Twitter Shows Its Rude Side

Nasty comments and bad manners on Twitter seem to be egregious expressions of insecurity.

Comments: 55

  1. I like to think that I have learned to walk the fine line. I try to be polite.... but I do not retweet unless I think that the tweet deserves a broader audience. The favorite button can be your friend.. :-)

  2. Why should the content of twitter be anything but a reflection of the depraved corrupted, and decadent society that spawned it? Tattoos or nose piercings anyone?

  3. This practice of reciprocity is one of the biggest reasons I'm still not on Twitter. For whatever reason, it mortifies me to see people sucking up, and Twitter is chock full of it. I've lost count of the number of times I've looked at the Twitter feed of someone whose writing I admire elsewhere -- in real life -- and recoiled in disgust. Sucking up is far more obvious in 140 characters than it is in face-to-face conversation or even email, and it just looks so terribly desperate, undiscerning, and weirdly impersonal. The idea that someone might follow me merely because I liked or re-tweeted something of theirs makes me cringe, and I know I'd avoid using those features for that reason. (And thus have no followers, I guess). What is it about the format that seems to encourage obsequiousness to a degree that most people would hoot with laughter at in person? The author here seems to have a lot of relevant anecdotes but I don't understand this any better than I did before.

  4. After reading this article I am feeling, once again, so very grateful that I choose not to have a Twitter account (nor Facebook) and my time is spent in manners that are way more pleasant and fruitful than on those silly self-promotion gimmicks described by the author.

    Of course I'm not a celebrity or a TV commedian, just an average person , so I'd rather look in the eyes of one true friend than send jokes to a thousand faceless people. What a waste of time and energy, really.

  5. There are much better things to worry about, Pres. Clinton! Really...

  6. The right way to thank someone who retweets your work is to write more stuff that merits retweeting.

    Personally, I cheat. I just send quotes from people, most of whom died long before Twitter existed. Sure, Einstein would have a lot more than my 130,000 followers, but only if he'd lived long enough! So I get to tweet his shorter, pithier comments and take credit for them.


  7. Facebook is as bad for moronic comments. There has to be established some sort of eligibility test in order to access these social media sites.

  8. Good idea, but dead on arrival. Facebook and Twitter depend on advertising, so they will always cater to the lowest common denominator.

  9. Edifying column about nonsense I'm afraid. I was tempted to enter the Twitter world once until I looked at what was being posted. Then, it was as they say, a "no brainer". Who cares what you or the moron down the street thinks about the weather today or the possibility of another Al Qaeda attack? I was similarly interested in "Facebook", mainly because I was trying to find a long lost acquaintance. I had to join of course, in order to look for my friend. I assure you that Twitter does not have a monopoly on the inane, profane, or bad manners!

    These so-called social interaction sites are for more than the insecure. They are for blatant self-promoters, loudmouths, pseudo-experts, and fad seekers.

  10. I sometimes wonder when this twitter-facebook generation is going to wake up and realize your 'friends' aren't really your friends, up-voting, 'likes', and, for the most part, the entire social media thing is either self-preening or baseless self-promotion.

    If it weren't for the small percentage (in usage) of instances where these tools actually did some apparent good, such as during the Arab Spring, we'd all be better off without them. It is time for people to get back to true socialization with all the smells, touches, visual and audio nuances that come about by physically being next to someone.

  11. Definitely the best way to spend your ever dwindling stock of hours on planet earth.

  12. It would seem your precious time would be better spent on, for instance, attempting to chew off your own toenails. If you did, I suppose you'd want to Tweet that too.

  13. "Insecurity is to bad manners as boat travel is to nausea." Let's hope no one retweets this absolutely nonsensical gem. What is Alford trying to say???

  14. Thank god I'm not the only person who didn't get it...

  15. Yeesh. An article that made an interesting connection between social media and personal insecurity immediately devolves into a mopey failed-comedian shop talk. Twitter in the hands of anybody other than the traffic departments at news stations seems like the most tedious form on insanity. The ability to craft one sentence that could gain you credibility for your wit was honored well in Versailles, among complete fops who had nothing to do with their time, and they called it culture. I hate to think that this has now found the perfect interaction-structure to invigorate old-school demagoguery and mass stupidity. And yes, the jokes in this article are extremely weak, because it's only for people on the inside. I think I know why this author has a special interest in vitriol delivered via internet, because if my reaction is any indication, he probably gets a lot.

