Is it okay to harangue somebody into following you? Or feel guilty because your friend isn’t following you on Twitter?
There is a truth we need to accept as being inalienable from the nature of Twitter as it is presently designed: Twitter is built on passive-aggression, insecurity, and terror, and it won’t put up with your touchy-feely bullshit any longer.
No, you cannot harass someone into following you, just like you can’t make someone be your friend. That is embarrassing and pretty much guaranteed to turn out badly. Do you know how many times I’ve tried to make people be my friends? Dozens. (Hundreds.) Of those people, how many do you think have become genuine friends who don’t harbor any deep-seated resentment towards me? Just one. His name is Phillip. I keep him Duct-taped to my wall, and I know he cares about me, because when I hold a spoonful of peanut butter in front of his face and refuse to give it to him until he says he’s really really glad we’re friends, he says so.
Look, we all want our own Wall-Phil. (That’s Phillip’s nickname.) We all want our friends and admired acquaintances to love us as much as we love them, and to show that love by following us on Twitter. You can feel bad if your friend doesn’t follow you. I do. When someone I admire doesn’t follow me on Twitter, I have to print off her or his avatar, build a very small coffin, and bury it. I have to pretend that person died and that’s the only reason she isn’t following me back. It gets to be a real hassle. But I’d never ask for a follower directly because THAT would be weird. Here’s where the passive-aggression comes in. You want your friend to follow you on Twitter? Start starring the shit out of his or her tweets. Remind him or her everyday that you are there, waiting. Watching.
I’m pretty active on Twitter, and do a good deal of link sharing and animal-GIFing. What’s your advice on people who respond to/mention your tweets IRL… repeatedly? I’ve lost count of the number of times people have brought up my tweets in in-person conversations. Is that not an incredibly awkward thing to do? Why not just tweet back after reading the original post on Twitter? Can you write a Twitter etiquette rulebook? Etc., etc., etc. HELP. These people are annoying.
Luckily for you, my first book, Birds of a Feather: Laughing, Loving, and Learning on Twitter, is forthcoming. Unluckily for you, it has yet to be sold. Or written.
In the meantime, let’s get at the complexities inherent in your question. It sounds like you’re pretty popular on the Twitter, but it also sounds like your celebrity leaves you feeling empty and soulless. If everyone loves you so much, why do you feel so alone? If everyone is hanging on your every word, why don’t they let you know your words are appreciated until well after the fact? I understand. It’s lonely at the top. I took an upset victory over the reigning spelling bee champion in my fifth grade class, and the power was at once exhilarating and isolating. I was so cool that it was legitimately intolerable. I had to move. Well, I mean, just to middle school, with everyone else. But still.
No, but really: it is definitely an awkward thing to do to reference a person’s tweets IRL after some time has passed. I don’t know why! It just IS weird. It makes a perfectly legitimate activity (reading a friend’s tweets) feel like snooping – like you’re only bringing it up because you got caught. HOWEVER. I don’t know ANYONE I have Twitter relationships with IRL, but I assure you that if I did, I would probably end up talking to them about pertinent tweets at least some of the time. Why? I don’t like @-replying to start conversations if I can help it. Really clutters up my timeline. I’m guessing your weirdo friends and I have that in common. We’re all type As, and we’re all sorry.
Voicemails: In 2012, is Leaving One Rude? I mean, no, it’s not rude, but I get reallllly annoyed when people leave me unnecessary voicemails instead of just texting, especially if the voicemail just says “Hey, it’s Katie, give me a call back,” cause like, YEAH, KATIE, I see you on my missed calls, I get that you want me to call you back.
God, SORRY, letter-writer! SOMETIMES I just like leaving you a voicemail so that you remember what my voice sounds like, because I like to think that when you hear it you’ll think of something funny I said once, and then you’ll just quick go through a mental montage of all the hilarious times we’ve had together, and then you’ll cry for a couple of seconds because you love me so much. I didn’t realize I was such a hassle for you. I didn’t realize you thought I was unnecessary.
Just in case this isn’t actually about me: generally speaking, any kind of communication that isn’t necessary has the potential to offend. There is literally no excuse to ever text a fellow human being with just the word “hey,” and YET! Leaving a voicemail equivalent of the texted “hey,” is, as you say, kind of annoying. This is a mom’s approach to technology – and I don’t mean that negatively, as I’m sure we’ll all agree that all our moms are the best at everything, except for possibly technology. Here’s my mom: (voicemail) “Katie, call me back.” Me: “Mom, can you please not leave me voicemails that don’t say anything.” My mom: (text) “Call me.” Me: … small scream.
That being said: sometimes, missed calls do not show up! Or at least that’s what my friends said happened. And obviously they wouldn’t make that up. There is no reason they would see that I called and just not call me back. So voicemails are okay, I think, ON THE CONDITION that they include an actual message to be delivered, and particularly when that message is too long for a text. Here is just one example of a really appropriate time to leave a voicemail: “Hi [letter-writer], just wanted to let you know that the city is under attack by uranium-producing extraterrestrials, but I’ve secured a fallout shelter and it has room for a couple more people, but spots are going fast. Let me know if you’re interested. Later!”
Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.
Illustration by Cara Vandermey