Twitter: A Dangerous Sense of Entitlement

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?

0

About Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a novelist, short story author, and award-winning poet with stories and poems appearing or forthcoming in over fifty 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 Annie’s not frightening strangers with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband and their two cats, Buttons and Snaps.

Comments

  1. says

    I learned something today: Don’t ask for RTs. I used to do that, on occasion. Urk! Thanks, Annie. It makes sense to let RTs be organic instead of pleading for them.

    Thanks, Annie!

    0
    • says

      Whoops! It happens. Tons and tons of tweeps ask for RTs, probably mostly because they see other people doing it and never question the practice. That’s a little faux-pas, though, not a big one! But you’re right in that organic shares are so much more valuable than requested ones. Thanks Therese!

      0
      • says

        Great post! I can’t remember ever asking for an RT, and, generally, I agree with your advice about it. However, there is some research that shows that asking for an RT improves the chances of getting one. I’d only use it in an urgent situation to help someone, not “hey! My book is out!”

        0
  2. Rosemary Freeman says

    Great post, Annie!

    I have yet to start a Twitter account for writing. I have several for another business and it’s like middle school out there.

    The best, most fun thing about Twitter are the “trends.” Trying to come up with a 140 character “tweet” that’s clever and relevant is like a game. If I do enough fun stuff with Twitter, I’ve found that sometimes my marketing tweets will get read, retweeted and responded to. And as far as following goes—Twitter does not allow you to follow more than 2000 until your followers have exceeded 2000. I regularly go into my accounts to weed out people I follow who don’t follow me back so I can follow my followers. Clear, huh? And you may think, “Why don’t you just clear out all the unfollowers you follow in one fell swoop?” For some reason, Twitter doesn’t like that.

    I don’t have a twitter account for writing because I’m still loathe to build that platform. I know the day will come, but I have yet to establish my “inner platform.” After years of outwardly-directed activity, the intense inner work of developing as a writer is needs my undivided attention … for right now.

    0
    • says

      Haha, you’re so right, Rosemary. It can be frightening like middle school. =) And this might sound odd coming from the WU’s designated “Twitter columnist,” but I am a HUGE believer in not getting on Twitter (and all social media platforms) until you’re ready. It can be such a time drainer. The writing comes first, always. It has to, or else why are we doing this? So I am all for that plan.

      0
  3. says

    No one should take it personally if there isn’t an auto follow. Some of us find Twitter overwhelming. I do what I can, but I have to be firm about the time I spend online.

    0
    • says

      SO true, Barbara! I feel the same way. I ration my online time as best I can, and going through my new followers to see who I should follow back just doesn’t always happen. What I do instead, though, is follow back people who make the effort to actively connect with me by commenting on my tweets or introducing themselves. That shows me that they’re genuinely interested and not just trying to build their numbers, which is what I care about. So far, this has been the best comprise for me between saving my own time for writing and still being open to making new connections.

      0
  4. says

    I’m pretty sure Twitter sometimes still unfollows random people without our permission. Somehow, last week, I unfollowed three people without actually doing it.

    So my advice is, if you really know the person, you might ask them about their unfollow. If not, there’s little you can (or should) do.

    At some point, I swear I’m going to unfollow all the authors who constantly pitch and promote their books. And then they’ll unfollow me. I’ll be happy, but followerless.

    Look what Twitter has done to language…

    @waycatpub

    0
    • says

      Dianna, nothing has made me think “Look what Twitter has done to language” more than typing these blog posts for WU! Haha. I have forced my poor Word dictionary to accept crazy new terms like “unfollowers” and “retweeters.” Poor thing. =)~

      Yes, there is that random bug that occasionally unfollows people randomly and against your wishes. (I also suspect that this is a fabulous excuse used any time someone gets called out on unfollowing someone who notices.) If you feel certain that said person wouldn’t have done it intentionally, there’s nothing wrong with asking. If you’re not so certain, simply @ mentioning them at some point (about something else) is a good option, as they’re more likely to take a look at your profile and see that, whoops, they aren’t following you anymore. They’ll likely fix that on their own.

