Twitter #101: Don't be a tool
"Stay here, and try not to do anything stupid"
This blog post is sponsored by the wisdom of Captain Jack Sparrow. I’ve written previously about my thoughts on the social niceties of Twitter, but since the President of the USA conducted his campaign there and appears to be running his regime through the micro-blogging site, it has been thrust to the forefront of international social interaction. The change in Twitter’s dynamic was beautifully summed up by one person who looked wistfully back on the days when the colour of a dress was all people debated online.
Don’t get me wrong; wide-ranging and international debate is good. It takes us out of our social safe zones and makes us read, think and debate – at least it should. Unfortunately Twitter – like political debate in general – has become an ill-informed, off-the-cuff shouting match where facts and insight are often trampled beneath the hooves of a herd of insults and bravado. Really, all my suggestions about etiquette and how to conduct yourself on Twitter can be boiled down to this: Don’t be an arse. Voice your opinion, argue your point, disagree, but for goodness’ sake also listen and do some damn research. This is not a pub chat with your mates where a baseless remark will be greeted with raised eyebrows or even agreed with. You are putting your opinion and yourself on a public stage – try not to look too stupid. (As a side note here, if you are using Twitter under an anonymous, faceless avatar and name which you’re using to belittle and oppose people then I think you’ve missed the point. If you have an opinion, at least have the decency to put your name and face to it.) But if you are going to join the debate just get some basic facts right.
There are two reasons I ask this: The first is that there is a chance someone will read your fabricated nonsense, think it’s true and start basing their opinions on your falsehood. That’s the opposite of informing the debate, you’re lowering the IQ of the whole site. The second reason is, if you’re wrong you could end up looking stupid. Check this chap out.
Now if you have reason to believe someone on Twitter is speaking with an authority they don’t have then, by all means, question it. However I fear our unfortunate protagonist here has not done much research. A quick nip down Jim Gamble’s Twitter feed would show he is highly opinionated on this subject and taking the drastic step of Googling his name reveals his credentials. So take the lesson here – read, think, research and try not to be a dick. Because if you’re just chucking around insults there is a chance you’ll eventually run up against someone who will burn you.