photo by jesse.millan

Today I want to talk about a problem I see in the community of writers on Twitter: a growing sense of entitlement.

We writers work hard to build our platform. We’re told how important it is, so we put our time, energy, and hearts into the effort of building our potential audience. And there are certain unspoken rules, as most of us know. Tenuous things such as, If I retweet your blog post you’ll retweet one of mine soon, and If I add you to my list of awesome writers you’ll add me to yours. Most of these rules come down to the idea of digital karma. If we support and promote other writers, they’ll do the same for us. Which is usually true.

Except when it isn’t.

And who knows why sometimes it isn’t? Maybe someone just didn’t like your blog post this week. Maybe they don’t want to be associated with your genre, persona, or presence. Maybe they’re busy. Maybe they just forgot. There are dozens of fair and unfair reasons that someone might not do what we wanted, hoped, or even expected them to do… which is when our sense of entitlement rears its ugly head.

Which is the perfect time to step back, think, and remind ourselves what’s what – and what’s worth it.

What We Are Entitled To

  • The right to tweet how and what we want.
  • The right to follow or unfollow anyone we’d like.

…And that’s pretty much it. (But that’s a lot.)

What We’re Not Entitled To

  • Being followed.
  • Being followed back.
  • Being retweeted, @ mentioned, or otherwise shared and promoted.
  • Reponses.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to mistake courtesy with entitlement. Is it polite for a person to respond when we @ mention them? Yes, of course. But they are not obligated to. Would it be nice if everyone we followed followed us back? Yep. But that’s not how it works.

[Side note: the follow-back issue is a big, complicated, and volatile one. I’m not here to convince you one way or the other – because I do believe that everyone has the right to use Twitter exactly as they please – but I will caution against assuming that everyone who doesn’t automatically follow-back is snobbish or evil. There are as many ways as there are reasons that people use Twitter, and just because someone doesn’t use it like us doesn’t mean they’re rude or a bad person.]

It’s normal to occasionally get our feelings hurt by a less than desirable response to something on Twitter. We’re human; it happens. The problem comes in when we act on those negative feelings in an inappropriate way. Not just for the sake of said person, but for our sakes, as well. If we react negatively on Twitter, we risk coming across as immature, self-absorbed, rude, and sometimes nutso. And since we’re all writers trying to build professional platforms, this is a catastrophic mix. You never know who might be watching you throw your little hissy fit. And this is what I mean by a “dangerous” sense of entitlement – dangerous to our careers. Are hurt feelings really worth burning professional bridges?

Warning Signs To Look For

Ice Cube had it right: You’ve got to check yo self before you wreck yo self. The operative word here is before. So how do you know when you’re about to go spinning down the crazy spiral of self-destruction? Look for these signs:

  • You’re about to ask someone to follow you back.
  • You’re about to send an @ message or email asking someone why they unfollowed you. For that matter, you’re about to confront someone in any way about being unfollowed. (Multiple invitations/follow requests is the non-Twitter parallel to this. It comes across as desperately pushing the panic button, which is unappealing at best and scary at worst.)
  • You’re about to tweet about being unfollowed.
  • You’re about to ask for retweets.
  • You’re about to tag people who are not mentioned in your blog post in a tweet about your blog post, just so they’ll go read it.

Remember my rule about putting tempting tweets in the incubator for a few days? By the end of that time, those tweets usually get deleted rather than sent. If you find yourself on any of the precipices listed above, warning bells should go off in your head. Take a giant step back and think first. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

Better Ways To Deal

Here’s the real kicker; sometimes we’re right to be upset. Sometimes people are jerks (no secret). Maybe someone you actually know and have been following for years randomly unfollows you. Ouch! It can be awfully tempting to confront them about it. But unless they’re actually your good friend in real life (which is a whole other ballgame), that confrontation can lead to nothing good. Here are some better options:

  • Vent to your friends (offline). They love you. They don’t mind hearing you whine a little. You might even get some righteous indignation thrown in.
  • Unfollow that person. That’s one of our few inalienable Twitter rights, remember? The same reason that he or she had the right to unfollow you allows you to unfollow them. Personally, I don’t find doing this out of sheer pettiness very satisfying. But if that person makes you feel bad about yourself or is otherwise damaging or less than valuable to your Twitter experience, unfollowing can make you a happier person.
  • Block that person. This is an extreme measure, and it should be reserved for extreme cases, such as harassment, etc. But if you need to use it, use it.
  • Take it on the chin. This is the option I usually end up using, especially for people with a very large Twitter following. Sometimes those people weed out who they’re following because they’re simply too popular to follow everyone back and get anything done. If whoever unfollowed me (or whatever) is an asset to my feed in some way – giving me valuable information about the industry, for example – I just accept that I have less to offer them than they do me and move on with my life. And you know what? It feels pretty good, too.

~*~

Our reputations as professionals are quite valuable in this industry; no one wants to work with an entitled jerk. But guys, everyone makes mistakes. If you’ve done one or more of these things before, don’t freak out. Take it as a lesson learned and move on.

So how about you all? Have you noticed an increase in the sense of entitlement of writers on Twitter lately? And how do you deal with it when you don’t get the reaction you expected or thought you deserved?

About Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a novelist, short story author, and award-winning poet. She has stories and poems appearing in over forty venues, including Black Static, Deep South Magazine, Fireside, and Buzzy Mag. She's an active member of the Horror Writers Association and webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas. When she’s not frightening strangers with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband and their two cats, Buttons and Snaps.