps make me feel connected. If someone tweets TOO much or only about their product/service, I usually remove.

  5. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Joie, very good point about an argument. A REALLY good time to keep it private!

  6. Anonymous

    hmmm. I am having a hard time getting a handle on twitter. I have some of the issues you have, where I don’t understand why some people are popular, and then i can’t decide what to even tweet about or why people find it interesting. Maybe it’s just not for me. sigh.

  7. shannon

    Yeah. I follow people who seem interesting. And seemingly interesting people of people who have proven to be interesting.

    I follow people who make me laugh, who can say something meaty in 140 characters or less (this inspires me).

    I follow YOU.

  8. Sparkliesunshine

    I really love Twitter. I feel like it helps me keep in contact with my favorite bloggers and people and it also has really helped me find new bloggers I like.

    I can follow them for a few days and get a feel for their personality better than just reading their posts.

    Sometimes it gives a good indication of what they are really like. I also feel like it gives a view of whether the person genuinely likes meeting new people or they just like collecting groupies.

    I think it is what you make of it. It’s quickly become my favorite online forum for discussion.

  9. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Shannon, that is a good point about being able to say something meaty in 140 characters. That attracts me too. My friend Jon (zuhl) and I have talked about that before and we both look at Twitter as a writing exercise sometimes. That is why I am constantly favoriting his tweets.

    Of course, sometimes I will just fly off the cuff and say whatever (and it shows) but really, sometimes I actually do sit there and work to get what I am trying to say across in 140 characters.

    And Sparklie – I do that sometimes as well – I will follow people for a while to get a feel for them and if we mesh.

  10. Mary Lynn

    I mostly follow people I know in real life or through blogs. Most of the people I follow also follow me, though not everyone…there are a few very popular bloggers I follow that don’t know me at all, but I find their tweets interesting so I follow them.

    I had one person I followed for a while who tweeted so much that it drove me crazy. There would be at least 20 or 30 tweets a day, maybe 5 of which were actually interesting. The rest would either be vague references to personal things that I knew nothing about or just mundane things like “it’s warm today”. I love her blog, though, so I felt like I wanted to follow her on Twitter, too. Finally I came to the conclusion that it was perfectly fine to unfollow her on Twitter but still continue to read her blog.

  11. Gretchen

    I don’t twitter. I have plenty of other vices!

    If I did twitter – I’d follow you Aimee!

    And did I ever tell you my oldest named one of her Webkinz “Aimee”? She even picked the spelling on her own!

  12. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Mary Lynn – I think that is a good point too. There are people whose blogs I like but who I don’t follow on Twitter and vice versa. Styles don’t always mesh in every space.

  13. Lauren

    I haven’t been able to go there either. Seems too much of a “world chat” for me. I like the relative safety of semi-anonymous blog commenting.

  14. Meg

    I follow people I find interesting, though the reasons for why I find them interesting are WILDLY varied. Some of them I interact with, some not. It depends on how they run their show, and how that fits with the way I run mine.

    And I have no clue in hell why anyone but my boyfriend follows me — he does it because he has to.:)

  15. Giyen

    I am a mixed bag in Twitter and with about most other things in life.

    I follow everyone who follows me (except those who are obviously spammers) and I unfollow them if they are clearly nuts (by my own definition).

    I get updates of the people that I really want to hear from through SMS functionality. That way, I don’t get annoyed.

    I don’t ever get wrapped up in that Twitter Grader thing. I know people who are obsessed with being in the Top 50. It’s weird.

  16. Joie at Canned Laughter

    I am guilty of the public conversation thing. For me, the DM is more of a too personal/too controversial/too detailed to throw on the board button.

    Obviously, I don’t use it enough.
    But you know who I wish WOULD use it? Folks calling someone out on a topic. I just think it’s more polite not to take someone to task in a public forum where outsiders may not get the gist or the spirit of the argument in the manner it was intended.


    I’d say 96% of the people I follow I have interacted with outside of Twitter on some level. These are people I consider My People, my friends, and I love the ability to read about the inane and hilarious things they are thinking and/or doing at any given time. I’ll be honest in admitting I don’t follow a lot of people who don’t follow me back, but that isn’t to be snotty or self-important. It’s just that I really like the interaction, and the ability to have a conversation, and if I can’t direct message you then it feels a bit one-sided and somewhat pointless, for me, anyway.
    I know a lot of people use Twitter for a lot of different reasons, and I myself have three! different Twitter accounts for various websites and work projects, so I totally get that. I think Twitter’s versatility has a lot to do with its popularity as a social platform.

  18. Robin

    i’m constantly adding and removing people. i don’t see the point in having people on my twitter whom i am not acitvely friends with, whom never interact with me. i like to keep it simple.

