I joined Twitter because it seemed like a good way to maintain an accessible online presence. People who might know my work can get an idea for who I am and what issues interest me, can interact with me, etc. And it’s great! So far, I’m having a wonderful experience!
But one really weird thing has emerged about this particular social networking tool: its alert system and the way it basically “pings” anyone you talk about if they happen to have a Twitter account, too. Case in point, I tweeted at a friend going, “Hey, Stacey, loved that Susan Mallery book you recommended me.” Before I knew it, Susan Mallery herself was like, “Hey, thanks!” and I was all, “Eeeek!” I mean, it was very nice to hear from the author; we traded a few tweets and it was all well and good. But what if I had said, “Hey, Stacey, that Susan Mallery book blew chunks”? How mortifying would that have been?
And it’s not that I’m not confident enough to stand behind my opinions. Of course I am. But a tweet like that wasn’t really meant for Mallery to see directly. Why does using a person’s full name have to ping them?
Sure, anyone who visits your Twitter home page will see you talking about x, y and z, but there’s a difference between that and deliberately drawing the attention of a particular user. Generally, it’s not like you’re waving an author/actor/personality down, going, “Look at me! Talk to me!” just by virtue of mentioning them.
I tend to think that only using the “@” is where that should come into play, like “Hey, @sarahjoybrown, you were great on B&B today.” Otherwise, there’s no need to let the subject know their ears should be burning.
I tweeted last week that people could download Kai’s song from Being Erica by doing an iTunes search for “Sebastian Pigott.” And then I realized Pigott has Twitter and it probably notified him. Ack!
But beyond the issue of the “social graces” involved, these alerts are also just clunky in terms of navigating your Twitter account.
Look at it this way: Someone like Lady Gaga, who has a bajillion followers and, then, besides that, probably has people talking about her constantly. Why should the people who are just mentioning her in passing clog up her “@” message list? What if Gaga just wants to see the people directly tweeting at her with her username? There’s no way to differentiate between the two.
ETA (3/16/10): When I originally posted this, I wasn’t taking into account that people create searches and deliberately LOOK for tweets using their names or other significant terminology. Sort of negates my whole “Ack! Pinging!” complaint if it is individual users doing it and not Twitter’s default. setting.