  16. Twitter IS America. Shame on you.

  17. I don't tweet or text, but a couple of of years ago, at the urging of friends, I began a blog, which I subsequently discontinued. The reason: the unbelievable rudeness and ignorance of a majority of those who participated. Insecurity is everywhere.

  18. It's impossible to get across to people who tweet just how much they contribute to the degradation of intellect and discourse, but let me pass along this anecdote told by Ricky Gervais - who understands that people who tweet are morons - on The Daily Show. He tweeted: "I'll donate xxxx amount to charity if you don't re-tweet this tweet." 500 people re-tweeted it. He then sent another tweet doubling the amount he would donate to charity if nobody re-tweeted his tweet and people STILL re-tweeted it.

  19. How did retweeting the Gervais tweet "contribute to the degradation of intellect and discourse"? As far as the "moron" charge goes, one would have to have a fair test. Gervais would have had to contact a _single_ person with a Twitter account and said, "I'll donate $xxx to charity if you don't retweet." Then the person would be dumb to retweet if he supported the charity and took Gervais at his word.

    One reason that "it is impossible to get across" how destructive of intellect is tweeting per se is the fact that it is impossible to justify the claim to begin with. One may as well contend that it is "impossible to show" how much participants in casual kitchen-table conversation "contribute to the degradation of intellect and discourse." Yeah, maybe, in some cases. Wouldn't one need to know the details?

  20. Twitter is a tool. As such, it reflects the society that made and uses it. Can anyone really be surprised that a percentage of its users are rude, ignorant, bullying, racist, misogynist, (you get a sense of how long this list could be). If it's a human trait, you will find it on Twitter. And that goes for kindness, wit, decency . . . it's another long list.

  21. The "block" feature can be very useful. And remember, don't feed the trolls.

  22. Insecurity is surely not the whole explanation for online rudeness. Anonymity, the human need to identify with some cultural groups distinct from other cultural groups, and low-level sociopathy must play significant roles. And of course it is not limited to Twitter. There is a long history of online rudeness going back to the early days of the network known as usenet, and continuing in virtually any online forum that allows comments including (e.g.) YouTube and many newspaper comment areas. It has been around long enough that there are distinctions about various kinds of rudeness including the behaviors known as "trolling" and "flaming". Indeed, wherever a sufficiently large number of human beings can interact with loose enough social connections that rudeness has no negative consequences, then rudeness will flourish in many varieties and forms.

  23. Ye gads, it's just a fancy SMS service. Post what you want, retweet what strikes you, and who cares about followers? I always assumed they will accumulate over time if you're interesting or popular. But maybe I'm too much the newbie.

  24. "What accounts for the galloping lushness of bad manners on Twitter?"

    Just Twitter? What accounts for the widespread overt, vitriolic, cancer-like rudeness and incivility all over the internet? Well, anonymity, for starters. But apparently, even not being safe in anonymity makes no difference.

    I post and discuss with others on many news sites and other websites, always under my same screen name, 'Zen Galacticore', and I normally post thoughtful, well-informed, reasoned opinions.

    On occasion, however, after being unjustifiably insulted with a flurry of ad hominems, I have lost it, and lowered myself to the level of the rabble. This is extremely rare, but it happens.

    Technology has always been a double-edged sword. We can light our cities with nuclear power, or blow them to smithereens. I am of the opinion that the internet, with regards to public discourse and discussion, is inadvertantly handing over the reigns to the rabble, creating a mobocracy.

  25. A column about a favorite subject.

    I was one of those who thought Twitter is silly, who cares what someone eats for breakfast? A newscaster I enjoy said he was starting a Twitter account & would have Twitter only content, so I joined.

    While going through his followed/followers list, I found more news sources than I could imagine, as well as other people who interest me. Now I get most of my news from Twitter links (& the NYT, of course). You can get whatever you want out of Twitter, roses or thorns.

