7 deadly sins of Twitter

Read time: 6 mins

Twitter is a big party. There are good people everywhere.

The people in the kitchen, the people out in the back garden. The people who laugh with their whole body, not just out of the corner of their mouth. The people who are ace.

But this post is about those other people. Yes, you can unfollow, or block, but the party might be better if you knew what was making people go home early.

Here are my 7 deadly sins of Twitter.

  1. Retweeting your mass #FF (Follow Fridays)
  2. Complaining without @ mentions
  3. Puffing yourself up with horse shit
  4. Subtweeting
  5. Boring people to death
  6. Obsessing over meta
  7. Bullying

1. Retweeting your mass #FF (Follow Fridays)

You are tweeting a recommendation to follow you to people who follow you. This is like asking a chicken if it wants a pair of gloves.


It is genuinely lovely when someone enthuses their followers to follow you, they say something nice about you and introduce you to their people. But when you’re included in a #FF with about 8 other people, most people who see it don’t care. But do you know who cares less than the person’s followers who sent that #FF? Your existing followers.

Your followers already know how ace you are. If you’re genuinely impressed by an endorsement, that it is noteworthy, tell people. Don’t throw that fairly useless list of disparate usernames at your people too.

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2. Complaints without @ mentions (or worse, with one, but with a prefaced .)

Complaining directly about a company, business or entity without tagging them is a total waste.


The world of communications and marketing has taken over a hundred years to get to the point where you have a channel that will instantly notify somebody as you mention them in your message. So for the love of raptors, mention them. Tag them. Let them know. Because if you don’t, they don’t even have a chance of seeing. And if they don’t see, you are whinging to your followers. Your followers are not the mobile phone callcentre. They are not the utility company. They are not your late train. They are not Radiohead.

And what is worse than not tagging them is tagging them, but starting your tweet with ‘Hey’ or ‘.’ so everyone in your timeline sees your complaint. This doesn’t make the brand feel the pressure any more than a properly formed @ mention, it just pisses your friends off and makes you look like a tea drinking armchair whinging biscuit munching bollock lozenge.

If you do this, it is as if you’re sat at a digital dinner date complaining to your friend how the food is cold. Your friend didn’t cook it. Get the chef in and tell him.

If you’re convinced of your complaint, and going to take the time to write about it, put it in front of the rat-bastard company’s nose. This is where Twitter can not only spark conversations, but change things at the top.

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3. Puffing yourself up with horse shit

Add the number of celebrities on Twitter, subtract truth, multiply by hubris and divide by bollocks. Aspiration becomes bullshit, and without anyone to say ‘Really?’, a Twitter biog can go out of control.

A lot of people’s Twitter biogs read like the dating profile of a gene-splice of Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes and Marie Curie. Context is important, and if you’ve a job to do, there isn’t much room for modesty. If you’re doing something you’re proud of, put it in there. Be bold. My problem with a lot of biogs isn’t the facts, it is the filler; lots of people make up things, or embellish them to an unrecognisable degree. Just be yourself. Not everyone on Twitter is a Mark Zuckerberg or Katy Perry. That’s what makes it fun and ace to be a part of.

Usability tests I’ve done show that people read your last 4-5 tweets and form an opinion on that, rather than your biog, but they do look to it to get an idea of where you are, what general topics or themes you might be writing about, and to help decide if you’re serious, playful, mental or terrible.

Owner Of

The best example of horse shit is use of ‘Owner of’.

This is usually there to promote someone’s business, or a project or an achievement. Sometimes it is just a blog. My issue isn’t with someone promoting anything, but with the choice of words. Owner? You own it? It isn’t a Monopoly hotel on a board, or a toilet seat, or a ceramic dog. The bottom line is, most people write ‘Owner’ as their way of how Ron Bergundy says ‘I’m a pretty big deal’.

‘Own’ is a verb, but I have no idea why. Verbs are doing words or actions. To own isn’t to do, it is to own. ‘Owning’ should be a word classification of it’s own, that of ‘Passive Verb’. This verb stands alone. Put a doing word on there if you do something, or want to show your personal or professional connection to something. ‘Write for’. ‘Contribute to’, ‘Design and run’, ‘Work for’, ‘Creator of’, ‘I manage’, ‘Editor of’.

Just like a personal statement on a CV, or your introduction to a group of friends, find the right balance between modesty and self-promotion, and avoid the horse shit entirely.

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4. Subtweeting

If you subtweet about people, at best, you’re a time vampire. At worst, you’re passive agressive and you need to stop being silly.

“Some people on my Twitter feed are annoying”, and so on.

Subtweets are directed at a specific person or thing, but don’t mention them. They go out of their way to not mention them.  The only time a subtweet is valid is if you genuinely need to engage your followers or seek opinion, and you really can’t talk about specifics. If the topic needs examples or is representational, perhaps.

