Monday, April 2, 2012

An Idiot's Guide to Twitter

In recent days, it has become apparent to me that few people seem to have any clue how to properly use Twitter. Having read thousands of tweets in the fourteen months that I have used the service, I've seen it all. There have been tweets that make me laugh, tweets that inform me on things I care somewhat about, tweets that make me cry (okay, that only happened once, when I realized how tragic "@oldmansearch" is if it actually is true and sat alone in my room crying about it...yeah, whatever, it'd been a rough day), and mostly, tweets that make me roll my eyes and want to slap their writers across the face for being such idiots. Since this last category takes up such a huge portion of my news feed at any given time and since I always feel like a bad person when I unfollow people, I decided that the best way to teach these silly tweeters a lesson was to write this blog post. So here it is, folks: a Twitter guide for all the world's twittiots, tworons, and twimbeciles.

My favorite kind of tweets are those that make me laugh. If you have any funny bone in your body (not counting your humerus, LOL), this should be your constant goal with Twitter. I pretty rarely follow celebrities, but when I do, it's because they're hilarious, because they share a name with me, or because they're hilarious AND share a name with me. Some cases in point include Sarah Silverman, Sara Bareilles, and Sarah Palin - though I doubt that last one finds herself as funny as I do. I don't care to know about the mundane details of your life; I want to see something funny! You don't have to be exclusively a "joke twitter" to do this. For one thing, Twitter accounts devoted entirely to a specific brand of humor often stop being funny when they pass a certain point. A prime example of this is the Condescending Wonka twitter, which got old about six weeks ago and which you should really all stop retweeting twenty times a day. But Twitter accounts of regular people who say ordinary things in a humorous way last forever! Don't be discouraged if you think you aren't as funny as your friends. If you're friends with me, it's probably true - you aren't as funny. Even if your attempts at humor are occasionally futile, though, trust me; they're better than nothing.

That being said, if you simply can't be funny, you can at least get away with being informative and conversational. Statistically, most of your followers are probably your friends. Most of your friends are probably at least somewhat curious about your life. Therefore, telling them about your life - within reason - is a perfectly logical use of Twitter. This can, of course, be taken too far. A string of tweets that reads, "Eating breakfast. #eggs," "Done with breakfast! #stuffed," "Going 2 skewl #boring," "In class! #academic!," and "Lunchtime! #sandwich" is too much. No one cares that much about your life, I promise you. However, tweeting interesting tidbits from your day can be just lovely! For example: "Saw a giraffe walking down Main Street while I was on my way to school today! #strange". Twitter can also be great for sending simple messages to your friends, such as "Hey @friend, heard you got out of prison today! #congrats". If humor is not your forte, this is the best way to use your Twitter.

Beyond these two categories, a tweeter can start to wade into some dangerous waters. One of the least offensive errors in this category comes from the use of these "<, >" symbols. It's perfectly acceptable to occasionally craft tweets using these mathematically impossible superlatives. A seasonally relevant example would be, "Reese's eggs >>>." [For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with this <,> phenomenon, that example would translate to "Reese's eggs are better than everything in the world," which, of course, they are.] However, when you exploit this trend to the point where you're tweeting things like "Justin Bieber's new single <," you've taken it too far. Just say that you don't like it, and that his weird whisper-rap at the beginning of the song makes you uncomfortable! Such a statement would be true, but not as exaggerated as saying that the song is worse than everything in the entire world. I think there are worse things than an 18-year-old Canadian using the word "swaggy" in reference to himself. Okay, maybe there aren't that many. But I mean, genocide would be worse! "Justin Bieber's new single > genocide" would be a rational tweet.

While we're on the topic of music, another type of questionable tweet is the old standard, the song lyrics tweet. I have, on a few rare occasions, tweeted song lyrics. However, I've always felt weird about it afterwards, and the latest time, I even made fun of myself for tweeting song lyrics within the tweet. If you don't mind being judged by people who think song lyric tweets are beneath them, the occasional use of this trend is fine. Excessive or poorly-thought-out use of it, however, spells trouble for all involved. Consider the following example: You're sitting around, jammin' out to the catchy pop tune that is "Pumped Up Kicks." On a whim, you decide to tweet a line from the chorus that you never really thought much about: "Allll the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run, better run, outrun my gun!" Suddenly, you have made the entire Twitterverse think that you're planning to massacre a group of well-shod youth. It is in moments like these - which, by the way, I witness embarrassingly often - that song lyric tweets become an extremely bad idea.

This last type of Twitter error is the worst of all: the constant complainer. Complaining on Twitter can be done well/humorously, most easily by throwing a "#firstworldproblems" at the end of your complaint. "Ughhh my new Manolos are on backorder," for instance, is pretentious and annoying. "Ughhh my new Manolos are on backorder #firstworldproblems," on the other hand, is self-deprecating and (almost) clever. When it comes to the people I follow, however, 99 out of every 100 complaining tweets are insufferable and make me want to punch whoever wrote them. The worst of the worst are tweets complaining about other people - people who, most of the time, follow you on Twitter. There was a time when the catty things you had to say about the [expletive]s you hate were reserved for sneaky conversations behind said expletive's back. For morally sound people, these catty things never even left the confines of their minds. Thanks to Twitter, though, America's youth have now resorted to complaining incessantly and brutally about anything and everything they hate about each other by blasting it all over the Internet. I hate to break it to you, kids, but this is not actually an acceptable way for decent human beings to behave! While I admire the boldness of someone willing to trash-talk their peers in the form of messages that will be sent straight to said peers' cell phones, it's horribly annoying to everyone else to see these tweets. Trash-talking one's elders - another trope among the 14-18-year-old set - is also stupid, particularly for those whose tweets are public. In case you've forgotten, "public" means "can be seen by the entire world." If you're lucky, your elder-bashing tweet will only by noticed by people who will shake their heads disappointedly at you for your stupidity. If you're less lucky, it will be noticed by people like, oh, I don't know, the tattle-taley children of the elders you're complaining about. (This is something I can only hypothetically imagine; I have never, of course, seen some idiot high schooler tear their teacher/my dad to shreds on Twitter and told him about it so he'll get them in trouble. NEVER.) And if you're really, really unlucky, it will be noticed by the elder him- or herself. Your tweet about how your trigonometry teacher is weird-looking and mean isn't so funny when your trigonometry teacher reads it and sees you in class the next day.

So, kids, if you remember none of what I just said, try to use my standard rule of thumb. When you type out a tweet, look at it. Read it over a few times. Maybe say it aloud in a British accent. (Record that part so I can watch it later and laugh at you.) Once you've done that, think to yourself, "Does the world really need to hear this? Like really really?" If your answer is no, don't tweet it! If you simply have to get those 140 characters' worth of wisdom out of your system, write it in a journal somewhere, or sneakily tell it to someone behind your friends' backs. And remember, kids, if you don't have anything nice to say, at least make your mean stuff funny.

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