      0
  5. says

    I used to get so upset when I looked at my email auto-responder analytics & saw how many people didn’t open or click my Venice videos & other emails I sent to them. Once my subscribers DID click they loved them & said they passed over them thinking they were some home videos of vacation time. LOL. Well, these were friends & family who were blowing me off … how rude I thought. But then I saw how many strangers on Twitter & YouTube were watching my videos (tens of thousands) & realized I have to stop looking at analytics. Stop looking. Monitor only to discern whether or not the time is being used effectively or needs tweaking. Just tweet, post, videotape because its fun & people like it. (yes Therese I am also guilty of the RT request; only did it once when my video had 230,000 views & wanted to get to 250k. Not one RT. A lesson for sure).

    0
    • says

      Oh, that is good proof of the lesson – wow! Yes, analytics can be kind of emotional, in some ways. I had to decide a long time ago that it was unfair of me to expect my friends and family to be my audience. For one thing, just because they love me doesn’t mean they have to love my work (though of course it’d be nice). And also, quite simply, they just aren’t my target audience. Once I let go of that, not only was I happier, but it also freed me up to find my true, more authentic followers (those strangers you speak of).

      0
  6. says

    I started falling into the entitlement trap when I first began Tweeting. It soon struck me, tho, that while I enjoy the company of other writers they’re probly not the most likely market for my work – just as I’m probly not the best market for theirs. Most writers are busier writing than reading, I suspect. My reading is less recreational than for research, for background and in areas that play into whatever novel I’m working on. Plus, I’m impecunious. While I’d love to support my fellow writers, I simply don’t have the time or resources to support them all by buying and reading their books. Thus I can’t expect them to buy and read mine. Once I recognized this I started spreading my Tweet nets into the wider pool, hoping to interest people in other vocations and with other interests. My strategic theory is that if I can entertain people with my Tweets maybe they’ll be more inclined to dip a toe into the water and look up a book or two by the same author.

    0
    • says

      Absolutely, Matt! You have exactly the right idea. I do think a lot of this entitlement problem is among writers connecting with writers, although occasionally I also see it with writers connecting with readers. (Eek! What a way to guilt them away!) The way I see it, we are all responsible for putting out good content – whether that be in books or simply tweets – and our readers and followers and fans have no obligation to us when that content isn’t enough on its own. If I’m not getting as many retweets (or whatever) as I hoped for, I try to remind myself to look inward, at whatever I’ve created, and acknowledge that the source of that letdown is likely what I’ve put out, not in how people respond to it.

      0
  7. says

    Thank you, Annie, for shedding light on a subject that has puzzled me for awhile. I reluctantly set up a Twitter account and then didn’t use it for quite some time because I really didn’t have anything to say. I’m still grappling with the concept of how one finds the time to read all of the tweets despite their being only 140 characters. It’s hard enough just finding the time for my personal and professional Facebook accounts!

    I agree with you 100% regarding professionalism and the internet. Once one clicks send, it is out there forever. It will never go away. As for reciprocal liking and re-tweeting, it has always felt pushy to me to ask for it. People are busy and both Facebook and Twitter can become major time sucks if we let them. That said, this marketing thing that we authors are expected to do without any background or training is overwhelming at times. Is it any wonder folks sometimes let their manners slip?

    0
    • says

      It is time consuming! It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to keep up with all of the new tweets in your timeline, or that you have to follow back every person who follows you, but you simply don’t. When it comes to using Twitter as writers, one of the most important rules is to keep the actual writing (off Twitter) first on our priority lists. Otherwise Twitter becomes a hindrance, not a tool, and what’s the point of that?

      It is no wonder that people get overwhelmed. I think anyone who’s actively trying to do the whole platform/marketing thing is bound to lose their cool every once in a while. That’s why I tried to emphasize not beating ourselves up if we goof now and then – just take it as a lesson learned and move forward.

