Mind Your MeTweets

You know how when someone compliments you, the first thing you do is e-mail everyone you know to tell them about the compliment?

No, you probably don’t, because you have the good sense not to do something like that.

Why then do so many people feel no shame in rampantly retweeting compliments they receive on Twitter? Some examples, with names changed to protect the guilty:

“RT @joesmith I just heard the most wonderful speech from @lisafrench. That girl is a genius.” (retweeted by @lisafrench)

“RT @fred24 Just saw @jasongotham’s redesign. So good. So jealous!” (retweeted by @jasongotham)

“RT @cakester Scrummify’s sign-up process is a thing of beauty.” (retweeted by @scrummify or an employee of Scrummify)

Let’s count the number of things wrong with this practice:

  1. In real life, it’s considered impolite to brag. Unless you are authoring an anonymous satirical account on Twitter, this is your real life.
  2. If your intent is to spread a compliment your product received, you’re spreading it to people who are already believers, or at the very least, already aware of your product. You want other people to spread it. Oh wait, they already are.
  3. You’re filling your followers’ Twitter feeds not with your own thoughts, but with other people’s thoughts… thoughts about you. The practice of retweeting insults about you on Twitter can also be controversial, but that’s a different beast altogether; one that aims to dismantle trollery by elevating it ironically.

I know many people view Twitter as a medium that can be used by anyone in any manner they see fit — without regard to how other people use it or how other people think it should be used — but I’m not really talking about Twitter here. I’m talking about basic manners. Your mom taught you them when you were young. They haven’t changed that much.

Try not to forget them.

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40 Responses:

  1. [...] Read the article. [...]

  2. Ok, I admit I used to do that too because “everyone else was doing it” and I didn’t know any better. I thought it was a way of saying “I saw your tweet. Thanks!” to the person that mentioned me.

    Lately, though, I’ve come to realize (thanks to Merlin Mann) that a better way of showing thanks/acknowledgement is to star/favorite the tweet since it doesn’t result in any MeTweet traffic on my twitter stream.

  3. MeTweets (great term by the way) are one of the quickest ways to get me to unfollow you. Star it like Jay says or just drop the person a mention to say thanks if you want to show appreciation.

  4. If you are in business for yourself, retweeting such things is like putting a testimonial on your web page. If it is excessive, I wouldn’t like to follow that person because such tweets have little value to me. However, IRL there ARE times that I talk about how somebody liked or didn’t like what I had done. If you’re going to make it in business, you have to broadcast your positives at least every once in a while.

  5. Lea Verou says:

    Some people really need to lighten up. Twitter is about sharing your thoughts, your mood, your news etc. In real life, if you kept talking about yourself, it would be rude, but that’s twitter’s purpose. So, comparing twitter behaviors to real life manners is a priori wrong.

    I personally see MeTweets as a way to share my happiness about the compliment to people that are supposed to care about what I’m doing, since they’re following me. If they see it as noise, they shouldn’t be following me in the first place and they’re free to unfollow. Also, many times people ask me how one of my talks went, this way I can let them know without individually replying to each one of them.

  6. Hmm. I never thought to retweet compliments. It seems like bad taste.

  7. christine says:

    mmmm, you mentioned something interesting here “I’m talking about basic manners. Your mom taught you them when you were young.”

    I’m not sure those are taught anymore. Seems to me like we live in a me world with absolutely no consideration for others.

  8. Mike D. says:

    Jeremy: Thanks for mentioning that. I meant to include why testimonials on sites are actually completely different than MeTweets. When you include a testimonial on your site, you are trying to catch casual passers-by who aren’t already ardent supporters/customers of yours. For that reason, it totally makes sense. But your followers on Twitter are already your followers. You are preaching to the choir there.

  9. Ted says:

    It just depends on why the person is on Twitter to begin with. If it’s for self-promotion (the case for a large number of tweeters) then you can expect every last compliment to get ‘me-tweeted.’ I don’t mind an occasional one but I definitely scan people’s timelines before I follow them to get an idea of what I’m in for. If they tend to toot their own horn too much, I keep it moving.

  10. Mike D. says:

    Lea: Yep, and I imagine a lot of people get unfollowed for that reason. It’s just interesting to me that people are essentially willing to say “if you don’t like me telling you about compliments I’ve received about myself, then don’t listen to me anymore”. That just seems like such a self-centered way to think.

