The astounding secret to social media is one you already know

There’s a book coming out on Thursday called How To Leave Twitter. I should really leave it at that because the advent of Twitter has made it horrifically easy to actually slag a famous person off to their faces, and who am I to pass judgement on Grace Dent? Nobody. She writes for the Guardian, I don’t. That’s the end of that.

Except… except. Obviously the book isn’t out yet so I can’t have read it, but there have been extracts in the Guardian and…

Listen before we go any further I should probably lay my cards on the table: I bloody love the Guardian. I am no lefty cliche, and I’ve read enough copies of Private Eye in my time to know that particular media group isn’t without closeted skeletons either, but as imperfect as it is and as wrong as it can get, it is where I go for news and comment and things I don’t necessarily agree with that make me think. My dearest wish isn’t even to write for it. It’s simply to be good enough to write for it. We can all dream…

Anyway, extracts. They are there. As timely as a book about Twitter may be, it looks as if this is an account of one person’s experience on twitter. An experience no doubt skewed by people going “lol your a shit writer” without a trace of irony, because there is a PERSON IN THE MEDIA LET’S SHOUT AT THEM ON THE INTERNET! That, truly, is the power of Twitter. At one point if you wanted to tell a comedian exactly how funny you found them you had to heckle at a gig. A gig you paid to get into. Now you can tell people off the telly how terrible you think they are for free. This modern age we live in, truly, we are blessed.

I sound jaded with Twitter here. Well, I am and I’m not. Now I’ve learned how to use Twitter in a way that’s best for me, I do love it. But that’s just it – in a way that’s best for me. I’m on my second account now, after making a complete faff of the first one. Followed too many people, heard too much noise. The people I followed weren’t even my friends, mostly – I fell into the famous people trap. I still follow a few comedians, actors, journalists, but only the really entertaining ones. These days I want to see updates from my friends.

If you are only on Twitter because you think it’ll get you noticed by famous people, rather than using it for what it’s best at, connecting you with the world – well it’s not wrong, as such, but good luck to you. Famous people on twitter tend to follow other famous people. This is because that’s who their friends are. All the comedians follow each other, all the journalists follow each other. Let them get on with it. Following all of them then whingeing that they only talk to each other and they’re so cliquey waaaah – it’s like a stranger following you, then all your friends, and then whingeing that all you do all day is talk to people you’re actually friends with. You’d react in a stunned manner, and rightly so. Twitter isn’t deliberately cliquey, it’s just that – well – famous people don’t want to be friends with you. Sorry, but they don’t.

So Grace Dent has written her book on Twitter. Grace Dent has her own experience of Twitter. It may be very similar to others, but it is still only hers. It may be worth a read – I have tried to shake off my curiosity but I’m still wildly tempted to pick it up – but as an account, not as a guide. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to use social media. Unless you’re using it to promote a business, then okay, yes, maybe there are some rules you should follow. But as an individual, there is one rule. It’s a rule you already know, and it’s about everything in life, not just social media. Ready? Okay:

Don’t be a dick.

The above spiel about celebrities falls under this. They’re people. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it to them over Twitter. Don’t forget the social that goes alongside the media: be friendly. Seek out people you can connect with. Don’t get caught up too much in the conventions: I am rubbish at hashtags and hardly ever use them properly and I never use lists at all. This would in some hysterical circles mark me as the equivalent of a leper, but it honestly doesn’t matter: it doesn’t mean I get anything less out of it.

Do anything you like, basically, but don’t be a dick. That’s all. That’s the secret to using Twitter. Anything else is superfluous. Find your own way of using it, engage with whoever you like, forget the follower count and don’t listen to journalists OR bloggers. Ignore everything else I’ve said, if you like. Except that one rule. That one will keep you in good stead.

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2 responses to “The astounding secret to social media is one you already know

  1. When I saw the headline, I knew that would be your advice. It’s good advice too. I do follow famous people and occasionally send them an @ if more for the people following me who also follow said famous person.

    I dont’ hold any truck with someone who thinks a famous person is “ignoring” them on Twitter. If you ever think this, then I recommend the following course of action – put their username into a Twitter search and then go away for an hour or two and marvel at the amount of mentions that have accrued, then ask yourself if you would even read all of these, let alone reply to them especially since you probably have work you’re meant to be doing to.

    But, hey, I did once get a DM off Stephen Fry so: TWITTER GLOAT.

    • I was so reluctant to leave my old account because “Stephen Fry follows me on this one. He’ll never re-add me!”

      I don’t even follow him now, so jaded am I with famous types on twitter. It took me until this afternoon to add Nathan Fillion again, and he’s Nathan Fillion.

      I logged into that old account a while ago and it took me ages to find a tweet by someone I actually knew. It’s basically a big timeline of LOOK AT THIS FUCKING HIPSTER.

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