    Ignore the trolls & if they don't lay off, block them. One of my favorite tools. If you want followers, follow some people you think are interesting & some will reciprocate. Soon, they'll RT you, then others will start following. Don't follow anyone whose posts you don't want to read.

    To those who say we should interact more in the "real world", sometimes it's not possible. I took care of my mother & grandmother for several years. Both were bed bound with Alzheimer's, & couldn't be left alone. Consequently, I was able to leave the house only once a month (thanks to a sitter) to pay bills, get meds & groceries for the coming month (really). Forums kept me sane, as they were the only human interaction I had. Chatting with people of similar interests helped keep my people skills intact. When Mom & Gramma died, & I went back out to the "real world", I was able to pick up without missing a beat, knowing current events, etc.

    Don't knock it if you don't know any better.

  26. Why would you want to send messages to people you don't know? To massage your ego? A family member once convinced me to get a twitter account. After reading some of the absolute trash on it I cancelled without ever sending one tweet.

  27. I have the perfect solution...

  28. Ah. But those who criticize Twitter for being silly know not its charms and addictions.


  29. Simple suggestion, stop doing that.

    Twitter? Really, who cares?

  30. Apparently you, since you're reading this.

  31. That all sounds like a lot of time spent worrying about something that's not mandatory. If it causes stress and it's not your job, then don't do it. That time spent worrying about whether it's proper to retweet the person who retweeted you could be spent learning to play a new instrument. Might be more fun and rewarding.

  32. Your crazy. Twitter, like all social media, is meaningless. I have an account, I tweet, I don't care how many followers I have. I care about some of the interesting or entertaining - even informative - things I come across. The rest I ignore. Maybe I'm a social voyeur at heart!? I'll worry about it tomorrow. BTW, sitting in a sidewalk café with a coffee or wine is an infinitely better way to while away some time. It even beats writing comments in the Times!

  33. You're taking it way too seriously. Just be yourself.

    It's supposed to be fun!


  34. I propose as a solution not worrying about anything worried about in the article.

  35. What a waste of time...Why do you bother?

  36. Remember the days when the vast majority of us had no cell phones (those who did had "bag phones, " that were useless most of the time. No one was "on" 24/7, we actually talked to or saw our friends. If an accident happened we eventually found out about it, and from a person, not on FB. It was impossible to have 263 "friends." The real friends we had were just that - real.

    The temptation to go off the grid increases with every new invention by a teen tech wizard.

    I miss living in the reality of my life, not a facsimile of it.

    And yes, slowly, but methodically, I am moving in that direction. My time is too precious to continue to waste.

  37. This moronic activity which is the equivalent of a hula hoop for the 21st century reveals its rude side? This incredible waste of time and productivity has been revealing that from the beginning as masses of twitter-bots blindly stumble through life strengthening their thumbs as they weaken their minds engaging in this mental masturbation.

  38. Well put!

  39. Don't tweet jokes.

  40. I thought this was a great article, accurately summarizing the highs and lows of our Twitter lifestyles. Personally, I have made many friends on Twitter, some of whom moved from virtual to real, and find the positives outweigh the negatives. I also use Twitter in my teaching to help alert my students to the latest findings in the field as well as current events that they might not hear about otherwise. In terms of the social benefits, I covered some of these in my Psychology Today blog post on the Tweets that Bond, which highlights research backing up the many benefits of this form of social media.

  41. You need to learn to block rude people. It`s also possible to set up your account so only people you select can follow you.

    It can be intimidating at first but I recommend hanging in there. Twitter can be shaped by how you want to use, who you follow (I started w news organizations and lists of good people to follow that you can get through google, etc), and who follows YOU. My view is that quality is better than quantity: Nurture your community and learn from them.

    To me Twitter is an art form, almost like haiku, in addition to a news source & social meeting place. Follow #hashtags that interest you & meet people from all over the world, including news hot spots. It connects the world in the "now" moment like no other app, including Facebook. It is the stream of consciousess of the internet.

    Good luck.

  42. I am still--foolishly, perhaps--enough of an idealist to believe that the media .... of news that happens in the world every day just exactly fits in the newspaper. Mark Twain (Pirated today from to verify correct quote)

    For contrast consider that tweeting will end the instant that tweets completely fill the digital tweetiverse.

