As most of you know, I’m a very bashful guy: the shy, retiring, quiet sort who doesn’t share his feelings or opinions. I wish. My personality gets me into occasional trouble, IRL. I also can occasionally put my foot in it online via a Tweet, email, or comment. BUT, twitter IS the most dangerous one of them all, for you and me!
All written communication has the risk of being misinterpreted. For that matter, all communication can be misunderstood. Some times it is innocent; some times it isn’t, but when it is the former that is when it is most disturbing. If I’ve written or said something stupid, then I deserve whatever consequences follow. Ask my wife for a couple dozen examples…just this week.
But, it’s those times when I meant absolutely no offense that really trouble me. I then scramble to clean it up and usually I’m able to do so. Sincerity can’t be faked so when I’m taking care with someone who was offended or hurt by something unintentional and/or just completely misunderstood, it isn’t hard to make good. I won’t feel good until I know I’ve done just that!
However, we all are guilty of making dumb mistakes that we could avoid. Let’s start with the biggest one of them all. Do NOT do this. Do NOT think you are better at it than anyone else. Forget about it. What? I’m talking s a r c a s m. It does NOT work 99.9% of the time in 140 characters or less.
And, the risk with most sarcasm is offending someone. Especially those people who may be sensitive to “the issue,” whatever it may be, to begin with. Especially to some people who like to follow the politically correct language police. Forget the sarcasm. Tone of voice is not there. A wink, a smile, any facial expression that would mitigate the words is also absent.
I say it again, this time in my best Brooklyn accent, “ForgetAboutIt!”
For the sake of this column, I’m going to focus solely on Twitter communication. I’ve already written about the importance of a good Twitter bio. Now it’s time to protect you from the wrath you might incur with a misplaced idea, word, or tweet. Given I’ve sent over 70,000 tweets in less than three years, I can safely say I have some experience. Also, since I love to participate in Tweet Chats, which are “live,” I’ve also had my share of goofs, without a doubt.
Given that lists are the rage and that I’ve done 25 of them for 12Most.com, here’s my random list of tips/advice, in no particular order, with the exception of repeating my #1 rule about sarcasm.
~~ Don’t be sarcastic in any of your tweets.
~~ Know your audience. For instance, if you’re male and you’re in a tweet chat with moms/women, don’t be a misogynistic jerk. Men cannot get away with mistakes as easily as women can, however…
~~ Moms – be careful. There is a ton of cattiness out there in the mom community. If you can’t be nice, be quiet.
~~ Speaking of being quiet, the old corny saying of “If you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all” applies very well to tweeting. What good will an arbitrary criticism do? What good will a public disagreement do? If you can’t control yourself, send it via DM. If that person is not following you, then that is enough of a clue NOT to do it, period.
~~ In addition to knowing your audience, know the individual. I know certain women that I can playfully “flirt” with because I’ve met them, we’ve talked, I know where they stand, they know I’m happily married, and we enjoy the playful banter. The times I’ve got in trouble were when I didn’t really know the person. So, if you’re unsure, don’t do it!
~~ Call me a prude, but there’s no need for any profanity. Save that for IRL if you must.
~~ Don’t forget that you really can’t erase a tweet. It’s there forever. So, even though it’s fun to send out a quick response, think about it before you hit “send!” Yes, you can delete it, but if someone has already seen it; it’s out there and then it is permanent! And, usually, by the time we want to delete a tweet, it’s too late!
~~ Be nice. It’s so much easier than being a sarcastic dweeb! Thank people. Honor people. Or keep quiet.
~~ If you have a personality, SHOW IT! As I’ve already expressed, some people’s personalities can be a bit “out there” (who could he possibly mean) but having a personality is better, a whole lot better, than being bland and/or boring.
However, just be smart. Use common sense. If you think someone might be offended, they likely will.
~~ When you RT, ALWAYS say something. If you have to cut the original post, keep its essence, change it from a RT to a MT, and add your comment. Otherwise, you’re a troll and you’re boring. Anyone can hit RT!
~~ If you want to reply to something and the original tweet is too long to do it via a RT, then re-state what was said in the original tweet in a few words and add your comment. Otherwise, NO ONE knows what you’re talking about! This is especially true during Tweet Chats, when there are often tweets – in replies – that say something like, “I agree.” Great. You agree with WHAT?
~~ Did I mention to skip the sarcasm?
If you follow the above tips, you will likely get in less hot water than otherwise. The bottom line, frankly, comes back to simple common sense and being thoughtful. If something sounds iffy, it probably IS. And, you can’t go wrong with kind words.