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Thursday, December 9, 2010

How To Not Offend People on Twitter

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM


So the whole benefit of twitter (for me at least) is to be able to vent and talk shit about different aspects of Bay Area life, which usually ends up being the (local) music scene a lot. Now that I'm starting to build a following, the people that read my tweets are the ones I'm usually talking shit about. Because of this burden, I'm starting to have to be conscious and watch what I say. How can I get around this?

~Bitter DJ

You know the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, you're probably not drunk enough yet"? This almost applies to you. The trouble, however, is that everyone seems drunk on Twitter. Case in point: As I write this, "pooh" is trending.  

If I learned anything from the Great Scott Baio/Jezebel Twitter Freak Out of 2010, it is this: You can call anyone a "cunty lesbian shitass" so long as you also have a lesbian friend that you can take a picture with and post on Facebook in order to prove that you have someone willing to pose as a lesbian for you. Oh, I also learned that offending people can provide a lot of free publicity. The tricky part is how to be just offensive enough to attract attention but not enough to get unfollowed. The formula goes something like this:

Scale of Offensive Tweet Topics:
Racism/homophobia/sexism > Journey cover bands > Calling yourself a "Brand Evangelist" > jokes about Rabbis

In terms of how much you should self-censor, it depends on what you want to get out of Twitter as a platform. For instance, if you're primarily using it as a promotional tool, which it sounds like you are, then you really shouldn't neg on anybody who might be of help to you somewhere down the road. You can mock general topics of course--Christmas, pop music, people who eat a lot of prunes--but avoid making fun of someone's grandmother -- I don't care how good your Depends joke is. Think of Twitter like you would any social playground; that is, don't tweet anything you'd be afraid to say to somebody's face. You can be critical, but don't be a bully. 

Also, it bears retweeting that your feed could possibly get you fired or land you in court if you're not careful. The National Law Journal gives us some of the biggest risk factors, (one is defamation) in this article, which is not just fun to try to get your friends to say aloud three times fast: "Beware: Your 'tweet' on Twitter could be trouble." Who else said "twouble"?! 

Lastly, there is something to be said for karma, which, for those who don't know, is the Buddhist concept of annoying everyone around you. Wait, no, it's this: The more good energy you put out there, the more it is returned to you. It's just like the golden rule I'm about to annoy you with by making into yet another bad pun: tweet others the way you want to be tweeted. 

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley @SFAllShookDown and @SFWeekly 

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