The Ten Tweets You Meet in Hell

I love Twitter. It’s like a big giant party full of friends and friends-you-haven’t-met-yet, plus that weird guy who skulks in the corner by the hummus. Working from home, it’s been a lifeline of chat, advice, watercooler gossip, and alleviation from the relentless blink of the cursor.  I’ve no idea if it’s helped me sell books, but I’ve certainly reached more people that I would have done shouting to myself in my living room. And I’ve had fun.

The other day someone sent me this link, which I suppose makes sense if you don’t actually WANT to spend your whole life reading Tweets about The Apprentice (what’s wrong with you?), but I found kind of depressing.

So no, I don’t have a ‘social media strategy’. Wouldn’t that be unfun and awful? Instead I just act like I would at a real party. Greet friends warmly, shyly say hello to a few new people, and occasionally drink too much and say things I regret in the morning. (OK, often). It seems to work fairly well. So why is it some people behave so bizarrely on what is meant to be a ‘social’ site? You wouldn’t walk in to a party and start slotting business cards into people’s pants, or stand in front of them and say, ‘Hello. Today I had soup for lunch. Please listen while I describe it.’ Would you? When someone’s following you on Twitter, you’re asking them to listen to you and give a small piece of their valuable time to your 140-character musings. Why not try to make it interesting? And I don’t understand the obsession with ‘following back’, or only following those who follow you. Again, it’s like being a party and saying, ‘Hello. I am John, and want to tell you about spoons for ten minutes. YOU MUST LISTEN.’ Then stopping, and the other person starting, ‘Hello. I am Mary. I’m going to talk about hamsters until it’s your turn again.’ In a conversation, you don’t have to measure who talks most. Sure, it might seem rude if someone never replies, and turns their back or talks over you, but if they’re doing the Twitter equivalent of gazing over your shoulder, surely you should just walk away with dignity, and talk to the weird man in the corner, and/or weep in the toilet until your eye makeup runs? **

(** male equivalent, I don’t know. You have to pretend you’ve got hayfever? In February?)

Musing on this, I’ve compiled a list of the Top Ten worst Tweets people do. This is not to say I’ve never done some or all of these myself. I absolutely have. It’s easy to slip and Twitter would be deadly dull were we all networky-strategising spambots. In real life, I know I’ve often stopped to listen to myself babbling on and thought, ‘God, I’ve been talking about pens for half an hour! Why has no one stopped me? I’m so boring!’ Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. Like an actual party, nobody will really remember what you were doing. They’ll be too busy thinking about their own RTs.

  1. The banal tweet

‘I’ve had a lovely day with @Random_friend with cake and puppies and sunshine. Now I’m going to eat a lovely dinner! Hurray!’

Er, so what? Damn you and your happy puppy-filled life. Now I feel bad about sitting here alone with my Spaghetti Hoops and box-set of Dawson’s Creek Series 4.

 2. The ‘I’m cool and political’ tweet

‘Watching Jonny Hellzapoppin’ Mad Politician on #bbcqt. Can’t believe no one is addressing the vital issue of the hamster-baiting industry #unacceptable’

Some of don’t know what #bbcqt is and in fact are watching ‘Fat Pregnant and Still Eating Doughuts’ on Despair TV. Now we feel inadequate and will rush out and subscribe to The Economist, never read it, and not be able to get out the door due to the volume of newsprint. It’s all your fault, you and your darn ‘caring about the world’ rubbish.

 3. The promotional-robot tweet


C’mon, dude. At least chat a bit. Don’t walk into the Twitter-party and shove copies of your precious tome into the bowl of Wotsits. It’s rude and soooo boring it makes me unfollow you. Then you unfollow me in pique, and you miss my awesome tweets about cardigans. EVERYONE LOSES.

 4. The apologetic tweet

‘Oh I’m so sorry to mention, but I have a book out! Dear me! I must go and hide in the corner to recover from the social faux-pas of mentioning it! In fact I will away to burn all copies in a shame-pyre! Bye!’

I really don’t mind hearing about your book. I like books and I like writers, that’s probably why I follow you. At the imaginary party, you wouldn’t be rude in saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I have a book out. No biggy. It’s cool. So tell me more about your Pilates classes.’ Honestly, you don’t have to apologise.

 5. The ‘cute stuff my kid says’ tweet

‘Just came down to see Intelligensia, (4 and a half), reading the collected works of Joyce. ‘Mummy,’ she said, ‘I could write better than this man, he doesn’t do proper sentences!’ LOL!’

I mean, it’s cute sometimes, but please, sparingly. Sparingly. Party equivalent = a brief flash of the photo. Equally as bad are people who tweet about their cats and/or dogs. Maybe even pictures of their dog, oooh, I don’t know, wearing a Santa hat?

(Yes, it’s the fifth circle of Twitter hell for me. Doesn’t he look cute though?)





6. The ‘I’m dead popular, me’ tweet

‘#ff @randomtweeter @otherrandomtweeter @otherotherrandom tweeter @manonthebus @auntiemary @auntiemarysdog’

And its equally annoying adjunct…

‘RT Thanks @firsttweeter @otherrandomtweeter @otherotherrandom tweeter @manonthebus @auntiemary @auntiemarysdog’

It’s lovely to say hello and mention others and be kind, and Twitter etiquette hasn’t quite settled down yet, so we want to be polite. And we all appreciate RTs and mentions, of course we do. But I don’t think we need to thank each and every person for each and every thing. At that party, you don’t rush round anxiously saying, ‘Dave! Thanks for introducing me to Karen! And…*rushes over* Karen, thanks for introducing me to Bob! And Bob….’ Think of all that time you’d waste when you could be talking about house prices.

