Action - Reaction

Posted Friday, April 16, 2010, 12:53 PM


I have been on the internet for a long time. I started way back in 1995, and before that a friend of mine had a BBS Bulletin Board of his own that he had been running for around three or four years, so I have been aware of the social side of the net for nearly two decades.

The biggest problem with posting your comments online is the lack of the context that shows your intent. It's very hard to tell the difference between sarcasm, jokes, dismissive comments, and serious argument. The creation of emoticons help to a degree, but they aren't used as often as they used to be, and tend to be misused. They're easy to forget to use, and easy to overlook.

I have recently joined Twitter. I hadn't planned to, I tend to resist most fads that appear for their own sake and don't have a useful purpose. In this case I thought maybe I could improve my chances of finding some casual work, but it turns out Twitter probably isn't the place for that. However, I've been suckered into its charming simplicity, and will probably hang around on it for a while.

The other day I signed up for Facebook. Even though that has a far more likely chance of garnering me some work, so far it's been a horrible experience, an onslaught of crap that has to be filtered through by hand. I would be surprised if I stay around on that monstrosity for too much longer.

I have realised something about Twitter's limited approach that is both in its favour and potentially its worst problem. Not only does it come with all the trappings of other online conversation, i.e. that it is public, and it invites reactionary responses; it also has the added limitation of only 140 characters per message.

This forces you to reduce your wording, which can be seen as a blessing, simplifying and clarifying your point to its most basic, as long as you don't write in "txt-spk". But it also means there's no room for context. Anything you write will look like a statement, because you miss out emoticons, and can't guarantee anybody has seen the wider context of your previous or next tweets.

As I follow a lot of celebrities I admire, many of whom are comedians, they will often post something that's obviously humour. Obvious to me, at least, but apparently not to some of their followers. This surprises me, as surely they realise that following a popular comedian will mean they'd get jokey posts from time to time.

So here's my advice to Twitter followers: when someone posts something sarcastic about a hot topic, like politics or a natural disaster or current gossip, do not post a negative reaction. It was almost certainly meant as a joke, but even if it's not: if you agree with it, post a response; but if you disagree, say nothing.

The last thing you want to do is a) look like an idiot for assuming a joke post is real opinion; b) say something you'll regret; or c) put that celebrity off Twitter entirely, to the point where they abandon it, so we all miss out.

I have been one of those people who react angrily to something before thinking. I've done some foolish ranting over things I don't understand and end up looking like an idiot. I even posted something just a few weeks ago about ADR that seemed to rile up a few people in that part of the industry, though I think they misinterpreted my point.

It's easy to make people angry, and it's easy to misinterpret. Think twice. Don't ever post in anger. It would save everyone a lot of grief if you take a few steps back, some deep breaths, and either abandon your plan, or write more thoughtfully.

1 Reasoned Responses:

TS Hendrik said...

I can be pretty sarcastic on twitter. Most of the time people get that. I have been told off on occasion though. Had a few people tell me specifically that they'd be unfollowing me. Which always amuses me cause it's generally people I hadn't talked to in the first place.

Yeah, intonation can get lost online. I've mistakenly assumed insult when it was jest. I've just learned to not jump to any conclusions.

Also I cringe every time I for lack of characters have to use text speak. I'm not by any means proper English, but it just makes me feel like I'm sinning against all my past teachers.

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