Imagine, you decide to invite a bunch of your favorite people out to dinner for a night. Except, when you all sit down and the conversation begins, there are certain people sitting at your table who are 1) shouting loudly and 2) speaking nonstop. AND to top it off… wait… you did not invite them! They are complete strangers mixed in with people you know, but are positive you did not invite out. When you ask “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!?” they all point their fingers at your one friend Sally and they say “She invited us!”. Now your night of chatting with friends has been ruined by Sally and you are a bit frustrated.
Let us transfer this unlikely physical world situation into an online setting, and it becomes a bit more common place. Our new realm is Twitter, where friends like Sally become @HiMyNameIsSally and she invites people to our round table discussion in the form of a fantastic feature known as the “retweet”. And leaves us wanting to scream:
The Art of the Retweet
Similar to the “Share” feature on Facebook, the occasional reposting of somebody else’s twitter material is a great way to supplement (not replace) your own ideas. However, when a user’s entire twitter profile consists of retweet after retweet, your timeline becomes flooded with miscellaneous posts you did not intend on receiving. It is no longer like you are following your friend, but you are following people who your friend follows. So while Sally may LOVE One Direction and wants to RT every tweet One Direction has ever sent out, she may not be thinking that her followers did not come here to check out One Direction- they came here to read about Sally. Which brings into question how much of a twitter profile is for the user themselves and how much is for those that follow them.
We enter into this realm of social media to be social but only with the people we want, in the way we want. When prompted to type a tweet, Twitter asks “What’s Happening?”. What we want is to briefly hear about “What’s Happening?” in the lives and minds of the users we follow, not necessarily “What’s Happening?” with the people they follow.
Here we have a screenshot of Kid Cudi‘s twitter profile (Scott Mescudi). He is a perfect example of a serial retweeter. The majority of Kid Cudi’s tweets are in fact not his own tweets, but reposts of his fans. To his followers this could be an annoyance. Do Kid Cudi’s 878K followers want to hear what the rest of his fans say? Possibly. But it is more likely that they clicked follow because they want to read what he has to say.
I would compare the art of the RT to writing an essay; it is great to have additional sources and outside information to intrigue your reader. However, having 75% of your essay consisting of quotes from other sources may not be the best idea. Why should people read an essay written by you, if your own voice is minimal.
This is Twitter, Quiet Down Please
Now, twitter has wised up to the presence of this pet peeve and created the ability to stop viewing retweets from certain users. This is helpful, however this only works when the user clicks the retweet button, when a person “manually retweets” or retypes another user’s post the same problem still arises.
So even if somebody had my retweets turned off, if I were to use the manual retweet option, they would still show up on my followers’ timelines.
Too much of anything on Twitter is a bad idea. Twitter thrives on short bits of 140-characters-or-less information. An article on TheGuardian.com created a list on twitter etiquette, one of the tips is “If you’re tweeting all the time, people will get turned off and stop following you.” Twitter users value quality over quantity. Posting too much in a row is a nuisance to the readers, because on twitter, we care about what you have to say, as long as you only say it in one tweet… maybe two. And that goes for the people we actually follow! We don’t even want to hear a lot from people who we supposedly like. So when the serial retweeters are not even posting their own thoughts but the products of other people who we may not know- we get impatient.
In their study of Social Network Sites (SNSs) Nicole Ellison and Danah Boyd state, “SNS users may interact with different groups that they see as communities on SNSs.” Twitter is a network of carefully selected communities and the retweet function is like a small gate in the community where a member quickly sneaks in guest speakers. Guest speakers are fun! Unless there are multiple guest speakers, one after another, discussing things that seem completely irrelevant to your life.
The Bottom Line
…At least, if one wants to maintain a group of happy followers.
A twitter timeline is a place for us to view tidbits of information and thought expressed by people we are interested in. However, when the people we are interested in begin frequently posting things or RT-ing things that we do not want to see , it gets a bit annoying. Why? Because here on social media sites we have the ability to create and participate in social circles that we develop. However sometimes the other users involved can get in the way and open up our perfect social community to people and topics that we had not planned on taking part in.