The Ten Twitter Commandments

For the record, my Twitter handle is @EversonKate.

Also for the record, this is a really sad excuse of a blog post because I’m pretty sure my brain called it quits yesterday without letting my body know it had checked out. I’m in sore need of a yoga class, as well as a new frontal lobe.

You’ve been warned.

Although 140 characters doesn’t mean much, if strung together properly they certainly pack a punch. It also allows people like me—those who think they’re far funnier and charming than they actually are—to mix business with pleasure and get away with it. Live tweeting a webinar on Gen Y’s learning habits mixes with commentary on Downton Abbey calling it quits at the end of next season (any true fan will tell you it’s for the best). Professional and personal followers become acquainted to both sides of you, and it makes you look a tad more human.

For example, I received a source pitch from a press agent who had looked up my Twitter feed and seen my quip on how Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is possibly the most annoyingly catchy song ever written. She opened her email with an agreement on that fact — yes, I said fact, as it can be scientifically proven (not saying it has, just that it can be) — and launched into how the woman she represented had just as infectious a viewpoint, and wouldn’t that make a perfect article?

A month later, the story is up on the web.

Unfortunately, Twitter seems to get a bad wrap for starting fleeting hashtag trends that stress our lack of attention span (#YesAllWomen versus #NotAllMen lasted a few days at most), as well as serves as a vehicle for stupidity. So while eclectics like me use it for good — mixing journalism with jokes about Tom Hanks’ typewriter iPad app — others use it for bad and ugly. Anthony Weiner, aka Senator Self-Fulfilling Prophesy, comes immediately to mind and gouged-out mind’s eye.

I’ve had my issues with Twitter, as discussed here before, but I’ve generally played by the rules. And from my 4-plus years using the social media platform as my primary online presence, as well as watching others take flight or crash and burn with the little blue birdie, I feel qualified to present my 10 Twitter Commandments: rules for doing it right and not breaking the internet or your public image with a poorly arranged 140 characters.

Thou shalt play politely and honestly. If you can’t tweet something nice, don’t tweet anything at all. Or drape it in sarcasm, because no one on the internet ever perceives that the wrong way.

Thou shalt not use them fightin’ words. Patton Oswalt’s hiatus is a perfect example of how to handle when your trolling catches up to you. Want to bait something? Dig up a worm, undo a coat hanger and get thee to a fishery.

Thou shalt not use hashtags thou does not research first. DiGiorno Pizza infamously borrowed the #WhyIStayed hashtag—meant to defend Janay Palmer Rice from those blaming her for being beaten by her NFL-player husband—in an advertisement “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

Thou shalt not overuse hashtags. #Seehowannoying #justreading #these106characters #canget #wheneverythingstartswith #hashtags #questionmark

Thou shalt not write more than a two-part tweet. Leave that 281-character nonsense to Facebook or a blog. Twitter is no place for expounding upon the merits of Big Sean’s new album. However, it is the place for linking to a blog post on the subject.

Thou shall promote others’ work as well as thou’s own. Just as you wouldn’t talk about them behind their back, make sure you tag them while you’re at it.

Thou shalt not overly tag celebrities. Tagging fellow writers and bloggers is OK. Tagging journalists you’ve never met as a way to thank them for their work is OK. Sending tweets every hour on the hour to @RobertDowneyJr is not OK (see my breach below). And if Ashley Judd gets her way — and I’m hoping she does because it’s about damn time internet sexual harassers are held accountable — you could receive a restraining order a la Sheldon Cooper and Stan Lee.

Thou shall click on trends, even though thou is pretty sure it has something to do with a boy band’s newly dropped album. Trends are curated and linked for a reason. You might learn something, like how anti-Obama-everything Ted Cruz is now the proud owner of an Obamacare healthcare policy, or pull a muscle rolling your eyes at the One Direction vs. Justin Beiber war being waged by preteens with smartphones.

Thou shalt not give preteens a Twitter account.

Thou shalt tweet only things thou wouldn’t mind having as thou’s epitaph. And yes, that means I’d be fine having the following etched onto my urn forever:

Because face it — if it goes online, it’s up there as long as the caged Twitter mascot sings.


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