Note: Also available
on Kindle as an electric book.
Twitter, in its infancy, was a classless environment – a great democratiser of communication in which mouth size, ego, decibel count and status counted for nothing.
These moments of innocence are always short-lived, however. There is a natural order to the world. Class abhors a vacuum.
As celebrities arrived, follower-counts increased, tribes formed and we saw the emergence of the “followed and the followed-not” and the inevitable emergence of digital hierarchy. Natural order, gladly, was restored.
To help the lower orders, also known as the ‘great unfollowed’, navigate their way through the pleasures and the pitfalls of digital society, here is a guide to contemporary mores:
Never ask for a retweet. It is the HEIGHT of vulgarity.
Tread lightly with the use of new turns of phrase and terms. “What is the ACTUAL point…”, “ACTUAL socks,” “and SAUSAGES”, “linkage”, ad hoc genus omne.
Only a celebrity may tweet as though he or she is addressing an audience. For instance, “Yes, yes. One is aware that Mr Cowell doesn’t REALLY wear a bra.”
Never say “to those asking” unless you have amassed AT LEAST 100,000 followers.
Hashtags are from Croydon. The only exception is jolly ironic usage applied to the everyday. For example, #snow!
The upper digital orders should take great care with composition of tweets. Millions may be waiting for your aphorisms. The risks associated with an ill-considered or inadvertent tweet, therefore, are enormous – akin to Her Majesty ‘repeating’ during her Christmas Message. Worse still, one’s people will wish to share one’s pronouncements with their own audience, compounding the peril. When Justin Beiber, the popular vocalist, carelessly tweeted ‘No mousse’ it was retweeted 14, 758,000 times and the Dow Jones fell 127 points.
The flagrant pilfering of the witticisms of others on Twitter is the tiresome resort of the jejune.
It is better to feign technical ignorance than boast about technical proficiency.
A celebrity might deign to follow you in an act of drink-fuelled abandon during X Factor, but never assume that this indicates anything approaching social equality.One is being patronized – and this tenuous connection must be nurtured at all costs. One will be (quietly) required to help advance the celebrity’s cause through 140-character acts of obsequiousness, but they will NEVER reciprocate. Be thankful.
Never adjoin a discussion between two celebrities. It will feel akin to approaching two people having a discussion at a cocktail reception, trying to break in and being completely ignored.
Never expect a response from a celebrity, even if one’s observation is as polished as a Wilde aphorism. There are SO many people writing to them – and they fear the consequences of their encouragement, however magnanimous it might be in its intent.
The default polite acknowledgement from members of the upper digital circles is ‘Hahaha.’ On Saturday evenings, when the digerati are ‘out and about’ (occasionally used as a euphemism for ‘on the sofa with an Argentinian merlot) it may be ‘HAHAHA’.
For the digerati, the ratio is everything. A minimum of 1 (followed) to 100 (followers) is the expectation in upper digital circles.
Digerati must have a nodding acquaintance with a form of modern shorthand that conveys a sense of extreme busyness whilst at the same time imparting a pressing need to communicate vital information. For example: ‘ALSO: PARTY’, ‘ALSO: LUNCH. WILL DM DATES’ ‘Please @ me out of this conversation’. Remember, everything is public.
A well-crafted 140 characters are an opportunity to reflect one’s standing AND improve one’s enraptured audience. For example: ‘I just stepped on gum. Who spits gum on a red carpet?’
An aspirational underclass, known (sotto voce) in upper circles as ‘prelebrities’, also exists. They may be readily identified by their use of phraseology in tweets such as “So this happened” or “That thing when”.
A prelebrity will also occasionally issue a ‘follow friday’ (a sweetly fawning courtier-style naming of his or her patrons from the upper digital circles). He or she will also occasionally tweet his/her patrons with a gleeful “have just DMed you” in response to a patron’s outward expression of despair. Patrons ought to be forgiving of this. Tolerance is a form of digital alms.
“Tweet in haste. Lament at leisure.”
On the difficult question of retweeting praise (the temptation to share one’s followers’ understandable glee at one’s magnificence) there is no easy answer. It is, in a sense, the 21st century equivalent of having a gift shop on the grounds of one’s Estate. One feels that it rather implies a lack of ease with one’s self and one’s status: new money, acquired furniture – that type of thing. Retweeting praise is perhaps best, if done with a degree of haste, bookended with rapid-fire indications of the busyness of the day (see above). For instance: “At Balmoral with 2 others 4sq.com/p05e”, “Book! #Book!” [slot retweeted praise in here] and “ALSO: BOOK LAUNCH PARTY (Will DM)”
The Twitter biography is a equally vexing matter. There are two moderately acceptable options available to those in upper digital circles (although, candidly, does one need one?). The first is the endearingly modest ‘just a man/woman’ or similar. This style is more suited to digital royalty. The second form relies on careful attention to the order of achievements. It is is wise to list accomplishments in sequence of general accessibility, starting with what the hoi polloi will perceive as the lowest hurdle, in order to give the lower digital orders something that they might aspire to. It is also advantageous to end your biography with a measure of the personal cost of your efforts. For instance, “mother, taxi driver to my delightful children, director of a global foundation, DNA synthesist, Booker winner, mildly fatigued.”
It is, sadly, a truth, that a carefully cultivated image is often best observed at a distance. Our heroes (and we rare and fortunate creatures who are the heroes of others) require some distance for their (and our) full appreciation. It is advisable, then, to be sparing in one’s intimacy with one’s followers and certainly a little less frequent than we might choose to be in our updates. Our idiosyncrasies, precious and particular are they are, might not be everyone’s cup of Lapsang Souchong. The ease of tweeting could, for instance, find us asserting our effortless superiority in our discussions with our underlings in a way that might leave them somewhat less reluctant to rush to buy our fruits. This, in a world in which the costs of our upkeep are moving inexorably higher, might be to our material disadvantage. Worth noting, perhaps, the next time we are tempted to deliver a sharp rebuke, however helpful we feel it might be to those who know no better.
In the early days of Twitter, an egg ‘avatar’ (a rather vulgar, brutal description for one’s portrait) might have been acceptable, but now one’s image matters a great deal. If you MUST use an egg, DO opt for a Fabergé.