Why are we so selfish on Twitter?

I’ve been on Twitter for about a year and a half, and needless to say, I enjoy it.  I like to keep up on news and sports, but most of all, I like to tweet random internet finds and corny jokes, provoking interaction and feedback from others.  We all like feedback, right?  After all, what fun would Twitter be if it felt like you were tweeting to a brick wall?

But have we gone too far?  During my time on Twitter, I’ve caught myself being selfish.  I’ve caught others being selfish.  Why should I care?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Does anyone else care?  Again, I don’t know.  But lately I’ve seen Twitter selfishness on the rise, so I thought I’d jot down a few ways I’ve witnessed people (myself included) being selfish on Twitter, why I think we’re selfish on Twitter, and try to determine if it’s really that big of a deal.

Before I go any further, a couple caveats:

  • I’m guilty of just about all of these things.  In fact, I could probably change the title of this post to “Why am I so selfish on Twitter?”
  • I’m not calling out anyone in particular.  These aren’t things that I’ve seen any one person do, but rather common techniques that I’ve seen a lot of people use.  If I’m a follower of yours and you feel like I might be singling you out, just remember:  I’m still following you.  I don’t follow anyone who I don’t feel adds value to my timeline, so keep up the good work.

So, here are just a few ways to be selfish on Twitter:

Selfish Twitter technique #1:  RTing with a completely unnecessary comment (adding +1, THIS, etc. in front of a RT).

Why it’s selfish:  Does adding “+1” in front of a manual RT really add any value to that tweet?  Who’s keeping score here?  A waste of characters, in my opinion. Congratulations, you’ve managed to take a really solid tweet and dilute it by adding your silly little stamp to it.

Selfish Twitter technique #2:  RTing with no comment at all (i.e., manually RTing instead of just pressing the ReTweet button).

Why it’s selfish:  Now, perhaps some people just prefer to RT this way.  There used to not even be a ReTweet button, so maybe the grizzled veterans of Twitter still use the manual RT out of habit.  However, for most of us who do this, I think there’s selfish intent behind it.  Why is this selfish tweeting?  Manually RTing increases the chances of more RTs on your resume, thus improving your Klout score.  For example, say you press the ReTweet button on a really solid tweet.  If your followers see it and also agree that it’s share-worthy, when they press the ReTweet button, the RT goes on the original person’s resume, thus leaving you as the middle man with no credit.  However, by manually RTing something, subsequent RTs from your followers will instead go on your resume.  Thus, by manually RTing someone, you’ve essentially given the original tweeter a lowly @mention, while you’re potentially racking up a bunch of RTs on their content.

Another reason many people manually RT is to “build their brand”.  I had a conversation with @AllisonLCarter about this a while back, and I think there’s a lot of truth to it.  When you press the ReTweet button, your followers will see the original tweeter’s handle/avatar instead of yours on their timeline.  In other words, if you found a really solid tweet and pressed the ReTweet button, your “brand” may be hurt because your followers may not see that you were the person who RT’d it.  So, many people manually RT so that their handle/avatar always appears on their followers’ timelines.  Selfish tweeting?  The definition of it.  Look at me!

Selfish Twitter technique #3:  Constantly re-wording other people’s tweets, making immaterial changes and then adding a “via @____”  at the end to give “credit”.

Why it’s selfish:  I use the “via” method quite a bit.  Sometimes, I’ll really like a link that someone tweeted, but I won’t love how they worded the description of the link’s content. For some reason, I’m really conscious about the appearance/cleanliness of my tweets. There are many times where I’d like to press the ReTweet button on someone’s tweet, but if there’s a misspelling or poor choice of wording, my brain just won’t let me do it. I’m a control freak and I think I can word it better than you.  That’s selfish.

Selfish Twitter technique #4:  Essentially stealing someone’s tweet, then justifying it by adding “H/T @_____” at the end of your tweet.

Why it’s selfish:  H/T stands for hat tip, which basically means “I’m tipping my hat to so-and-so for pointing me to this great content.”  Now, I didn’t write the rule on the H/T, but in my opinion, a H/T should only be used if the person indirectly pointed you to a piece of information.  If you received the content from someone in any other way, you should just RT them, or find another way to give them credit.

For example, on the night that IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died, I was browsing my “Activity” tab and saw that my good friend Dave Neff (@dneff84) Favorited a link to an article on Wheldon that sounded interesting.  I read the article on the spot, and thought it was worthy of a share.  So I tweeted it, tipping my hat to Dave to acknowledge that he was the reason I came across the article.  However, I’ve seen people take others’ tweets word-for-word, then add a H/T crediting the source of that tweet.  That’s not a hat tip—that’s just robbing someone’s tweet and making it look like your own by cramming the original tweeter’s handle at the end.

Selfish Twitter technique #5:  Sharing a link that you saw someone else tweet and not crediting that person in any way.

Why it’s selfish:  Let’s face it…content doesn’t create itself.  We all get our cool internet finds from someone/somewhere else.  So if you saw it on Twitter, credit where you got it from.  Don’t leave credits off to make yourself look like the king of internet finds.  I always credit whenever I see something on Twitter.  But there are a lot of things I don’t see on Twitter, so that’s when you’ll see me tweet a link with no credit.

So, what’s the point of all this?  Well, depending on how you use Twitter, this entire blog post may not apply to you at all.  So if that’s the case, then there is no point.  But if you use (abuse?) Twitter like I do, I think we could all benefit by taking a step back and re-evaluating why we’re here in the first place.  I would not be on Twitter if I didn’t have a solid group of followers, so it’s hypocritical of me to anticipate/expect RTs from my followers when I’m inexplicably hesitant to return the favor to those I follow.

All in all, people just want to be noticed.  We all want that next big RT, mention, or follow, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it, even it it means stealing some of the glory from someone else’s tweet.  But I don’t think it has to be this way.  If we all worked together, I think we could accomplish whatever goals we’ve set on Twitter.

I’ll sum up my thoughts on this subject in one sentence:  Yes, there is an ‘i’ in Twitter, but remember…there’s also a ‘we’.

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  1. Excellent post, Mista Burns.

    I already said this to you on Twitter, but I thought your blog could use come comment love.

    For Technique #3, I’ve seen a lot of people use the MT approach: Modified Tweet, and have done it myself. This still gives the original author credit, while indicating that you made a change that is more along the lines out of necessity due to lack of space or proper wording. I find this generally acceptable.

    I’m definitely digging this list. Worthy of a share, for sure.

  2. Appreciate it, Mr. Murray! I’ve used the MT a couple times before. I also find it acceptable. Although, if I’m making a change that doesn’t alter the original tweeter’s intended message, I’ll often just make the change and skip the MT. Perhaps that’s improper Twittiquette.

    • Eli
    • December 17th, 2011

    Can’t spell it either without “Rite.” You are rite on most of this. Don’t think a RT instead of a RT-button is selfish. You deserve credit for finding it. Thanks for the read.

  3. Very interesting, as always. My concern is always characters. Question for you — can you give credit to someone with brackets? That would save the via and a space. That’s where I struggle.

  4. Thanks, Scott. Never seen just brackets used before, but I actually like it. It’s obvious that you’re giving credit to someone in that case, so “via” or “H/T” are somewhat unnecessary.

    I’ve seen @TheBigLead use brackets to give credit, but never just brackets.

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  1. December 23rd, 2011

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