    Abandon all hope, ye mortals!


  43. Anyone notice how some of these comments look just like tweets?

  44. Anyone else find the holier-than-thou comments against Twitter humorously ironic?

  45. Works best as a news clipping service with 0 followers. I turn down all follow requests religiously. Granted I don't get too many of them and that can be a deflator sometimes. I might pay to get more requests and outsource turning them down. This is the tweet I dream about tweeting: "Declined 1000 follow requests in a single day! Get a life people!"

  46. The difference between Twitter and common blogpost is that in Twitter people tweet, retweet or comment on tweet as known identities and not as anonymous persons. They want to the world to know their opinion.

  47. Since when is fact-checking a form of bad manners?

  48. I use Twitter to communicate STEM topics (I have a PhD in chemistry from Stony Brook University in NY & I do brain tumor research, see @DrStelling for my CV).

    I find twitter mildly irksome- it's too short a medium for true science communication, esp. for stuff like quantum mechanics- but useful for "headlines".

    New yorkers need to chill out a little about "people being mean on the internet". It's a brave new internet world- adapt!

    -Dr. Allison L. Stelling

  49. I do agree that Twitter is a place where the cowards can spew forth vile, unnecessarily hateful comments. There's a difference between snarky and cruel. My philosophy is if you wouldn't say it to somene's face, keep quiet. I simply unfollow the people whose feeds are full of hatred, swearing & bad grammar and follow the sarcastic witty ones.

  50. I would say Twitter is like a 'Virtual thought" some are good some are bad, but for the users its like a way off load that little voice in their heads. " i love a rant in the morning ". Get it all off your chest and you feel even better if someone responds.

  51. Nope -- still looking for a reason to take ANY of the manifestations of (anti-)"social networking" at all seriously, and this isn't it ...

  52. It seems people are taking (all) tweets too seriously. Sure there are setbacks to operate in a free environment, but that's the way it is. With the good dialogues come the idiots -- or what people think are idiots, because there's no consensus about that. And you always have the block function. If we are unsatisfied with the current state of our dialogues, maybe we should improve our education and our culture, not go after the tools like if that's going to solve the problem at the root. Problem is bad manners, not Twitter. Maybe what Twitter is showing is a cultural underdevelopment. But just maybe, I'm not sure, maybe it's normal. I'd be more worried about cases like the AP hacking account than anything else. But, then, it's not 100% unavoidable.

    Anyway, this article also seems to mirror some part of the so-called "iPod generation" way of thinking, where everybody wants the reality to behave the way they have imagined, clean, exclusive, confortable. Like a playlist, with each song placed in the exact order they want, controlled by touch, with nice cover pictures, in one click shopping environment, with automatic sync, and looking cool.

  53. so Times-ean, in the de rigueur line: ".....crowded barroom that bristles with a certain kind of white male rage."

    I guess only white guys show rage, Henry?

  54. I proudly do not twitter. The name was enough for me not to be interested. I have a FB account that I check every 3 months or so, I limit my "friends" to family members. Just to monitor for deaths and births. A "no social sites" rule until you graduate exists in our home, without protest from our children, no I'm not a freak. My children know that true friends are a select and treasured group, accquaintances might go to your wedding if free drinks are involved and FB "friends" could sit by you on a plane, never realizing your identity. Instant access to info is a great resource, a continuously updated encyclopedia, and a way to lull a tired brain to sleep...that's it. Sadly, people have made millions returning seventh grade social anxieties (a rite of passage) to daily adult life. Hmmm, why is bullying a problem. Children and adults no longer have a safe zone. Call me closed minded and fossilized, I don't care. I am happy, my kids are great, our family has fun and yes, my husband and I both have careers that support our family's needs. This is my 1st and probably only post on NYT (fact check away). I ran across the article as I checked the news prior to sleeping and it struck a nerve. For those that read it I apologize for the lost 90 seconds of your life you will NEVER get back. Comment if you like, I won't go back to check because I don't care. People need to make an effort to return to life that is not "online networking" based. Go HUG your friends and family (in person).