 7. The ‘in-joke’ tweet

‘@supercoolhipstertweeter @diffidenttweeter @hasntworkedouthowtousetwitteryettweeter Hey, let’s not forget the penguin earmuffs! BAHAHA!’

In-jokes can be like standing in the corner of the party surrounded by chums and laughing loudly while quaffing champagne. I’m totally guilty of this. Sorry.

 8. The ‘objectionable tweet I think is made OK by use of hashtag’

‘Listen to the hamster, spinning in his wheel, sooo annoying! #ihatehamsters #hamstersshould bekilled #nomrhamsteriexpectyoutodie’

Haven’t you seen those experiments? We can TOTALLY read even if there’s no spaces. And saying ‘Just sayin’ ‘is both annoying and meaningless.

 9. The ‘stating the bleedin’ obvious’ tweet

‘Oh, it’s raining! That’s wet. I don’t like being wet.’

Yes. Yes we know. It’s raining here too. Thanks for reminding us.

10. The ‘here’s some stupid blogpost I wrote, please RT’ tweet

‘Here’s some stupid blogpost I wrote, please RT’.

Well. That was a bit ‘meta’, wasn’t it. What’s your favourite Twitter sin? (Twin? No, that doesn’t work at all). Try also following @humblebrag for another sin I didn’t mention, because they do it so well.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. I like Twitter feeds that give me an insight into the lives of people I admire, so I’m okay with the odd puppy and/or baby post. God knows, I do enough of them myself. I have the occasional Twitter cull and have surprised myself by un-following people I’m a fan of, but that keep making the same basic Tweet over and over again.

    Thinking about it, that’s the most annoying Tweeter – the broken record. Doesn’t really matter what the theme is, but if it’s beaten to death, I tune them out and eventually unfollow them. For example, there are those who tweet and re-tweet nothing but variations on “Tories are bastards!”, or one movie producer whose stream consists entirely of re-tweets of people praising his work (he’s for the chop next time I open that followers list).

    My own Twitter failing, I think, is that I’m not as good as I should be about replying to or thanking people who mention me or address me directly. But I’m working on it.

    1. I agree. I have to unfollow people who do that. It’s not mentioning the book, it’s the constant mentioning. You could stand to self-promote a bit more on Twitter! Very modest.

  2. Nice! Great post.


    I feel a certain amount of pressure to produce funny and positive tweets; to entertain rather than complain. But I mostly fall back on the trusty, “How funny is my kid?!” Tweet. Also, I’m very guilty of the “BUY MY BOOK” tweet, but then I say that a lot in real life too so I guess there’s consistency there. I’d say my pet peeve is the “Why does nobody feel sorry for me?” Tweet, though. The answer is mostly, “Well you’re asking a thousand strangers to sympathise with you because you missed the bus and meanwhile I have a hangover on a week day, I’m really shit at my dull office job but I better hold on to it because I got bills to pay and I can’t sleep. Don’t tell me to calm down. You gonna feed my kids!? Stop complaining to the internet and sort your life out. I’ve just burnt my lip on my coffee now. #thisdaysucks” but that doesn’t fit the 140 limit so I usually ignore them.



    1. Very true, but actually I think you can get away with most of these if you write well (which you do). That’s the secret rule 11.

      1. Ach… Cheers, Claire!

  3. Excellent. We all do some of it sometimes, but it’s the constant self-promo I can’t stand and will unfollow. A good post on the same subject (more-or-less) is on @yrosered’s blog. Won’t let me post link here.

  4. alisonwells says:

    Yes, well done, all true, I may have been guilty of one or two…. well we aren’t perfect all the time are we. Must dash. Putting the washing out. Oh no it’s raining. etc etc.

  5. Janet O'Kane says:

    I notice you don’t mention chickens anywhere, Claire, so I feel free to continue tweeting about mine and posting cute pics of chicks. I have a follower in New York who particularly enjoys hearing about my bucolic (her word) lifestyle.
    What I don’t get, and really hate, are the #ff everyone in the world addicts. It doesn’t make me feel special being on one of those lists and I’d rather not be there at all. Are they automated?

  6. Brilliant and funny post Claire! I don’t mind writers promoting their books especially when they first come out, as long as they say other things too. I have been known to mention my kids but only when it is something exceptionally hilarious and fascinating (ahem). I post my bloglinks quite a lot but it’s usually other people’s writing I’m banging on about. My pet peeve is people who tweet ‘No spoilers please’ on a hashtage like#thebridge, etc, just because THEY can’t watch the episode everyone else is looking forward to discussing. Oh, OK then, the rest of us will sit in silence until it suits you to catch up….

  7. Susannah says:

    I do at least half of those. (And am only saved from the others by having nothing about myself worthy of promotion.) On the other hand, I don’t actually feel a huge obligation to entertain my readers – I’m just being me. If other people want to know me, that should work. If they don’t, why should I try to entertain them anyway?

    Something I don’t get, though, and often find obnoxious, is the whole #ff thing. Not just the lists of names, though they’re the worst, but the whole concept. Perhaps it made sense in the early days of twitter when people were trying to spread the word about other interesting tweeters, but these days the RT button makes it so much easier to spread the word about cool people by actually showing them being cool. I am far more likely to investigate and potentially follow someone whose entertaining anecdote I see retweeted by a friend than I am to do so if I just see their name with an #ff before it. No! Don’t tell me who to follow! Show me why I should.

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