Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I Suck at Twitter

by John T. Spencer (johntspencer)

I just read an article by Beth Still ("Ten Surfire Ways to Destroy Your Twitter Cred") in Learning and Leading with Technology. While I agree with most of her advice regarding Twitter etiquette, I found myself thinking, "I kind-of suck at Twitter." As I read the top ten list, I found myself thinking, "Oh, that's me."

#3: Tweeting about all of your interests from one Twitter account
I tweet about my world. Often this is education, but I have no idea tweeting jokes about language, thoughts about sports, commentary on local events or satire about suburbia. Sometimes I let my interests combine (which was the case with the tweets I wrote about #jesusasateacher). I see the rationale for keeping these worlds separate. But I need to be a little more holistic. I respect people who can manage multiple accounts and really focus on a special interest. However, that's not me.

#6: Using slang and text lingo
Guilty. I agree with Beth on this one, but still I use IMHO and I bust out the emoticons way too often ;)  Twitter belongs in the common vernacular. Sometimes it's fun to play with formal, poetic language. Other times, it's fun to be very casual. I like the surprise and flexibility of Twitter.

#9: Snarkiness
Some of my favorite tweets from others have a snarky edge to them. When I look back at it, #pencilchat was slightly snarky. I'm pretty sure my #vintageISTE tweets also a bit snarky (writing about how the Oregon Trail would save education).

I don't have much Klout and I admit that I don't have anywhere near as many followers as many educational bloggers. I'm pretty sure that some of my tweets have stretched the boundaries of professionally.

And yet . . .

A little bit of snark, a somewhat casual approach and a sense of variety have allowed me to be myself online. I've made friends by being myself. I've engaged in some meaningful dialogue when breaking the rules (the PLC conversations come to mind here).


  1. Excellent response.

    Most electronic media are evolving much too quickly for us to establish rigid boundaries regarding its use. This is difficult for us collectively, as our lives are so incessantly disrupted by emerging technologies (and having to learn them), we want to create rules to stabilize our environments and expectations.

    1. Sometimes I think a little stability wouldn't hurt, though. Just not sure how to make it happen without it becoming too artificial.

  2. I guess I suck at twitter as well...

  3. Well, I think that Jabiz would find himself in violation of many of those rules as well and the two of you have had the greatest impact on my thoughts as a teacher and a father out of all the connections I've made on Twitter.

    Thanks for breaking the rules.

    1. Thanks! You and Jabiz are two of my favorites as well.

  4. This is a good post, John.

    I think that the differences between your approach and Beth's suggestions rests in the purpose that people have for participating in Twitter.

    Beth's suggestions start from the assumption that people are TRYING to build credibility -- a sense of personal authority -- in Twitter. And for many people, that may be true.

    If you are trying to establish yourself as a voice worth listening to -- either because you are trying to convert authority into cash or because you are jazzed by the implied power of "followers," Beth's approach is more effective than yours.

    But for many people, Twitter is about building social networks -- and because social networks require participation from real people, the content and interactions that we have there need to be REAL.

    Real conversations and relationships have snarkiness. They aren't focused solely on education topics. They do include humor. They can wander into inside jokes and personal give and take.

    Sure, you might end up with less "followers" that way, but you might just end up with more "digital friends."

    That's a trade-off I'm willing to make -- most of the time!

    Enjoyed thinking with you today,

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Bill. I've enjoyed our virtual conversations.

  5. I often use slang when I tweet. Gosh! I didn't know that could mean I suck at Twitter.

  6. Happy to 'suck at Twitter' right along with you, John! This is my first trip to your blog and I look forward to following you from this point on.

    I'm much more interested in connecting with teachers, parents, and those who share similar interests than static, faceless 'accounts' that reside purely in the arena of education/academia. Those who are turned off by the frivolity and randomness of real lives shared online have no doubt joined the community with different goals in mind.

    As a relatively new (though not especially young!) teacher, I'm forever conscious of the fact that the digital realm is a public space and not everyone will appreciate/understand playful sarcasm (or 'snark') but this is equally true of our classrooms and social circles.

    I think we can keep it 'real' and balanced at the same time.


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