  19. Kelly O

    About 90% of the people I follow are friends IRL or blog friends. Most of the rest are people who started following me and who now have become friends(ish). I tend not to respond too much, though now that I think of it, I’m not sure why not. Veddy interestink….

  20. Bet Rank

    Oh I think this post applies to so much more then just Twitter.

    Great one.

  21. EatPlayLove

    oh no, I’m off to see if you’re still on my list! What about the whole newbie learning curve like should
    I or shouldn’t I? I’m always trying to guage what’s appropriate tweet material.

  22. Kathy

    I read a comment on another blog regarding Twitter that just rubbed me the wrong way. (Apparently, I do not use Twitter properly, not responding to my personal Tweets in a timely fashion — I don’t us it often enough to.) Anyway, I stopped following a lot of people whom I don’t really know, or am just flat out tired of their negativity (this is a not-so surprisingly common use of Twitter), and made my account private. Really, it’s much better this way. I thought about deleting my account altogether, but why should I have to do that? I’m so over the quilt of not following, or unfollowing.

  23. Nat

    Agreed there was a professor at NYU who had an interesting thesis on the value of the web. (I wish I could remember where I heard it.)

    Amongst other things, it allows for interaction in a way that TV never could. And although you can’t necessarily quantify it in terms of dollars, it has a value…

    I’m bastardizing but the whole concept interaction on the web… twitter, flicker, etc. etc. Just amazing when you think of it. I sit and think… we didn’t have the internet when I was in college.

  24. creative-type dad

    I’m too afraid to even look at Twitter. I have far too many distractions already…

  25. Christina

    I’m very much like Mary Lynn. When I started out I was only following folks I knew IRL, then it has expanded. I just recently kind of ‘cleaned out’ my twitter account so I’m pretty happy with where it stands now. I’m also a little of both as far as broadcasting/responding 🙂

  26. Lindy

    I just unfollowed someone from twitter, facebook and deleted her blog from my reader. I was spending soo much time getting really pissed off at her stupidity and thought wtf am I doing?!?!! So like a manky little boil I lanced her from my life. It’s a great feeling when you give yourself permission to do that.

  27. Nadine

    I follow people for the same reasons you do. So that’s why I follow you! 🙂

  28. Burgh Baby

    I went through this phase where I was all sorts of willing to stand on my pedestal and proclaim that some people were “doing it wrong.” Since then, I’ve met many of the people I follow on Twitter and learned that there is no “wrong.” Like you said, it’s what you make of it.

    I do, however, still have to unfollow people when I end up with an entire page of them replying to random conversations. That? Still makes me nuts. Totally MY problem, though. Certainly not the problem of the twitterer that likes to use it that way.

  29. Kristy - Where's My Damn Answer

    Funny you should post this … I’ve been trying to figure out if I think Twitter is worth the time lately. I try to interact with folks that I find interesting and just don’t seem to get responses back, etc. I am still fairly new so maybe I’m just not “getting” it. I don’t know.

    Honestly … 2008 has been about learning a bunch of new stuff. I said no to Twitter for a long time but now that Where’s My Damn Answer has gained in popularity, etc. … I’m rethinking and I took the plunge. Now I just have to figure out what “I” want to do with it.

  30. jon deal

    I think you are absolutely correct, “Make Twitter whatever you want it to be.”

    For me, Twitter has become a delightful “microblogging” platform. In the realm of, “how can I tell a story or say something funny/clever within the highly constrained 140 character limit?” This puts me rather squarely in the “broadcaster” camp.

    And, if I may be so bold, I even went so far this week as to compile a list of my “favorite” tweets from 2008. It’s here and, if I do say so myself, it’s pretty entertaining.

  31. Suzanne

    I’m late to the party-again.

    I started following fellow bloggers and people I know IRL. Somehow, I got followed by friends of bloggers I follow and now I converse with them constantly.

    The pet peeve of mine is the spammers and people who follow you that you have no clue why-all of their posts are about something happening on the other side of the country in their Realty business.

    I’m trying to follow the 50/50 rule 50 percent new content (and no, not saying “I’m off to the bathroom”) and 50 percent replying to other tweets.

    The follower whoring gets rather old, too. I’m quite happy with my small little group-I don’t need a tweet deck to manage conversations that way.

    I always look forward to your Twit Pics-good for a chuckle. If I haven’t said it on there, thank you for those.

  32. Anonymous

    I thought Maggie’s article was totally condescending and made those of us who use it for what it is SOCIAL media look like asshats. I guess a quip or two a day to a few dozen followers makes you much more fabulous. I guess we are the same dumbasses who share what we ate for lunch.

    Yes, I am a wimp for posting anonymously, but the blog elite mafia is scary. SRLSLY

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