      0
  8. says

    I shouldn’t be surprised that people feel and act this way about Twitter. Really I shouldn’t. I still am, of course.

    And I agree with you. People can use Twitter how they’d like.

    I also agree with one of the commenters; Twitter seems to unfollow people at random, perhaps for the lols.

    0
    • says

      It’s always for the lols, isn’t it? Some evil Twitter guru is sitting there in their giant warehouse office (I have no idea) rubbing his hands together and cackling.

      0
  9. says

    I was very unnerved when my pen name’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter and blog… had within a few days, more friends and follows than I have in reality-real name land… I tried to calm myself with the realization that she is me but…. wow… humbling to say the least!

    0
  10. says

    I’ve never asked for follows. I rarely ask for RT’s, only if it’s for a charity or something that I’m RT’ing for someone else.

    Frankly, I don’t keep track of who does or doesn’t follow me, or who unfollows me. There are really people out there with that much time on their hands? I’m too busy writing to keep track of those kinds of things.

    I also don’t get my panties in a twist if people don’t RT what I post. I don’t expect them to RT my posts, and I kind of get a little giggly thrill when they do and try to always go back and thank them for it. LOL I just don’t see the point of juvenile games. I guess I’m following a bunch of good people, because I rarely see nonsense going on in my feed. Then again, I’m not on Twitter much. LOL

    And that’s another reason I’d never get upset if someone didn’t RT me. I know that there’s a TON of stuff I never see because I’m not on Twitter. I’m usually under the assumption people spend the same or less time on Twitter than I do, and they just miss stuff. For someone to get their nose out of joint about whether or not someone RT’d a post they likely never even saw is just… Well, I want to send them back to kindergarten to learn rules of niceness, is what I want to do.

    0
    • says

      I don’t keep track anymore either. (I’d be totally lying if I said I didn’t when I was brand new. All the shiny numbers!) Every once in a while I’ll go through and weed out who I’m following, but that’s for the sake of saving my own time – not for ego or numbers or whatever. I do the same, as well, with not *expecting* retweets. I always feel a little happy flattery when they do, and I think it’s a much healthier way to go about Twitter!

      0
  11. says

    Okay, sorry that link showed up in my posting. I didn’t see that until after I posted. Why does the comments box want to auto-instert links?

    0
    • says

      Tymber, it’s a plugin we have installed here at WU to encourage members to explore other member’s sites (growing community connections). If you don’t want to use it, I think you can simply ignore the request to insert your blog’s URL.

      0
  12. says

    Annie,
    You just hit it out of the park!

    I heard someone with tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, black-ball a well respected, decent man last week simply because he did not agree philosophically with their opinion.

    This person and a group of cohorts acted as if this man was going to break into their homes that night and slit their throats as they slept. It was appallingly unprofessional and a real turn off.

    No one is perfect. Life goes on. But the lesson to take from this glaring misstep, is that we never want to post something that could hurt another. Never.

    0
    • says

      Thanks Natalie! Yes, many of them won’t. But many of them *will* reply if you @ mention them, which is a nice little thrill. Plus, so many have such great value to offer, it doesn’t even matter if they follow you back or not!

      0
  13. says

    Thank you for this post, Annie. I’ve never understood the rationale behind reciprocal RTs (or even reciprocal follows, for that matter).

    As a Twitter newbie, I follow quite a few people whose tweets I find informative in some way. I’ve discovered many great blogs that way. It would be absurd to expect any of them to follow me back or RT my stuff, since I don’t have anything of value to offer right now. And that seems perfectly right to me. That’s just the way things should be.

    0
    • says

      That’s a wonderful attitude. In our quest for a “platform,” so many of us forget that learning new things is one of the best parts about being a writer on Twitter. Good for you!

      0
  14. says

    I think we’re being too placade in allowing this ‘social media’ gig to get too involved in personal lives. We authors/writers should know better than to vent our little annoyances and frustrations online. Whatever we write is permanent – even in the ethernet. Do we really want future generations to read our rants? I can’t imagine what they will think of us.

