The Perils of Social Networking

My friend B recently called me to lament the experiences of his dating life.  He had been dating a girl for a few months and things had been going well.  But on their fifth date, he had her over to his place for dinner and she made the fatal mistake of mentioning where all of her stuff would go if she moved into his place.  Then she went a step further and mentioned that her apartment lease would be up at the end of October so she could move in with him in November.

This is of course an example of COMING ON TOO STRONG.

And it's one of the most common examples.  Girls committing too quickly and guys turning into scared woodland creatures who run for the hills.  (And of course, guys do it too.  Break-Up Bag, anyone?)

But one thing that we don't usually mention is that in the newfound age of social networking and all things twitter, it's also possible to COME ON TOO STRONG. Somehow it's like the safety of having a computer screen in front of people sometimes makes it easier to open up - and the social cues we pick up through observation when physically talking to someone aren't there. And come on, let's face it, no one wants to be that guy - or more aptly, that twitter handle no one responds to.

The Dos and Don'ts - How to Avoid Coming On Too Strong in the Twitterverse

DO start conversations by responding to comments. Since most of us are rabid book readers, they're always a safe way make a connection.
@sztownsed81: Reading *and loving* FAITHFUL PLACE.
@jimnduncan: @sztownsend81 been meaning to get that. Love Tana French.

DON'T respond by saying something too personal.  DON'T compliment people's pictures when you don't know them.  It ends up sounding either condescending ("I'm usually fun and you look chipper") or creepy...or both.
@shallremainnameless: I saw your beautiful agent photo.  I hope i get to meet that smile in person one day. 

DO keep in mind Twitter is about making connections, not necessarily about promoting yourself or your blog (do this, but don't just do this), or asking for query advice all the time.

DON'T try to insert yourself into an A and B conversation - just like In Real Life, it's awkward if two people are talking and a third person neither party knows just jumps in and inserts themselves into the conversation.  Use In Real Life standards.  If you wouldn't jump into the conversation if you were physically standing there, don't do it on twitter either.

Which leads me too...DO think about whether your humor will be lost in translation.  Some times without "tone of voice" comments that might be funny in person can fall flat - or worse sound borderline psychotic - on twitter.  (This does happen to the best of us...)

In the same vein, DON'T say things that make you sound like a stalker.  Things like "I'll show up at your hotel room and make you read my manuscript!" will probably get you blocked.

DON'T spam people with tweets.  Just like you wouldn't spam someone with calls or texts after a first date, you don't want to do the same with tweets.  Wait for a response or wait for a few days and the next time they say something interesting.

DON'T be overfamiliar with someone you don't know.  While the online community is amazing, it does sometimes create a false sense of intimacy.  Exchanging a few tweets and reading blog posts doesn't make people best friends.  Reading someone's blog, doesn't mean you should email them and ask personal questions.  Facebook friending another writer doesn't mean you should call them to ask about their agent.


In the same vein, DO be careful who you trust.  Secrets and personal details that could be potential Gossip (*gasp*) is probably better told to someone you actually know.  Like family or real best friends.

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~Jamie said...

HAH! Okay, I feel creepy because I see my scenario mentioned in here, and I am all stalkery for noticing it and commenting. :)

I kind of disagree about the interjecting yourself into conversations, though... sometimes that's a really good way to get to know people via twitter.

The thing about twitter is, it isn't a private convo because it's out there on the web for everyone to see, and I think it's okay, to a degree, for you to step in and participate. It's especially beneficial if you know one of the people and are hoping to know the other--it's kind of like in real life if you were at a mixer (aside, I'm not sure I've ever been to an actual mixer) and you wanted to meet a cute guy that one of your friends knew... it's the perfect set up for an introduction. Only, with twitter there's not as much need for an intro because you can just read their about page. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Ah, twitter, I'm still learning about it and trying to use it properly.

suzie townsend said...

Jamie, I know what you mean about the "jumping into conversations" and you're right. Sometimes it totally works. But there have been moments when I've been deep into a conversations with three or four people about something and another person will try to jump in and it comes across as awkward. But what I should have mentioned here is that it really depends on the topic. Jumping into a conversation about books or movies is no big deal. Jumping into a conversation that's more of an "inside" conversation despite being on twitter just makes it look like the person is trying to jump in but doesn't know what they're talking about.

Loretta Nyhan said...

Awesome post.

Can I add a category? The whiners and complainers. I had to unfollow a couple of people because I couldn't take the constant moaning and groaning. Twitter doesn't replace therapy, you know?

(And I've been guilty of commenting on stranger's photos--nothing creepy, I hope. I figure if someone posts a photo and provides a link, it's fair game for commentary.)

Joseph L. Selby said...

Contrariwise, users of media like Twitter often hold conversations, forgetting that anyone who follows the participants can see the entire thing. If the conversation is meant to be between the individuals, then Twitter isn't the medium to use. Its very purpose is to involve those that follow us/we follow.

Phoebe North said...

Yeah, I was going to say what Joseph Selby said. I think there's been some interesting conflation between twitter and chat programs/IMs. It's almost a shame (almost) that google wave didn't take off, because it would have been a more appropriate place for those private/personal collaborative conversations. If twitter is a party, then I think having a private conversation on there would be akin to, I don't know, standing in the corner with your accountant talking in low tones about your taxes. It might be annoying that a stranger walks up and butts in and starts asking you what you're talking about, but it also should be understandable, given the venue.

I'm with you on the gist of this, though: annoying and intrusive people are annoying and intrusive!

~Jamie said...

I do agree with that Suzie... if you don't have anything to add on the subject, just jumping in and saying something for the sake of talking doesn't make any sense, and just makes the person look foolish.

Really, it's all about being patient and waiting for the right time to jump in and assert yourself. :)

Sigh... isn't it all about timing?

Kara said...

LOVE the Wedding Crashers reference. Lmao.

Rachael Harrie said...

Great advice, Suzie. It's really useful to have some of the "unspoken rules" put down on paper (screen) - something for us twitter users to think about...

Sarah Goldberg said...

Oh man, that Break Up Bag story is... wow. Just wow.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice. I'm not on twitter yet, but I'll remember it if I do. Like you say, when commenting on blogs, we should watch what we say and be sure we're professional.

Sher A. Hart said...

Twitter is touted for its ability to gain someone followers and drive business their way. I saw the buzz it created for the author of "What's up Down There?" But this whole post and responses makes me doubt the wisdom of using Twitter to post any personal information, period. Seems like an invitation for stalkers. Is the potential gain for business worth it? Blocking someone who's already obsessed isn't going to keep them from finding you in person, or your dog. So I'm going to have to disagree on using twitter to talk about anything except business. Better safe and a little poorer.

Livia Blackburne said...

Hee hee. I *did* worry that I'd creep you out that one time I dreamed about being a Mexican dancer at your wedding. That was rather random. I'm not a stalker, I promise. :-)

And gentlemen, I do second the suggestion that when in doubt, err on the side of *not* complimenting someone's twitter profile picture.

Oh, and I personally don't mind if 3rd parties butt in on the conversation. If I have a convo on twitter, then I expect it to be overheard.