As a few of you have noticed, I've recently rejoined the world of social networking. For those of you who haven't, you can check out my archive of self-nudes on Facebook here or my 140-character ASCII-rendered self-nudes on Twitter here (I use up ALL 140 characters, if you know what I'm saying, ladies.) As a formerly reluctant social networker, it's been a bit of an adventure for me, but in general, I have to say that everything has pretty much exceeded all of my (low) expectations. Everyone seems to love me, and even the people who love me way too much seem to be pretty cool about it. (Just the most thoughtful, sentimental death threats you can imagine.)
"Oh, that is the perfect rhyme for 'abattoir.' He's going to piss himself out of love."
It hasn't all been good news, though, as in the past few weeks I've managed to infuriate everyone who likes me several times over. Aside from my obvious personal and mental defects, which limit me wherever I tread, it turns out that there are a variety of rules specific to social networking that I've been putting my foot in. And because moral lessons derived from my asshattedness are always so popular around here, I present to you these cardinal rules of social networking that I've blundered through in the past weeks. Hopefully you can use this advice to avoid breaking the same rules yourself, or perhaps more likely, deliberately break them many times simply to troll people. Don't think I'm not on to you, monsters that I have forged.
There is a certain cadence people expect you to have when you social network, and when you exceed it, it can start to piss them off. The exact amount people will put up with you varies depending on how funny, important or full-bosomed you are, but in my experience, I haven't seen many people go above five tweets per day and look good doing it.
Important looking, but only modestly bosomed; I'd tolerate no more than three or four tweets a day from this gentleman.
And people mentally deduct tweets from your allowance when you talk about the same thing as everyone else. Last week, there was a presidential debate in America, and if you wanted to see several hundred people make the same five goddamned jokes about it, oh shit, son, Twitter was the place to be. Yes, there was Cracked's feed and its award-deserving observations, but buried as they were within a hundred other gerbil turds of nonsense, after a couple minutes I simply gave up and scrolled past all the debate spam, looking for my regular gerbil turds of delight.
How to Avoid This
Understand what people are following you for. If it's for your fun little insights, give them your best fun little insights, and not 1,800 jokes about the Emmys, or a rock-by-rock commentary of a curling match, or a 45-tweet series about the enema party you're throwing.
The 45 tweets was my biggest mistake, but not using dark-colored towels was a close second.
#4. Not Replying
When someone sends you a message or tweet, or comments on something you've written, you're apparently supposed to write back to them. This might seem like common sense, or even just basic human decency, to those of you who possess such things, but it came as a bit of a surprise to me. I mean, I can see why it makes sense: If someone said something to you in real life, not responding and just staring back at them would be among the least acceptable responses available, the kind of behavior we normally associate with simpletons and maniacs.
Thinking: "Keep it together, Rick. Don't let them know you're a maniac. If they talk to you, just don't say anything. That should work. Yeah, Rick! Yeah! We're doing it! We're really figuring out this basic human behavior thing. Give yourself a nice stroke on the cock as a reward. Oh dammit."
And yet online, it's so, so easy to not reply. For me at least, it mostly came down to a desire to say just the right thing and the laziness of not wanting to take any time to figure out what that was. I'd see someone talking at me, and look at their message a bit, and not think of anything really clever to write back, so I'd just go back to whatever I was doing, whether it was working or screaming at clouds, and I'd forget about it. Until a few days later, when I'd receive a New Message Icon! and realize that I had 70 messages going back months in there, all waiting for replies, and that I am a terrible sham of a man.
Sometimes, of course, it isn't even my fault; on the new Android phone I got last year, I evidently got logged in to Gchat without knowing about it, and was made available to the world for hot chatting sessions. (I know no other way to chat.) I didn't find out about this until one morning when I woke up to find that someone had had a lengthy, somewhat one-sided conversation with my phone while it was charging, a conversation soon filled with threats and then increasingly desperate pleas for a response, any response. A response that was obviously never likely to be forthcoming, as my phone, much like its owner, has no pity.
How to Avoid This
Reply To Everything.
Obviously this gets harder as you get angrier or more popular, or at least that's what I've been telling myself about all those unanswered voice mails I've sent to Christian Bale. And so long as you're not angry or popular (according to our webstats, you're probably timid and unlikable), this should be no excuse for you -- so Reply To Everything.
I know I've certainly been trying to, even if none of my stupid idiot followers can even be Christian Bale the tiniest bit.
#3. Short Replies
This one gets a bit subjective; one of the big benefits of social media is its use of short, simple messages. Although bitching about the 140-character limit of Twitter is a popular pastime, it's not there to make tweeters' lives difficult. It's there to make followers' lives easier. Think of the hell it would be to wade through your incoming tweets if every idiot got more space. Some days I think there should be licensing exams to even get 140 characters.
