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My Top 10 Twitter Pet Peeves

(Photo: The Twitter “fail whale” during the great spam purge of 2008.)

For the past six months, I’ve been chatting with friends and acquaintances on Twitter. For the uninitiated, Twitter is a popular social-networking microblog that you can access from the web, on a smart phone, or via text message (you can find my feed here).

You tell others (your “followers”–people who have subscribed to your Twitter feed) what you’re up to in 140 characters or less, and they respond likewise. It’s kind of like a virtual cocktail party, with the same potential to make fabulous new network contacts–and friends, for that matter.

Most importantly, Twitter is a public forum.  The majority of Twitterers are mindful that the updates they post–in the parlance of Twitter, their “tweets”–will be read by others.  Potentially hundreds and even thousands of others.  But some Twitter users, to put it charitably, are a bit more obtuse. Sometimes astonishingly, unnervingly, appallingly so.

Below are the top 10 behaviors of my fellow Twitterers that I find most annoying.  If you’re a Twitter user, too, you may find yourself nodding in agreement as you read them. Unless of course you find one or two (or all) of them to be describing you

10. Media outlets that use Twitter to distribute news headlines–and nothing else. I can receive newspaper and Live at Five headlines via RSS, thanks. Don’t get me wrong, headlines in Twitter are useful. But they’re also exceedingly boring if the headline writers never step out from behind them and join in the conversation.

9. Ads in Twitter feeds (and especially ads in media headline feeds). These just say you see me as a mark to make money from instead of a potential network contact, chat partner, and/or friend. I’m not your captive commercial audience–and you don’t get the point of Twitter. Wonder twin powers, activate! Form of: a clue.

8. Twitterers coming on to other Twitterers in the public stream. How lame to make moves on someone in a public tweet. Please prove your prowess via Direct Message, you virtual Lotharios. Courtship FAIL.

7. Tweeting @replies that make no sense to others. When you send a reply to someone in the public stream (called an “@reply”, sounds like “at reply”), it’s a guarantee that many people beyond the intended recipient will see it. It helps your tweets from reading like a one-way–and, thus, highly irritating–cell-phone conversation if you add a few words that allow your tweet to make sense to the rest of us. After all, if you didn’t want us to follow your feed and read your tweets, you wouldn’t be on Twitter in the first place (or your updates would be private).

6. Diarrhea-of-the-tweet. Seriously. If you want to have a full-blown conversation with a follower, do it via Direct Message. Or email. Or phone. Or carrier pigeon. Or anywhere else but your regular updates. Doing it in the public stream unfairly monopolizes the streams of your followers with tweet after tweet of inane–and usually irrelevant–drone.

5. All @replies, all the time. Hello? Is there anyone in there? Do you have an original thought in your head? Ever? Or do you spend your every waking hour waiting for someone else to speak up first in order to give you something to say? Your unending responses might be witty, but your lack of ideational initiative is alarming.

4. Rapid-fire tweeting. These Twitterers are the diametric opposite of the exclusive @reply folks. They have lots of original thoughts–and they want their followers to know about them. Now. Generally all at once, one after another, in rapid-fire succession. Take those A.D.D. meds and pace yourself, Speed Racer. You’re like the blabbermouth party guest that never shuts up–and never gets invited back. Or in the case of Twitter, justifies that ‘Remove’ button.

3. Death by a thousand @replies. You think you’re a power Twitterer wisely managing your time because you save up all your @replies for one, giant batch-dump, generally at the end of the day. I’m happy you have so many followers. I’m less thrilled that your 57 @replies have just totally monopolized my Twitter stream. It would probably drive you crazy but it would mean a lot to your followers if you paced out your @replies a little more evenly. (You anal-retentive time-control freak.)

2. 1,000 following, 0 updates. Freak. I can just picture your shadowy shape in front of your keyboard getting your voyeuristic jollies from reading the updates of the thousands of Twitter users you’re following–all the while keeping your own motives hidden by refusing to post any updates yourself. At all. Ever. How eery. It’s a fine line between Wallflower and Bramble Lurker, buddy, and you just crossed it. Get away from me, you’re making me nervous.

And my number one Twitter pet peeve…

1. 1,000 following, 1,000 sales pitches. You talk to nobody. You’re only on Twitter for one reason: the wrong one. Your updates–and, my, how frequent they are–are exclusively sales pitches for that (pick one) __Better-than-Facebook! / __pyramid scheme / __penis enlarger you’re hawking. Thanks for playing. Buh-bye now. You’re the reason God invented the ‘Block’ button, butthead, and I just used it.

If you’re a Twitterer, leave a comment and let me know what annoys you that I’ve left out of this list.  And whatever you do, don’t use this list as a role model. Please.

I’ll beg if I have to.

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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11 replies

  1. I have a twitter account, but it really sucks that I don’t have a ‘smart phone’ to update it more often. It’s really not as cool when you only update periodically from your computer. Ugh.

  2. And here’s an 11th Twitter pet peeve: hour-long slowdowns whenever a big techie event happens. Earlier this week Twitter ground to a halt for half the day due to the keynote address at Macworld. Today CES started–and yet again, Twitter updates have gone missing in action.

    How on earth are mere mortals who don’t attend these trade shows supposed to use Twitter reliably when our ability to network comes to a screeching halt in mid-Tweet whenever something interesting is going on?

    Bad show. Buy some additional servers, folks.

  3. Thanks Jason, that’s a good one I certainly did forget to leave out. I especially abhor people who subscribe to my updates but won’t let me subscribe back to their exclusively private feed. (Well, only as long as it takes to hit the Block button, anyway).

  4. I agree with most of your comments. Personally, I loathe DM. Twitter is SM. Social being the important part. Send me real email if you have something private to lend. DM has it’s place, but too many use incorrectly. Also, I’ll add another pet peeve of mine: Twitterers who have all of their tweets protected. Ugh. Why be on Twitter if you’re going to lock down your tweets.

  5. You can find other recent, well-informed rants on the Twitter-obtuse in these places:

    Mashable | Twitter Follow Fail (Atherton Bartelby) — My favorite here, “[FAIL NUMBER] 7. Your following and my return follow result in a poorly-constructed auto-DM reading, “Thx for the follow! How can I help you get to a 4-Hour Work Week?”

    Voice of Tech | Top 10 List of People to Unfollow on Twitter (Shannon Whitley) — Whitley even conveniently offers examples of each of the ten archetypal Twitterers he’s warning you away from.

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