On Twitter, we are what we say. We have the opportunity to craft a complete online identity through what we talk about, who we talk with and what we share. I have met some amazing people through Twitter and had some engaging, thought-provoking and downright hilarious conversations, with folks I might otherwise be terrified to approach were I to see them out on the street (Russell Crowe, looking in your direction, mate).
Disappointing on occasion though are the Twitter bios people write for themselves. A mere 160 characters to sit on your Twitter account permanently and try to encapsulate who you are and why people should be interested in you. Folks who are using Twitter strictly as a marketing tool are the worst, describing themselves as flatly and as soullessly as the plastic widgets they’re attempting to push on you. And some traits are dropped in so commonly and so lazily as to lose all meaning – “coffee drinker,” for example, which is about as distinguishing as saying you’re an “oxygen breather.”
I’m also puzzled as to why some Tweeps waste characters with “Tweets are my own,” “Retweets are not endorsements” and “I follow back!” I understand that if you want to mouth off about how badly last night’s Stanley Cup playoff game went, you don’t want anyone to possibly infer that your profane criticism of the refereeing reflects the official views and positions of the ABC Company. I think most people are smart enough to understand that although we all work, we all have private lives as well. My Twitter life is entirely disengaged from my work life, even though there are people I work with who follow me (and I follow them). But I don’t talk about work. EVER. I don’t say where I work and I don’t bitch about work. Look, I’m at work all day, every day, and I have enough of it on my mind without it spilling into my social media life too. Saying “Tweets are my own” is just dumb though. Of course they’re your own. They’re not Phil’s, and they’re not Uncle Frank’s, and people get that.
“Retweets are not endorsements” is another one that to me, is a waste of space. I mean, I suppose there’s the fear that you might retweet somebody’s joke about airline travel only to find out a few weeks later that he once got arrested for masturbating in a park, and suddenly you’re a supporter of public self-pleasure by association or some such nonsense. Look, I can think Braveheart is a great movie and no one would ever accuse me of sympathizing with some of the reprehensible views that Mel Gibson has espoused publicly. When you retweet something, it’s because you thought that particular statement was worth sharing again. You’re not suddenly a staunch enthusiast of everything that person has ever said. I think this is one we just need to agree on collectively and then, just as collectively, remove it from every single Twitter bio on earth.
Finally, announcing “I follow back” or using the hashtag #TeamFollowBack is, as Ricky Gervais has said, a little bit sad. It pretty much guarantees that people will only follow you to bump up their own numbers, and not because they are truly interested in hearing what you have to say. I know I’m going against the advice of every single Internet marketing specialist here, but I think of Twitter as what the cable companies will never offer: an opportunity to pick your own channels, a la carte, without having to pay for or suffer through programs you don’t want. You can very easily build up a massive following by just following everyone you can and unfollowing those who don’t follow back, but what does that get you in the end? An awful lot of noise. I follow people who will add value to my day, and that’s my sole criterion.
So, what should you put in your Twitter bio? Well, I’m not saying mine is the epitome of awesome, but I think it’s pretty good, and here’s why. When you click on my profile, this is what you’ll see:
Writer, novelist-in-waiting, HuffPoster, Anglo, James Bond and Aaron Sorkin-phile, happy liberal, lover of martinis, women and song, preferably all at once.
1. Writer, novelist-in-waiting, HuffPoster: Chuck Wendig has a great line about how you’re either a writer or you aren’t, the word “aspiring” sucks, and that you shouldn’t differentiate just because you may not necessarily get paid for your words. Right now, I don’t make money for anything I write. I hope that will change soon, but it doesn’t stop me from writing. Ergo, I am a writer. I say “novelist-in-waiting” because I do have one finished novel, but to me, “novelist” suggests that you have more than one. I don’t yet. When I do, the “in-waiting” will fall off. And again, just because I haven’t published it and no one’s paid to read it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a novel, I wrote it, it exists. Finally, I should think it’s fairly obvious why “HuffPoster” is there. 23 articles and counting, so yeah, that one I can back up with solid evidence and the hateful comments that go with it.
2. Anglo, James Bond and Aaron Sorkin-phile: A small sampling of my popular culture interests. I have been enamored with all things English since probably the first time I heard someone speak in an English accent, which, given the second item in the list, was probably in watching a James Bond movie. It also covers Monty Python, the Beatles and the majority of my taste in music, movies, books, the lot. And I’m an Aaron Sorkin fan because his writing helped me find my own writing voice. (Which reminds me, I must get to that in another post sometime as I believe I did promise it a while back.)
3. Happy liberal: I don’t talk about politics on Twitter (or here) as much as I used to because the anger and hate that it stirs up on occasion (read: constantly) is becoming a bit stomach-churning in my old age. But in a way, this is a shorthand message to politically inclined folks who might like to follow me that this is where I start from. If you’re a worshipper of all things Ronald Reagan, free market libertarianism and neo-conservative warmongering, I don’t think you’ll find me very interesting; in fact, I may make your blood boil. I certainly won’t be seeking you out so I can crap all over your home feed with bleeding heart, namby-pamby communism. Let’s just agree to disagree and leave each other alone then. On the other hand, if you think we should base decisions on science, ensure that the rich pay their fair share, stop paving planet Earth indiscriminately and live in a society where we look after each other and help boost each other up, if you believe that government can be a force for good when the best people are involved in it, if you believe that a small group of committed citizens can change the world because it’s the only thing that ever has, then sign on up, glad to have you, I might even follow back.
4. Lover of martinis, women and song: Yes, I do love me a martini. All kinds – dry, fruity, decorated with chocolate shavings or plastic parasols, doesn’t matter. It’s a drink of sophistication that makes a man feel comfortable in a jacket and tie – a throwback to the era when class and erudition was the real swag. I’m old-fashioned that way, I suppose, but in a time when being a man seems to be a race to the bottom of a beer and nacho-cheese soaked barrel, I’m proud to be an anachronism. A lover of women? Yes, dear goddess yes, in all facets. Not a day goes by where I don’t ponder a particular woman or women in general with awe and admiration. I love them for their indomitable strength, their ability to take every setback life throws at them because of their gender and say, “is that all you’ve got, little man?” I love their minds, I love their senses of humor, I love their ability to see right through us, to strip away our phoniness and our pretend selves and force us to figure out who we really are. I love the music in their laughter, the poetry in their tears. I love their connection with who they are and the world they live in. I love the scent of their hair, the softness of their skin, the tone of their legs, the elegance of their hands. I love that I’m married to the most incredible woman on the planet, that I’m the brother of the second most incredible woman on the planet and that I’m privileged to know so many of their sisters. And I love to celebrate women in the words I write – which, I suppose, is the meaning of the “song” here.
5. Preferably all at once: Because a perfect evening is listening to my wife croon Ella Fitzgerald while I sip a Vesper.
There you have it – not saying that it’s perfect or that it won’t ever change. But if you want to get to know me, it’s a good place to start. Then you have to let my words do the rest.
Putting it out there then: How do you describe yourself on Twitter?