    Yes, it is important to support other authors/writers. By supporting promoting others, are we not also supporting and promoting ourselves?

    0
    • says

      That is such a good point! People think the internet offers anonymity, but once something is posted it rarely goes completely away. If it’s not something you would want your biographer to know about you after you die, you probably shouldn’t post it on the internet!

      0
  15. says

    Annie, I agree completely with this. Everyone uses Twitter for different reasons and in different ways. I like connecting to people who’ll talk to me or who offer great blog links or other info on the writing industry. Since I have less to offer, I never expect to be followed back. It’s nice if you are, but why add to your stress level by hoping for/expecting RTs, MTs, or new followers? Twitter feeds get crowded fast and like Tymber Dalton, I don’t have oodles of time to devote to it. Say something when you have something meaningful or helpful to say. Follow people you want to follow. Engage in conversation with those who are willing to talk to you. Forget about the numbers.

    0
  16. says

    Great Article! I don’t really care if someone Unfollows me. All I have to say about that is, tough luck you’re missing out on something wonderful!!

    0
  17. J says

    OMG. I don’t keep track of whether the people I follow are following me back, and I would never unfollow someone just for that reason. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t follow me or RT or favorite my tweet or reply to an @ message. It’s nice if they do, but who has the time or energy to keep track?

    Score-keeping is just a really unpleasant way to try to conduct social interactions. I believe that anyone who goes onto Twitter with a generous attitude, anyone who entertains or informs or both, will find an audience naturally, without needing to ask for quid pro quo with every exchange.

    The one case where I think it’s OK to ask for RTs is when a person is spreading important news (like: tornado hitting downtown —ville! Please RT!) or spreading the word for a charity. In other words, when they’re trying to get out information that will help others rather than themselves.

    0
    • says

      Yes, I agree about the exceptions like that. And of course I also agree that the score-keeping is an unhealthy (and ineffective) way to use Twitter. I don’t think many people who do so are fully aware of their attitude, though. Many people tell themselves they’re obsessing over numbers to measure their progress; it’s a pretty easy trap to fall into!

      0
  18. says

    A well written piece and excellent points that you mention.

    Personally, I never ask someone why they unfollowed me. But I have been asked publicly why I unfollowed them! They mention my twitter handle and tweet that I unfollowed and put a sad emoticon.

    The reasons for unfollow could be so many! Perhaps your content no longer interests them. Perhaps the tweets are too many. Perhaps they are just rants disguised as tweets.

    Everyone has a right to unfollow without giving any reasons and it is awful when someone asks why you unfollowed! Nobody really owes another an explanation on Twitter!

    0
    • says

      Thanks Preeti! I’ve had someone do the public “Unfollow? :(” bit too, and it is *extremely* awkward. I just didn’t answer; that is a can of very public worms I’m always unwilling to get into! (And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…)

      0
  19. says

    brave article to write annie, thank you :-)

    great reminder, “Unfollow that person. That’s one of our few inalienable Twitter rights, remember?”

    and i, initially, felt rebuffed, when i followed someone i really liked hearing what they said, and wasn’t followed back, but hey, like you say, if they followed, and listened, to all their followers, they wouldn’t be able to function ;-)

    best wishes

    0
  20. says

    Great points, Annie! You truly never know what goes into someone’s Twitter decisions. If you look at my numbers, it seems like I don’t follow a lot of people back. Funny thing–I have follow lots of magazine writers I admire who do not follow me back. That really is just how things go. I follow about 1000 people and that’s PLENTY. I can’t handle much more. It’s nothing personal! And really IS important not to take it all so personally. I’m writing a review for greatnewbooks.org . . . I get to choose whatever book I want. The author has never responded to my numerous @mentions praising the book (though I know she’s somewhat active on Twitter.) If I were more tit-for-tat I certainly wouldn’t choose to further feature her novel with an entire review of the week dedicated to it. BUT, I truly love the book. My review is about her remarkable novel, not about whether she responds on Twitter or not. I do think there are people who would have decided NOT to feature her . . . and I would have been one of those people a few years ago. ;)

    0
    • says

      Nice! Yeah, that’s a great example. I think “don’t take it personally” is one of those much-used phrases that seldom gets taken to heart, because to us it almost always seems personal. But the better I get at it the happier I am, that’s for sure!

