Blogs & Comment

Deciphering social media shorthand

Dear Internet, in case you missed it, here's my blog post about social media pet peeves.

twitter-bird-5

Illustration by Gopal Raju

If you’re a regular user of Twitter or Facebook, you probably have your own peculiar annoyances with each. I have at least two:

Addressing inanimate objects, entities or nameless individuals. You know you’ve seen them. I know I have. I’m sure I’ve even done it once or twice. But they’re now so overused, it’s perhaps time to suggest a ban on them. I’m talking about the tweets and status updates that go something like, “Dear bus, thank you for making me late for my appointment,” or, “Dear air conditioner, how about you work for a change?” or even, “Dear outside, you are the hottest.” (That last one is actually real.)

I probably have too much time on my hands, but I have considered what such addresses to inanimate objects or entities actually mean. They’re essentially complaints, expressed in a way that makes the person writing them appear endearing, funny or clever, as opposed to the crank that they might really be. Social media, of course, is all about appearances.

Social media is also a repository of bitching and moaning—heck, that’s practically why it was invented. I know I complain about a lot of stuff on Twitter, so does everyone else. It is nice to not be considered a whiner, so dressing complaints up with cleverness is a good idea. This particular method, though, has passed its best-before date. Dear fellow complainers, let’s move on.

Apologetic pleas for traffic. As someone who runs a blog, I know the heartbreak that can result when you don’t get as much traffic to a post or article as you were hoping, especially when it’s something you spent hours on. One way to deal with this is to try and draw readers in with more promotion on social media. On Twitter, such a plea almost always unfortunately starts with five words: “In case you missed it…”

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with linking to a post a few times in a day. Obviously, people aren’t on Twitter or Facebook all the time, so they may in fact have missed your original pointer. However, it’s those five words—“in case you missed it”—that are annoying because they almost suggest that the writer knows they’re bugging people. They seem like an apology to the people who in fact didn’t miss it the first time; a rationalization to them about why it’s being posted again.

My advice: just be honest and ditch the preamble. Just about everyone knows that Twitter users can’t be expected to be on all the time, so there’s no need to apologize. Go ahead and post your link multiple times, you’ll save 21 characters. If that annoys people, you’ll know it soon enough, either through lost followers or somebody complaining, perhaps even with an nameless address directed at your account.