Over the weekend, we may have witnessed a possible social suicide on Twitter. A battle of words broke out between two individuals with different opinions and this quickly escalated to a series of personal attacks. Given the public nature of Twitter, everyone who was following these two individuals was able to track their “conversation.” Also, because it was online, this war of words will be forever archived on the Internet. There is no way that either of these individuals will be able to deny that their fight ever happened.
In the interest of diplomacy, I’m not going to mention the exact identities of the two people involved in the online spat, but it wouldn’t be too difficult for you to find out on your own. As the personal attacks continued streaming through the Twittersphere, I began to think about what would have been the proper way to deal with the situation. Morten Rand-Hendriksen agreed and we decided to create this list of rules for Twitter etiquette. While these guidelines focus on Twitter, they can easily apply to other social networking platforms like Facebook and public forums too.
1. Avoid Personal Attacks At All Times
If you want me to follow you on Twitter, I want to see that you are a mature and civilized individual. If you go around spouting insults, spewing racist slurs, and otherwise attacking other Twitter users, you’ll quickly find yourself shouting into a black hole. No one will want to hear what you have to say. There’s nothing wrong with having a controversial opinion, but you should be discussing the issues in a calm and mature manner. Attack the issue, not the person.
2. Keep the Personal Vendettas Out of the Public Sphere
When you are in a nice restaurant, it is inappropriate to get into a shouting match with your dinner companion. This ruins the dining experience for the other patrons. This shows a complete and utter lack of class. If you have a conflict with someone, work it out in private. Interacting on Twitter is no different than interacting in any other public place. Take the fight to email, instant messenger, or a phone call instead. Resolve your issues there, because you never know who may be listening in on your war on Twitter.
3. Respect the Opinions of Others
Not everyone is going to agree with you all of the time. This is a fact of life. Whether you posed the question yourself or someone chimed in on their own, respect the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what they have to say, but it does mean that you should respect their right to say it. Going back to the first point, feel free to debate the issue, stating your case and why you feel the way that you do. That’s fine, but you should never escalate the debate to personal attacks.
4. Do Not Tweet While Intoxicated
When you are under the influence of alcohol or you are feeling particularly emotional, it is perhaps best to unplug from the matrix. If you’ve had more than a few drinks, there’s a good chance that you’ll say something you don’t really mean or express something that you’ll regret later on. You are not calm. You are not composed. When you are drunk, don’t grab your iPhone and start tweeting out your hatred of everyone and everything. This is social suicide; it’s like running toward a group of police officers waving around a loaded gun.
5. Get Out of the “Bar Fight” Mentality
Don’t pick a fight with the peacemaker. With the spat that happened over the weekend, one of the individuals went on to insult, attack, or belittle anyone who chose to get involved. Some of these people were simply trying to tell them to calm down or take the battle to a private arena. They were trying to help. They were trying to prevent the social suicide. In short, they were trying to be good Samaritans and peacekeepers, but in doing so, they entered the line of fire. If you are having a disagreement with someone online, don’t automatically assume that anyone else who gets involved is against you or out to get you. They could just be trying to put out the fire.
For Rules Six Through Ten…
For the other five rules of Twitter etiquette, hop on over to Design is Philosophy, the blog of Pink & Yellow Media’s Morten Rand-Hendriksen.