      0
  21. says

    These are fantastic tips, Annie. I think kids who are learning to negotiate the world of Twitter could benefit from a list like this too. It’s hard not to take things personally, but it helps to remember that everyone uses Twitter differently.

    0
  22. says

    I really don’t know how many Twitter followers I have, and I really don’t care. I follow people who post things I find interesting, and I assume that anyone who follows me does so because she or he finds what I post interesting.

    When someone follows me I check out his or her feed, but I don’t follow back automatically. I don’t follow someone who is mostly retweeting the same articles I’m already getting from other sources, and I don’t follow anyone who posts multiple ads every day.

    I don’t know why people get upset about being “unfollowed” (or even how they know–twitter doesn’t tell you.)

    0
  23. says

    Believe it or not, some people use outside apps that are designed to tell them when someone unfollows. Why you would want to create that sort of torture for yourself, I have no idea. And what’s more, some of those apps actually auto-tweet for that person giving a daily numbers count. (Like “I just gained 3 followers and lost 4.”) I can’t even begin to explain why anyone would want to do such a thing…

    0
    • Grace says

      I recently unfollowed someone who tweeted something like “I used this app to find out who doesn’t follow me back. I unfollowed all of those rude people. Ha, take that!” I don’t need that kind of attitude in my feed, and I don’t understand why some people take Twitter numbers so personally.

      0
  24. says

    Amen. I couldn’t agree with this more, and my low-level but growing and undeniable sense of unease about twitter comes from precisely these behaviors.

    0
    • says

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way about Twitter, Lindsey, but I totally understand it. For me, there are several wonderful people for every one who does these negative things, though, so it’s worth the trouble. I’ve learned so much from people on Twitter!

      0
  25. Peggy says

    This is an excellent blog post and addresses a widespread trend I’ve also noticed on Twitter and other social media. I absolutely agree that it’s dangerous to a writer’s career (really anyone’s reputation/career) and would also add that, in my view, it’s not only dangerous to the individual posting, but dangerous to online society in general. Courtesy is contagious as is rudeness…

    0
  26. says

    I’ve had a Twitter account for a few years, but I rarely use it. I always feel bad when I check it and realize someone tagged me months ago and I didn’t notice.

    0
    • says

      I totally understand that feeling! I just got back from being away for a whole week, and I’m already feeling guilty about the comments, emails, and @ mentions that went unanswered during that whole time. But you know, most people probably don’t even notice, and those who do are likely to understand. We all have different schedules and time commitments; anyone who takes it personally isn’t our responsibility — or at least that’s what I tell myself. =)~

      0
  27. says

    This is a very good post, thanks. My favorite moment of Twi-xasperation was a tweet from a dude that he was unfollowing me because I wasn’t talking about “the most important issue in publishing” [I think it was electronic publishing or something like that]

    I’m still laughing.

    But it was also illuminating because I follow a lot of editors and people in publishing for a specific reason. That fellow’s rude comment reminded me to NEVER bitch about what the editors actually talked about. And not to prod them to talk about MY topics.

    And yes, I used to have an app that told me how many people unfollowed me. I had to turn it off cause it was just raw numbers, not reasons.

    0
    • says

      That’s hilarious, actually. I mean, even if you ignore everything else, you have THOUSANDS of followers on Twitter, so he must have had quite the ego to assume you cared if a single person was unfollowing you. But I agree; that story is a great reminder that we have no control over what other people choose to say – only if we want to follow them or not. Thanks so much for the comment, Janet!

      0

Trackbacks