Are You the Idiot on Twitter?

A few years ago, I was in the middle of a useless "so's your old man" battle against someone on Twitter.

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I was fired up.  I was angry.  And I knew, deep in my heart, that I was right.

Surely, the world would rally to my side.  If only I fire more tweets at the enemy. If only I hit these damn keys a little harder. MORE CAPSLOCK!!

Then I received a direct message from a friend of mine. 

After reading Jim's sentence, I withdrew from the battle. 

In fact, that private tweet seered into my mind. Almost three years later, whenever I'm about to tap out some pithy, hurtful response to an on-line afront, the words from the DM stop me.

What were those words?

"When you fight someone on Twitter, Bill, no one can tell which one the idiot is."

He's right.  He is Jim Durbin of Social Media Headhunter. He's been helping businesses adopt effective social media strategies longer than anyone I know.  Jim knows how your social media behavior makes you look to the world.

His friendly advice in 2009 has changed my approach to social media.  It's also made a happier person.

Since Jim's intervntion, I've found myself unfollowing the fighters.  Twitter and Facebook fights degrade the combatants.  Twitter fights make the fighters look juvenile and short-tempered.

If you have a tendency to engage in twitter battles, here's my advice.

  1. Make a label to stick above your monitor containing Jim's quote, substituting your name for mine: "When you fight someone on Twitter, [name], no one can tell which one the idiot is."
  2. If you must correct an erroneous Tweet or Facebook post, don't make it confrontational. Just state the facts using active verbs and strong nouns
  3. If you must confront someone, do it through a direct message, out of view of the world. (And then, handle the situation with respect and dignity.)
  4. Unfollow people who make you angry. Life is too long to spend it in a fury.

If you have other ideas to help people avoid the Twitter idiot trap, please share them in the comments.

Still think it's okay to fight on Facebook?  Read this story about the importance of your online reputation.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nouqraz/ Some rights reserved.