There’s only one rule to twitter, as there is in life: DON’T BE A DICK. There are many routes to dickishness, here are some of them.
Pile ons Easy to start; impossible to stop. If someone says something that makes you feel defensive ask yourself “Am I actually being attacked?” The answer is probably “No.” (A probability that drastically increasesif you’re white, straight, cis and able.) BUT if you were so easily roused to defensiveness, chances are there’s tons of other people similarly irked. By leaping in to defend something that wasn’t being attacked, you’re giving everyone else permission to do the same. Think about whether this is really your battle to fight. Or indeed, whether it’s actually a battlefield at all. A bad review is not a war cry.Tag – you suck! That said… @-ing an author in anything less than a four-star review is not cool. Mate. We’re fragile. If we want to pour salt into our own wounds, we’ll run a search for our name and learn just how angry French people are about Chris Pratt breaking up with Anna Faris.
Bad manners Sometimes there are injustices that one cannot let pass, but if you join a conversation knowing your opinion will lead to debate, you can still be polite about it. If the person you’re metaphorically tapping on the shoulder says they’re not in the mood, be OK with that. You can start your own tweet thread and give them the chance to opt in.
Sliding into the DMs Unless you’re already friends who have a private message repertoire, don’t just shimmy on in there without permission. A simple, public “OK to DM?” is good etiquette.
Virtue Signalling This is a term over-used by anyone who thinks ‘snowflake’ is an insult but won’t say so out loud. Expressing grief and beliefs publicly is not virtue signalling, BUT speaking up on a subject just to show you’re aware of it is. Men, I’m going to assume you’re a feminist unless you start mansplaining feminism to me in an effort to prove your credentials. White people, rather than make it clear we’re not racist by speaking out on issues of diversity, why not amplify the voices of those for whom diversity isn’t an option? There is a retweet button – use it.
Subtweeting You know sub-tweeting is a low-level dick move otherwise you’d just be tweeting. We all do it, but maybe we shouldn’t do it quite so often.
Bringing Receipts When You’re Not Returning Anything
Don’t reveal anything on Twitter that a person has not revealed in that forum. People post differently in different media streams – it’s up to them how to distribute personal information, not you. By all means call out hypocrisy, but you can do that with a subtle “That’s not what you said on Facebook… *side-eye emoji*” and see if the person has sufficient humility to climb down from a high horse they haven’t the qualifications to ride.
Wham Bam No-thank-you Spam Auto DMs are spam. Tenuously recommending your own book whenever anyone asks for suggestions (“Hey you want books that deal with reproduction in space? I wrote a contemporary book about teen pregnancy!”) is spam. Retweeting praise every now and again? Not spam. Retweeting it relentlessly so that it’s all anyone can see on your timeline? That’s spam. Be a person, not a robot.
Petulance No one owes you anything. A famous author doesn’t owe you a little red heart. A person you disagree with doesn’t owe you a reply. A reader doesn’t owe you a review. A publicist doesn’t owe you a place on the mailing list. One good turn does not deserve another, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any good turns.
Just bloody well don’t do it. I DON’T HAVE NOW TV OR SKY OR WHATEVER AND I CAN’T WATCH GAME OF THRONES, OK??? Even in 140 characters there’s scope for subtly. Use it.
One the most joyful things about social media is that it gives us a chance to be anything we want… why choose to be the worst version of yourself when you could be the best?