In My Second Month on Twitter, I Reject Your Commandments

I resisted the Twitter fad for a very long time. My sense was that it was just another time waster, high signal to noise and full of generally irrelevant stuff. I signed up about six weeks ago and found that while all of the above was indeed true I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve been a fairly regular twitterer ever since.

Yesterday Steve Garfield tweeted this link about whether Twitter users are “twits” or “twerps”, complete with analysis of what makes one versus the other and some mild chiding at which way is the More Correct Way to Twitter. It also led me to this other page of Twitter Ten Commandments where the mild chiding is replaced by full on pompous posturing. I suspect the latter link is deliberately provocative as a link whoring mechanism and I have just fallen for it. So be it.

I flatly reject the notion that there is a right and a wrong way to use Twitter, and that you must conform to these weirdly narrow set of rules in order to use it correctly. “Thou shalt not tweet more than 20 times a day.” “Thou shalt not tweet more than 10 times in an hour.” Really? We are expected to keep a clock on ourselves now? Wow, that really adds a level of enjoyment to it. “Hey I have something to say, how many tweets do I have left in my quota? Darn, I have to wait 20 minutes before I can tweet again.” Give me a break.

Even if I haven’t been lost already, he would have lost me here:

6: Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is “What are you doing?”.

Part of why I resisted joining up for so long is that I seldom do anything very interesting, and I didn’t see what value constantly answering that question could have. When I did join, the very first thing I did was abandon that framing premise as too boring to consider. Instead, for me it is more like “What are you thinking?” which has a much wider range of possibility. My favorite stint on Twitter so far was in the runup to the holidays when I was posting tiny musings on love and hate and affection, getting really interesting responses in return. If my favorite interaction would have been precluded by those commandments, not much chance of me buying in to them.

In the final analysis, not only are they silly and kind of dickish but ultimately they are completely irrelevant. It is a completely self-correcting system. If someone is following you via their cellphone and you get too prolific for them, they unfollow you. If you stop being interesting to someone, they unfollow you. We don’t need all these rules because the system takes care of itself. Maybe for your standard neurotic SNS type user whose main interaction with a system is to collect a headcount via “friends” or “followers” that is anathema to them. Unfollowing makes my count go down, woe is me! Personally, just as I don’t care how many listeners my podcast has, I don’t (or try not to) care how many followers I have. I firmly expect that they will come and go, that I’ll do things to piss some off or lose them, that I’ll pick up other ones. That’s just how the game plays out.

If I were required to follow Phil’s Ten Commandments, I’d just quit the service. If most people I follow did, they would become less interesting. We have a freeform platform for human interaction here. Presupposing exactly what interactions should flow through it and how is not necessary. It causes more harm by making people self-censor their potentially interesting thoughts and is just dumb. Break the commandments! Be Twitter heathens! Phil Casablanca will get pissed off and not follow any of us but we can live with that. It’s like the elephant tied up with a string – it’s not the string that keeps him from running off but his belief in the boundary. Ignoring the boundaries makes you more interesting to me so let it rip!

11 Replies to “In My Second Month on Twitter, I Reject Your Commandments”

  1. I saw that too from your tweet yesterday, and I’d agree with you.
    Twitter may have started off as a “what are you doing” thing, but there is no reason it has to stay like that. It could be a good way to share a cool link, to update your friends about a important event/happwning (see pregnancy), or just to make amusing statements (see twitter.com/hotdogsladies).
    Fact is, Twitter is what you make it, what you wanna do with it. If you wanna tweet your lunch, then do so, if people don’t wanna hear it, don’t follow them!
    And I would say we’re twitterers.

  2. Heh, I enjoyed reading that, though of course disagree with your POV!

    Phil was being deliberately provocative, and am pretty sure the throttles shouldn’t every be employed by Twitter.

    I think considering “What are you doing” helps a lot in being considerate to your followers, but if your followers are all twerps too, that doesn’t matter.

    You are, of course, a self-identifying twerp, and that’s OK, just don’t be surprised when twits like me don’t follow you.

  3. Dom, I’m with you as always brother.

    Paul, I don’t know what my followers are and I don’t care. If they follow, they are down. If they are not down, they don’t follow. I’m perfectly fine with strangers I don’t know and have never heard of before yesterday not following me. It would seem weird to me to be surprised or bothered by that.

  4. Thanks for that perspective, Dave. Yer damn right, and I am definitely going to do more “What are you thinking” tweets than “What are you doing” ones … if only to piss off a few people. 🙂

  5. “I’m perfectly fine with strangers I don’t know and have never heard of before yesterday not following me”.

    ah, so am I. If I don’t follow you you can’t direct message me, and that has on occasion been incredibly useful. Of course you could just use twitter to talk to a small circle of known friends, many people do. Often that’s indicated by them locking their updates, but that’s not required.

    I’m also OK with the question “what are you thinking?” too, but “thinking about …” is possible under the “doing” question.

    What I look for in people I chose to follow is entertainment and empathy, and I do get some of both from your tweets, so you’re not as big a twerp as you might like to think 😉

    I think this analysis addresses your concerns:
    http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2008/01/06/freewheeling-about-social-media/

  6. Hi Dave, thanks for your passionate response! For what it’s worth, I made the decision to call them commandments to be provocative and illicit reaction. And in fact I share most of your views.

    Of course the system is self-correcting to some degree. I myself have unfollowed people because I got fed up wading through so many nonsensical tweets and coulnd’t see the ones I wanted. But I think that’s a real shame, I’d much rather follow what these people were saying, and wanted to let them know why I’d unfollowed them. Call it gentle encouragement. A good debate to start, I think.

    The sixth commandment (“Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is “What are you doing?”) was really aimed at the people making long statements across multiple tweets. I break this one all the time! Perhaps I should drop that one? If you or your readers feel strongly about it, please feel free to post against the updated blog posting at:

    http://philwhitehouse.blogspot.com/2008/01/ten-commandments-of-twitter.html

    Cheers,
    Phil

  7. rules & labels, why do some folks always feel the need to hand these out, even tongue-in-cheek its destructive because someone will come along and not get that its meant to be humorous, they’ll buy into the segmentation, bias and structure to their detriment…

    tools like twitter are wide open & as dave points out self correcting, folks should be comfortable doing whatever and being whomever they want – if some follower doesn’t like it, simple unsubscribe – its a beautiful thing…

    i also stand by my original premise regarding you and twitter dave, you are a natural :-p

  8. I’m not a Twittererererer, so I only know of this tangentially. However, I know it is a tool and whenever I hear someone tell me what a tool is only good for, flags start flying.

    “Drills are only for making holes, you can’t possibly use them to do anything else with, like driving screws or twisting wire.”

    Quite frankly, if you are doing what you want with it, why even get in other people’s bidness?

  9. I can hear the P.I.L. song “Rules and regulations” playing in my head as I type this. I mean is there no limit to the pettiness of some people what they wish to govern or influence?? Just sayin…

Comments are closed.