Also, teenagers shouldn't be able to tweet without an adult present, and never after dark.
But that doesn't mean we can't be too short, especially when replying to someone. A 30-word question that earns a one-word response -- "Yes" or "No" or "Meh" -- sends a pretty obvious signal about which one of you is more interested in the conversation, and which one of you deserves to be dipped in lye.
How to Avoid This
Read your message a couple times before sending it. Ask yourself: "How would I interpret this if I were the other person?" Then when that doesn't work because you're a self-involved ass, ask yourself: "Can I deliberately misinterpret this to make me look like a self-involved ass?" And when you realize you can, change your message to conceal that, keeping your condition a secret forever.
#2. Improper Punctuation
There are two aspects to this. The first is to simply punctuate your social network leavings to the level your audience expects. I'm not that crusty of an old man -- I'm actually kind of a soggy old man -- so I get that some people don't particularly care about proper punctuation in their tweets, and even enjoy the fun of deciphering the more opaque ones.
"B UR FINGER! LUVER 2NIT?"
Me, I like proper punctuation. I had a Strunk and White-themed mobile as an infant, and spent every night watching an array of commas, clauses and, yes, colons parade above me as I went to sleep. More importantly, I'm pretty sure my audience feels the same way about punctuation, and I have structured most of my tweets and status updates appropriately, so that all of my monologues on fingerblasting are grammatically sound.
The second part of the punctuation issue is actually a special case of the problem discussed above with very short replies. How you punctuate something can make a big difference in how it's interpreted. "OK!" feels a lot different from "OK," which itself feels different from "ok ...". This punctuation is an important part of establishing the mood you're in when writing that particular post/update/tweet. If we were doing old school, face-to-face social networking, we could simply see the other person's expression or the gang symbols they were flashing to interpret their mood, but without that, we have to mind our commas, periods and bangs.
How to Avoid This
For the first issue, it comes back to audience perceptions again; think about how your audience likes to social network, and especially how you want them to see you. Are you a business looking to communicate with future customers? Then maybe use regular, full-on, hardcore punctuation. Or are you a business looking to communicate with really stupid customers, like tweens or something? Then sure, throw a "2" in there instead of "to" sometime. See how that goes.
For the second issue, I'd suggest simply trying out a few different ways of punctuating your replies to see how they look. Then ignore all of them and put a question mark at the end of everything. It makes everything you say seem much more mysterious.
"I love you?" "You do!? Wait. What's that question mark supposed to mean?" "Mystery?" "Mystery. The only mystery is what I still see in you." "The fingerblasting?"
#1. Going Offline
This sin occurs when you are logged in to a chat program, get a request to begin a chat session from someone, ignore that request and immediately go offline. To the person on the other end, this can potentially come across as a network error, just an example of the flakiness that we sometimes have to put up with on the Internet. But that's only if they're really, massively naive, like if Wally and the Beaver were trying to ICQ or something. Most everyone alive nowadays will assume that you just disconnected because you hate their bones.
Oh Christ, it's Andy. Man, that guy's bones suck."
I will admit to having done this before, although in my defense, I ... you see ... my defense is ... that I ... Splut. OK, basically I really, really wish I had a defense for that, but I don't, so I guess I'm a huge cockbaron.
It's not completely my fault, I don't think; I've only done it when I've been logged in to a chat service against my will. I'll be logged in to some account that under no circumstances would I expect to have a chat client, like my fucking bank or something, and out of nowhere a window pops up and someone from my old high school starts beaking at me. At which point I immediately turn off the chat feature, saving me the annoyance of having to read an old friend's urgent pleas for help.
That's not so bad, is it? I didn't want to chat. I didn't volunteer for that. Dammit, brain, don't make me feel guilty about not chatting. What am I gonna do? Force my way through some bogus conversation with someone?
"Hey. What's up? Oh yeah. Lost both legs? Awesome. Running with scissors, huh? That sucks. Hey I gotta go, there's a rerun of Becker on."
How to Avoid This
Yes, Chris, you Third Degree Cockbaron, that's exactly what you should be doing.
OK, new deal. If I fuck up and forget to automatically log myself out of every chat client I come across, and you catch me online and request a chat, I promise to slog through a bogus two-minute chat with you. It's going to be humiliating and uncomfortable for both of us, which is actually a pretty fair representation of what a conversation with me is like in real life.
"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah? Cool. Not much. Yeah. Fingerblasting. Well, it depends how much I've been drinking, but yeah, I try to blast. Yeah, you hear me. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah? Cool. Nice talking to you, Christian."