Twitter Etiquette


First off, the title would appear to be an oxymoron, but please bear with me on this. This is by no means an attempt to instruct anyone on Twitter about how to interact with others, its merely some things I’ve discovered over the years that work for me in dealing with certain “people” who may invade your time-line and how best to address them. The choice for how you deal with these folks is of course, yours and yours alone.

First some basic terminology {At least how I see it}:

Tweeting: Sending out a post with less than 140 characters out to your followers and those who may happen upon your account regarding any subject matter, incident, link, whatever that you fancy.

Time Line: The linear progression of the Tweets you have sent out from your account.

Re-Tweet {RT}: Sending out a Tweet from another account on your Time Line to your followers.

Modify Tweet {MT}: Taking someone’s tweet, changing ever so slightly and posting on your Time Line giving credit to the original author.

Reply: Responding directly to the person who just tweeted something via the Tweet itself.

@ Mention: Sending a tweet directly to another account using their Twitter Handle whether they follow you or not.

Blocking: To ban another account from viewing or retweeting any of your Tweets on their Time Lines and to prevent them from entering your Time Line.


Troll and Trolling: Here’s the most important term that most people get wrong on Twitter. To “Troll” is to insert yourself into another account holder’s Time Line uninvited to cause mischief, or to annoy, tease, threaten, or ridicule. Otherwise known as Cyber-Bullying. To Troll, you must insert yourself into that person’s Time Line by doing a “reply” or an @ mention first. To tweet back and forth among your followers on a topic that may ridicule another person or group or policy isn’t “Trolling” unless you @ mention them in the post.

To insert yourself into a particular Time Line or Thread, uninvited to interrupt and blast the account holder makes you the Troll, not them unless they “@ mention” you first.

As someone who almost entirely involves himself in the Political side of Twitter discussing issues like Healthcare reform, Gun Control, Voting Rights, Party Platforms, Domestic and Foreign issues I tend to attract many out there who oppose my views as they are entitled to. I also know that there are many out there who are just as dedicated as I am to express their political views that counter mine.

Here’s the difference, I don’t enter their time-lines to confront them. I leave them be for their followers and those interested in what they have to say. On the other hand, many of them will enter my Time Line not to ask questions and open themselves to other ideas but to harass, insult, ridicule, threaten and annoy. They are the Trolls.

Trolling doesn’t have to exist between the two sides of a political debate. As many have observed, Trolling exists with people who actually serve the same political agenda, but have some issue with other people for whatever reason.

Trolling isn’t exclusive to the Right or the Left, not the Right to the Left or Left to the Right, it can also exist because some people feel a need to insert themselves uninvited into someone’s Time Line just to harass and cause problems.

Sometimes it’s a matter of airing out personal grievances for the entire Twitter community to see in hopes bystanders will take sides.

I have and will continue to @ mention public figures and policy makers. Does that make me a Troll for those individuals? Indeed it does. I make no bones about it. These are people who effect the nation and like sending them letters, faxes, making phone calls I feel entitled to and to some degree required to @ mention them on their Time Lines so they know how I and others feel about their actions. They have the right and option to block me and complain about me to Twitter. Some have and I deserve what may come from it.

However, I no longer @ mention ordinary account holders who express a political agenda I cannot abide with. I leave them be.

So if you don’t want to be called a Troll, don’t troll other people’s time lines to cause them annoyance.

Now what if you are trolled by someone? How best to respond?

I’ve advocated that the best way to deal with a Troll is to simply ignore and block. If they wanted to actually to engage you in a civilized and intellectual discourse of ideas their approach to you would bear that out and maybe opinions could be changed. However if they @ mention you with an insult, an attack, in a threatening or intimidating manner they have no intent of ever considering changing their views or even changing yours, they just want to harass you. Don’t feed the trolls, just ignore and block and let them find someone else to torment. You lose no credibility with those who are on your side by just blocking these people. If they call you out for blocking them, they’re only doing that to people who have no respect for you in the first place so you lose nothing by blocking these folks.

I don’t expect to change the views of anyone on Twitter who are deeply entrenched in the way they think so I won’t even try. Occasionally I will encounter someone who is on the fence and I will engage them in a respectful political discourse. Sometimes I will be successful, sometimes not, but at least both sides are respectful and we move on.

My goal, my mission is to encourage those who lean towards my way of thinking to get active and engaged to get others who lean our way to get active and engaged to vote so we have better representation in elected office. I won’t waste my time with those who will never change and don’t want to. Too much to do and too little time to get into squabbles.

Another thing I’ve learned to do is to be selective on my follows. When I get a “follow” notice I will check the bio and time line of that person to see if they are worth following back. Often I will get follows from people I have nothing in common with. I see that they represent everything I argue against so not only do I not follow back; I block them just to avoid problems in the future. But that is your call if you want to do the same. I suppose if I allowed these people to follow me I would have well over 10,000 followers by now; but I’m into to quality of my followers, not the quantity.

Finally, and I’ve learned this the hard way, I will not publicly engage in personal feuds on Twitter. I will not drag my followers in on personal attacks on me by others nor will I get involved publicly in feuds regarding people I like on Twitter. It’s a no win situation for all involved and simply not worth the time or effort. If you choose to do this, I wish you better luck than I have had in this regard.

If you want to go after a policy, group, agenda on Twitter you can do so safely by simply saying what you feel without using @ mentions. You will get you word out and you won’t be trolling, you will simply be using you right to be heard. Avoid the @ mentions if you can. It saves you from continuous attacks from others and possible suspension of your account from when you are accused of being the Troll. If there is no @ mention, there is no Trolling and grounds for suspension. It’s that simple

Twitter is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. {Paraphrased that from Tom Lehrer} So take this advice or leave it. It’s your call. However if you are of the same mindset that I am, and have a desire for better outcomes in elections, just get people motivated to register and vote and leave the drama to others.

There literally is too much to do and too little time to waste on personal drama if we want to make a lasting impact in the political world.