My 8 simple rules for using Twitter

I recently celebrated being on Twitter for a decade. Having had a Twitter account for over 10 years, I like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two about using the site. I’ve witnessed the best and worst sides of Twitter as well as nearly every meme, viral video and story thread that has filled our feeds. So to mark my time on the site, I have compiled a few helpful rules for using Twitter that I try to stick to. Hopefully, you will find them useful too.

1 – Check responses to a tweet before you reply or retweet
There’s a trap I see people fall into more than any other on Twitter: They retweet something without doing their research first. A humorous message or an outrageous piece of news can often cause an emotional reaction and therefore you don’t always stop to get the full picture. But if you take a quick moment to have a look at the replies you may discover that the tweet was stolen by another user or is actually ‘fake news’. It’s better to know that and ignore the tweet than retweet and help spread false information.

2 – Save tweets to draft
This doesn’t mean you can’t tweet things on the fly, but if you’ve created a joke tweet or one with a polemic message, I always recommend you save the tweet as a draft first, leave it a few hours and then come back to it. Some of my tweets sit in draft overnight or longer. If I still find it funny or agree with the message when I come back to it, it’s probably safe to post. Some of the biggest missteps on Twitter happened because the person didn’t stop to really think about what they were tweeting. It can also help to fix those troublesome typos that slip through!

3 – A good GIF is worth 280 characters
I absolutely love a GIF. It’s amazing how a short animated clip from a TV show or film can perfectly convey what I want to say. Twitter is also (in my opinion) the best suited for GIF sharing, more so than Facebook and Instagram. So get with the program and use all the GIFs the internet has to offer. It’s possible to have entire conversations just in GIFs and it’s not only a lot of fun, but it can be quicker and easier for people to understand what you’re trying to communicate to them in a GIF than in 280 characters.

4 – Don’t forget about the echo chamber
It’s a simple fact that many people don’t realise about Twitter: You follow people on social media who think, talk and vote like you do. Because of this, you can be talking to an echo chamber where people agree with what you say and you don’t often hear from anyone with opposing views. To rectify this, you could always make a conscious effort to follow people with very different views to you, but that doesn’t always make Twitter a fun place to be. Instead, just remind yourself regularly that you’re possibly only seeing one side of Twitter. It’s not wrong, it’s just not the whole picture.

5 – Count to 10
Twitter can be an infuriating place sometimes. It’s so easy to get swept up in the emotions swirling around it. With a click of a button you’re passing on that negativity to your followers and they, in turn, pass it on to theirs. Twitter is definitely one of the reasons we live in a culture of outrage thanks to how easy it is for negative emotions to spread through accounts. So how can we stop this cycle from happening? The best way is to just count to ten before you retweet anything. Think carefully before you hit that RT button. Will sharing help? Will it inform? If not, it’s probably better to rage in private.

6 – More you, Less Retweets
Before I follow someone, I like to have a look through their feed to see what they talk about. If I see the majority of their feed is retweets, there’s a very good chance I’m not going to hit the follow button. There’s nothing wrong with retweets, but I want to follow a person because I’m interested in them and their lives, not what they found funny enough to share. If you do want to share a tweet, try using the quote tweet option and tell people why you’re sharing it. Remember, you are more than just what you RT.

7 – Take a break
Turn off notifications, close the tab in your browser, uninstall it from your phone if you have to. It’s important to not let Twitter take over our lives. Even a Twitter addict like me turns it off every now and again, even if that break is just an hour or two. When I get stuck in a cycle of refreshing the page, I know it’s time to close it down and focus on something else instead! It’s good for your mental health and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to go without. Trust me when I say you probably won’t be missing anything important.

8 – Celebrate the good more than you complain about the bad
Twitter has become the place we complain to organisations about their products. It has gotten to point that many companies have set up dedicated accounts to deal with the complaints. Again, the ease of complaining on Twitter means it can sometimes seem like all you read are complaints. To try and balance out the negative with the positive, think about how you can use Twitter to compliment just as much (or more) than you complain. Tweet the author of a book to tell them how much you enjoyed it, thank a restaurant for great service, build up your friends with kind messages. It’s just another way you can help make Twitter a nicer place to be. And remember: If you are having problems with a product, try not to get angry with the social media person on the other end, it’s really not their fault!

Got any more helpful tips for using Twitter? Share them in the comments below.

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