News & Insights 16 March 2013

To retweet, or not to retweet…?

retweetAs a musician and writer, I follow a number of musicians, writers, artists and actors on Twitter, most of whom use the service at least partly as a tool for self-promotion. Recently there has been a flurry of social media debate on whether or not it’s ‘cool’ to retweet what others say about you, which in turn has led to a slew of ranty articles by ranty bloggers such as myself.

I’ll admit that, while I don’t mind the occasional glowing retweet, it can be a bit annoying when someone I follow fills up my newsfeed with huge long streams of their own praise. However, I generally keep quiet about it, and this is why:

1. First of all, you have opted in to Twitter. You have also opted in to following individual users. Nobody’s making you do it. Constantly bitching about the Twitter feed of someone you have chosen to follow is inherently cretinous. Or, to quote the great Ricky Gervais: “Following someone on Twitter and then complaining about what they tweet about is like calling them up to tell them you don’t want to talk to them”.

2. If, for the sake of argument, we ignore point 1, remember you can turn off people’s retweets whenever you want so you don’t have to read them (here’s how).

3. If, for the sake of argument, we ignore points 1 and 2, remember you can just UNFOLLOW SOMEONE if they piss you off.

4. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining on the basis that self-promotion ‘is not what Twitter is for’. Come off it. You didn’t invent Twitter, and even if you did, it wouldn’t be up to you. The only thing Twitter is ‘for’ is for some people to say shit, and other people to listen – everything else is up to the individual.

5. As an addendum to point 4, everyone uses Twitter for different reasons. Some to inform their six followers what they had for breakfast, some to let their half a million fans know when their next book/album/movie is out, some to make sure the world is constantly up-to-date on the latest pictures of hot sexy boobs. None of these people have monopoly over the ‘purpose’ of Twitter. It is a gloriously flexible tool of technology, and anyone trying to reduce it to one single ‘purpose’ is just being self-important.

6. When people have something to promote, the idea that they might want their followers (FOLLOWERS, remember) to know what other people think about that product is neither new nor the heinous crime that many are making it out to be. As the excellent published author Matt Haig points out in his recent blog, writers have been posting complimentary quotes on their book sleeves for decades.

7. Finally, there are plenty worse things happening in this world than irritating retweets. Twitter is free, and brilliant, and user-generated. Any site that depends on and is defined by user-generated content will, duh, be user-generated in content. Deal with it.

ps. I am on twitter as @sixfootpianist. If you have enjoyed this blog and want to tell me what a talented writer I am, please tweet at me and I’ll pass it on – I think I have some followers who’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Chris Lightyear

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