  11. martcol says:

    Never had a compliment paid that I could convert to a MeTweet. Believe me, if it ever happens I’m going to tell everyone! d(>_<)b

    The great thing about Twitter is you can unfollow and if ever I thought that someone I followed filled my little smartphone birdbox with self indulgent mush, I'd turn them off. Still, I find the post really interesting and often feel miffed that people people think that e-comminication permits ALL KINDS OF BAD BEHAVIOUR!

  12. Nothing but pathetic shame comes out of a self-perpetuating ego-tickling echo chamber. Encourage people to do something or say something original and thought provoking. To create an experience in which one is essentially talking to themselves defeats the entire concept of social media.

    Great post, Mike.

  13. Great post – totally sums up why I shy away from reading most peoples’ twitter feeds. My new response to anyone MeTweeting (prior to unfollowing them that is) will be to reply with your article :)

  14. Even among of the pseudo-anonymous twitter satirists, it’s considered tacky to retweet funny #FFs, Favstar.fm notifications, and “tweet of the day” awards. Regrettably, this unwritten rule still doesn’t stop the more douchey among them.

  15. I see where you’re coming from. But I think this falls into an “All things in Moderation/Time and Place for Everything” category. Some fans ride high when they see an acknowledgement from their favorite celebrity and their tweet is RT’d. I wouldn’t consider this an “absolute rule”, and people do far more annoying things on Twitter.

    Good food for thought though.

  16. Let’s not confuse the bragging our mother’s taught us vs professional services that we either sell as a company or as an individual.

  17. Zak says:

    This assertion is pretty ridiculous. How can you compare the act of retweeting to typing out an email to all of your friends? It’s clearly not the same thing, just as neither of those are the same as standing in the middle of a public square with a loudspeaker. Manners are entirely dependent on context. When I’m having coffee with my close friend one of us might share that we got a compliment today from so-and-so, and that would be entirely appropriate. Whereas, on a first date I would probably avoid bringing that up. Twitter is a brand new context and etiquette is only beginning to form, but most of the people I follow treat it more like that intimate coffee with a friend conversation than the first date, so when I see people retweeting compliments it doesn’t register as boastful to me at all. Ultimately Twitter etiquette will be formed around the collective gut reaction of most of its users. I’m glad you wrote this — It’s interesting to see how varied the reactions are.

  18. Lea Verou says:

    Zak expresses what I think perfectly.

  19. Mike D. says:

    Zak: If it were ridiculous, there probably wouldn’t be so many people agreeing. If you disagree, fine, but ridiculous implies that only an idiot would agree.

    Tweets and emails are the same to me because I pass judgement based on intent. In both cases, you are saying “look at me” for the purposes of making sure others know how great you are. As @garyvee once said:

    “If someone tweets you a compliment and then you retweet it, that’s bragging, asshole!”

  20. Jennifer says:

    It’s interesting what Zak mentions…

    Ultimately Twitter etiquette will be formed around the collective gut reaction of most of its users. I’m glad you wrote this — It’s interesting to see how varied the reactions are.

    Since Twitter bears such a diverse client base to begin with, I doubt there will ever be a “collective gut reaction”. In principle in real life, this works as we are often people from similar cultures and similar social mores. But this is the internet – conversations without faces.

    In my work I often spend time with refugees from foreign lands in their homes. It’s interesting their reaction when I knock on their door. They will answer the door, greet me, and then walk away. I’m supposed to just enter the house, without an invitation. A lot of times the newer ones are confused at my knocking wondering why I haven’t just entered their home.

    Obviously a massive departure from the typical etiquette of the western world. With most people in my peer group except perhaps my closest friends, I await an invitation to enter the home. “Yes come in!”

    In like manner, people will forever have vastly different “etiquettes” on Twitter. My only solution has been to unfollow the accounts I find to bristle my feathers.

  21. Zak says:

    Didn’t mean to imply that your opinion that it is rude is ridiculous, just that your rationalization doesn’t make sense, because you’re comparing it to a hypothetical message in another medium. “This would be rude, so this is rude. People who do this would do this.” I guess my question to you would be if Twitter and email are the same to you, why do you tweet if you already have an email account? You’re applying your own negative spin based on how you perceive a retweeter’s intent. I would describe it as, “Look, this thing I worked on for months and months is getting recognition! I’m proud and want to share it with you.”

  22. PapillonUK says:

    Here, here. I thought it was only me who thought this.

