Muting, And Why I’m a Selfish Twitterer

Twitter has a mute function, and I use it rather indiscriminately. I’m kind of selfish that way. Life is short, and while there are thousands of people willing to listen to me (a happy accident no doubt related to how I earn my keep) I don’t have the time to listen to each and every one of them.

But I have friends whose tweets I want to read, and with whom I want to converse. Publicly, even. I also enjoy interacting with random fans, assuming the interaction is a nice one. I especially enjoy interacting with interesting people, and learning new things.

Unfortunately, Twitter creates the illusion that we are right there in the room while our favorite entertainers banter with one another. The temptation to interject is strong. So we interject. I know, I’ve embarrassed myself doing this exact thing.

In the real world, walking up to a conversation and dropping a one-liner is a bit of a faux pas, and holding up your tablet to show everybody a video, even if it’s related, will get you shouldered out of the circle in short order. (I could tell you a story about that exact thing happening in a bar at Westercon, but then you’d want names, and the location of the body, and I may have already said too much.)

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Twitter works similarly. Conversations are interesting to listen to, but we should take care before jumping into them with our two cents.

Sometimes I’ll invite all kinds of random input by putting a call out to “the Hivemind.” Recently I asked about Android devices, and got lots of good feedback. The only people I muted were the people who replied by telling me I should stick with the iPhone.

And that brings us to my criteria. Here are a few of the things that will likely earn a muting from me:

  • At-messaging me with unsolicited advice, especially medical advice
  • Tweeting unsolicited links at me
  • Tweeting a video link at me without telling me what it is I’d be watching
  • Answering a question by haranguing me about the context
  • Complaining about a joke I told
  • Not getting the joke, and replying with unsolicited medical advice, or a video link, or really anything
  • Complaining to me about something I retweeted
  • Trolling (sometimes this merits blocking)
  • Spamming (this usually merits blocking)
  • Tweeting at me a lot, especially in a short period of time, when we’re not actually having a conversation.

Does this sound selfish? It should, because it is selfish. But I haven’t listed the worst one yet:

  • Telling me a lame joke.

Jokes are everywhere, and while most people can find the easy punchline, it takes a lot of thought to reach beyond the low-hanging fruit and find something genuinely funny. And as I’ve said before, Twitter is the garden of low-hanging fruit.

Sometimes I’ll tell a joke on Twitter, reaching high into the tree for a good punchline, and somebody will reply at me with the low-hanging fruit that I reached past. Tweets like that correlate strongly with feeds full of underdeveloped jokes, and the desire to share them indiscriminately.

Muted. Life’s too short for me to listen to the same joke over and over.

(Note: if I’m ever guilty of these things, and that bugs you, by all means mute me. Or unfollow me. Because life’s short, and frankly, your time is worth as much to you as mine is to me.)