Stop and think; are they going to know it is about them anyway? Do you want them to think it might be about them? If either of these questions is answered with ‘Yes’, then do reconsider, unless you genuinely don’t care. But then, if you don’t care, why be oblique?

A real subtweet about this very blog post. Oh dear.

In most cases, if you’re tweeting about someone or something specific, be direct, change the forum or keep it to yourself.

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5. Boring people to death

Tweets are generally something noteworthy. ‘I just ate some pasta’, ‘On the bus’ and ‘Taking a nap’ are not noteworthy.

Noteworthy is something of interest to me, or a group of friends, or something I think others might find noteworthy. What I would not consider noteworthy is what I just ate, or that I’m about to go to sleep.

In terms of eating, which is the best example, it might be if I’d cooked something special, or I’d just had something odd to eat, or something from my childhood or ate at a restaurant I knew others would be interested in my opinion of. But tweets about eating something mundane are not noteworthy.

Lady Gaga could tweet about pasta. That is noteworthy to her fans, who are her followers. People probably go through her bins looking for bits of unchewed lasagne. It ends up on eBay. Nobody goes through your lasagne bin except for wild dogs and, if you’ve been a bit wrong, perhaps the FBI. If you just bought the spaghetti and ate it, and there is nothing noteworthy about it, just eat it. Quietly. And resist from tweeting about it.

The biography of a Magnolian

If there is one thing worse than horse-shit in a biog (see sin #3), it is play-it-safe robot mundanity.

In the space someone gets to describe themselves, these people describe nothing, because they’re too scared of being specific. I like to call them Magnolians, a term I coined when analysing online dating profiles on OKCupid.com.

People who call themselves a “Tea drinker”. Mixed with specificity about you, or what you like or tweet about, this is standard at best. But when it stands alone, or is bunched with other Magnolian sound-bites like ‘Loving life’, slate grey Duplo bricks might as well as be falling out your mouth when you open it to speak. What is that meant to say about you, Tea drinker? You drink tea. Nearly everyone drinks tea. Perhaps you should put ‘Foot user’ on there. Or ‘Piss maker’.

Twitter is just like the real world. People are not going to be engaged if you are boring and lifeless and make them want to plunge a fork into their own eye.

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6. Obsessing over meta

The people who tweet about nothing but tweeting, followers, follow back and all things Twitter meta.

My most hated Twitter sin is all about the meta. You get a notification of a new follower, and before you have a chance to even read their stuff, you get a ‘Sup, bro? Follow me back’. I find myself thinking ‘No. Sorry. Go fuck yourself, bro.’

This extends to people talking at length about their followers, like they’re Jesus, or like they are on Twitter just for the followers, rather than the information or engagement. Other people, who tweet you saying ‘Why did you unfollow me?’. They don’t want to know, they just want you to follow them again. People who talk about follower numbers or amount of tweets you’ve posted all the time.

If you hit a milestone (100th tweet, 1000th follower, someone famous favourites or retweets you – and so on),  you feel proud and you talk about it. It is noteworthy. But as a constant, it is awkward and terrible for everyone to experience.

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7. Bullying

Don’t do it. And I wish I had advice for you if you are on the receiving end of it, but I don’t. Block them, report them, make a mojito. Drink the mojito. Make another. Then talk to friends about what you might do next about it.



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  • Can I add (or maybe it’s just me.. ) people that RT every single positive comment they get about themselves. Once or twice if it is something interesting or relevant I can understand but if someone really thinks I’m interested in every time someone else says they like their blogpost.. tedious and verging on distractingly egotistical.
    Please tell me it isn’t just me that feels this!

  • I’d definitely count that as a sin on some level! Thanks for the comment.

  • Martynanynanynanynanyna-knees-knees-knees!

    No.7 has got to be group conversations. If you’re party to at least two of the conversants, your timeline just gets bogged up with a shit conversation that doesn’t concern you and you don’t give a fuck about! Start a conversation on Facebook, write a group email, use MSN messenger… Don’t subject every poor bastard to it. We don’t care!

    It’s easy to do. It’s quick and accessible and fun to do. I’ve done it! But it is fucking annoying.

    Thank you very much. Amen. #Something

    • Must agree here. So, so many people use Twitter where a private chat client would be far more appropriate – conversations go on for hours/days/weeks, and if you follow all of the participants it gets so tedious.
      I/we don’t care about your dinner party plans. Take it to email or IM!

  • #7 can be excessive use of hashtags.

    “I just #arrived in #Cardiff for the #rugby, #wales vs #france. Straight to the #pub to have a #beer #6nations #wru”


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