  23. Mike D. says:

    Jennifer: Very interesting anecdote.

    Zak: Fair points. I guess I think of it this way: if I am at a dinner table and there is an action I can take (say, eating with my hands) which would be considered in poor taste by a certain percentage of the guests, I wouldn’t take it. If that percentage is 100, I definitely don’t do it. If it’s 0, I can safely do it. But for me personally, if the number is anything I consider substantial, I’m not doing it. Maybe this number is 10%. My point is that I believe a considerable amount of people find the practice of retweeting compliments to be rude… and that is why you shouldn’t do it. You are of course feel to disagree and be found rude by that percentage.

  24. Zak says:

    Mike: That’s a good way of putting it. As Jennifer points out, manners vary from culture to culture and Twitter is being used by a lot of disparate groups. In any case, it’s interesting to feel out your audience to get the best approximation of your “percentage” as you are doing.

  25. Mike D. says:

    Hard to derive any percentages, but here is a current Twitter search for MeTweets.

  26. Sharat says:

    One question I have. If, for example, you are a well-followed person, such as Neil Gain, is it poor etiquette to re-tweet a link to a picture someone took of you at a con? Or is that a value add for his rabid fans?

  27. I have to admit I’ve never really consciously thought about this particular practice but thinking about it I’ve always just @replied to such tweets. Kudos to my mother it seems….

    I would say though that this is incredibly subjective. The examples you’ve given are merely back-pats and there’s no real substance to them. In those particular cases, I agree. What if there was something more substantial along with the compliment such as picking out a particular point in @lisasmith’s speech and commenting (be a concise comment within a tweet granted)? Retweeting that may encourage debate.

    Your discussion with Mr Zeldman was intriguing though I found it hard to follow as the thread was all broken up….
    How did you market Newsvine before it was bought? How has that changed?
    (I’m not in the US so I wouldn’t see any advertising for it)

    I don’t think Mr Zeldman’s retweeting methods are supposed direct marketing, rather a way of communicating his brand values and the pride he takes in the products he puts his name on. The fact that negative comments are retweeted too is pretty powerful too.
    I’ve just written all that and I don’t even know why he was brought into this, doesn’t strike me as an egotist at all.

    Would it make a difference if a company account retweeted rather than a personal one?

  28. Thierry says:

    I agree. And another thing that “irritates” me is when a couple of people tweet stuff back and forth when they would be better DMing (or even emailing).

  29. My rule of thumb has always been if you wouldn’t say it or do it in person, don’t post it online.
    P.S. Good to see you blogging again.

  30. martcol says:

    Look, I’ve been following this conversation and so far so good. Only thing is, I have changed my opinion three times now and that’s not good for me.

  31. Vineet says:

    True. More the MeTweets, easier for me to unfollow you

  32. Couldn’t agree more. And let’s add something else – when people report other peoples’ views and use it to say that they themselves have been saying the same thing for a while. “Nice to see Fred Bloggs agreeing with what I think” or “It’s good that Freda Bloggs is joining with me to say that…”

    A quick question, though: can I retweet my own tweets if – as happens occasionally – I agree with myself? :-)

  33. John says:

    So many people have poor manners on twitter I don’t think it makes much difference.

  34. Collier says:

    Interesting back-and-forth here. I had never considered the inappropriateness of the practice. I will re-think my Tweeting now. Thanks.

  35. khaled says:

    I never retweeted any tweet about me I just reply to it

  36. [...] (this post was mirrored from mikeindustries.com) [...]

  37. Mike D. says:

    Sharat: That’s a good question. I’m not sure I would do it, but you can argue that a photo of a celeb is “interesting media content”. I suppose if that celeb’s fans were interested enough in photos like that, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    Simon: I think the key difference is “does it inform or is it self-aggrandizing”? Are you trying to tell your followers about something new that you may be involved in that they may be interested in? Like a new book, for instance? I think that’s fine. Or are you trying to point out the level of approval that others have of you and/or your work? That’s not fine. They can do that on their own.

  38. [...] Adapté de Mind your MeTweets [...]

  39. [...] Mind Your MeTweets:  http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2011/07/mind-your-metweets [...]

  40. MeTweets are annoying, plain and simple. And they make you look like an egotistical asshole. If I want to know what people are saying about you after a presentation, or regarding a product you worked on, there’s a Twitter feature for that called @ replies.

    And for those of you that say “well you can unfollow me if you don’t like it”, don’t worry. I already have.

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