How not to use twitter as an academic

I usually tend towards the view that there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. These evaluations only make sense relative to some prior purpose and so I’m sceptical when blog posts pronounce on the right way to use Twitter or parallel claims with other platforms. However I realise there are a few things which I do see as intrinsically negative things to do on twitter, at least if you want to build positive connections with others working in your field:

  1. Don’t tweet everything you blog at people. It’s hard to build an audience as a blogger and a sense that no one is reading what you write can erode the enjoyment of blogging. But repeatedly tweeting links to new posts at people (i.e. “@soc_imagination my new blog post http://www.myblog.com”) is the digital equivalent of looking up phone numbers of people in your field and cold calling them to announce that you’ve done some writing. If there’s some particularly pressing reason why this one post needs to gain an audience then that’s fair enough but before you send it directly to scores of people, it’s worth thinking about whether you’d do this ‘offline’.
  2. Don’t tweet requests for people to follow you back once you follow them. Much as with the first point, I’m surprised at how frequently I see people do this and more so they’ve done it with scores of people in quick succession. I understand the impulse to do it in some cases but again consider the ‘offline’ equivalent to this. I can’t quite work out what it would be but I’m sure it would be slightly creepy.
  3. There’s no need to thank people for retweeting you. If you remark something in conversation and someone says “that’s interesting” would you say “thank you for finding my remark interesting”? Retweeting is usually some variant upon affirming that a tweet was interesting or valuable in some way. Thanking people for retweeting (or following for that matter) makes a momentary interaction feel creepily transactional to me.

What would you add to the list? If a certain number of people share an antipathy towards a way of acting on twitter then at what point should we start talking about these as norms?

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13 Comments

  1. These advices are very useful. I share your odd feelings about each. It’s good to define a twitter-etiquette, but I’d rather keep that list as short as possible, so no addenda from me, three is sufficient 😉

  2. These are good. Applicable to all, not just academics. Here’s few more:

    1. Don’t consistently tweet links to journal articles behind a paywall. Every now and then is ok, or if you feel you have to share this type of content regularly, acknowledge the paywall.

    2. Don’t reply to every “@mention” (variation on your #3 above)

    3. Don’t tweet your freakin’ summary stats “My week on Twitter – 10 new followers, 35 RTs blah blah blah.” EVER.

    4. I’m not a fan of paper.li etc.

    1. I really don’t get (1) thought I recognise it’s a widely held opinion.

      Couldn’t agree more about (3) – suspect this is people who don’t notice the access the apps have in some cases.

  3. I like point 1, and point 2 is a must!

    But I am not sure that I agree with point 3. While I understand what you mean, I think that the netiquette is still that you should acknowledge that someone noticed and shared your post. So, what you suggest may be the logic thing to do, but may not be the socially acceptable thing to do, specially if you are not a “twitter star”.

    1. Hmm is there a distinction to be drawn between people thinking that it is the etiquette and people actually feeling it makes sense to them? I’m not convinced there are widely shared standards of this sort – that’s partly what this post was about, the other part being grumpy rant 🙂

  4. Don’t RT everything on someone’s profile in a single day, it makes the RT’d feel like they are being stalked by a plagiarist.

  5. When people write ‘Excited to be on my way to…’, or ‘So great to catch up with…’, ‘Pleased to be giving a paper at…’ or similar. There’s an awkward creepiness that comes from the conjuncture of promotion, emotion, and irrelevance to others, and reads like a clumsy social media celebrity brand ambassador.

    1. I see what you’re saying but are there not instances where that’s the least awkward way to articulate something that needs to be said? There are some situations in which I feel the need to acknowledge an event or meeting on twitter and apart from these constructions, I don’t see how it’s possible to do it.

  6. It’s not the fact of acknowledgement which is awkward – it’s the excited promotional tone that says, not just ‘I am doing a thing that you might be interested in…’, but also ‘Hey! I am an interesting person!’

    You could just easily say: ‘I am on my way to…’; ‘x and I were talking about…’; ‘I am presenting a paper at…’ – with a much lower cringe factor in each case.

    Perhaps this is just a case of British reserve.

    (See also: overuse of exclamation marks more generally…)

    1. But maybe it’s reserve that leads people to use that construction? To say “I am on my way to X’ is such a blunt descriptive statement that it feels like saying “I had toast for breakfast this morning”. Perhaps adding the excitement implies the reason for posting e.g. I’m sharing the fact I’m going to this conference because I’m excited by the conference, not because I think there’s something intrinsically shareable about the brute fact of me going there?

  7. Excitement alone doesn’t make something share-worthy unless there’s a pre-existing relationship in place (IMO). As Twitter is a public forum and I follow lots of people I don’t personally know (and vice versa), excitement just doesn’t feel ‘natural’ to me in the same way as it might on, say, Facebook, where I also know everyone there in the offline world: I know their personality, their interests, habits, and so on. Unless I’ve built up an idea of what an individual is like over time, then it feels like personality branding or something, seeking to persuade. e.g. not just ‘this product is available to purchase’ but also ‘this product is super cool, guys!’ Out-of-context excitement feels like an almost totalitarian injunction to emote (‘be excited with me!’) – so I’m far happier with blunt description as default. As long as the intention is also clear of course: why is it important for me to know that you had toast for breakfast?!

    Again though, maybe it’s my own cynicism or insecurity speaking here…! But – do people really get that excited about going to conferences??

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