Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 29, 2014

House of Burgess: In 140 characters or fewer

A simple guide to using Twitter.

By Rob Burgess
Tribune columnist

— I was ambivalent about Twitter from the beginning, to say the least. Lately, though, I’ve grown to like Twitter. Allow me to lay down the ground rules for how I think people should use it:

REASON FOR BEING

Here are the reasons I use Twitter: to promote my work, interact with friendly followers, retweet things I think are interesting, find and retain new information, store old information and test out new ideas. If you’re a journalist in 2014, you are pretty much required to have a Twitter account. If I didn’t have one already, I’d have to create one. But I’ve had an account for just over five years. I’ve had a Twitter account longer than 99.5 percent of all users, according to Twopcharts. I sometimes think I necessarily have a different perspective on it because of this. Make sure you’re very clear with yourself about why you use Twitter and what you hope to get out of it.

RT ≠ ENDORSEMENT

This phrase has been known to appear in the profiles of many a Twitter user. The intent is to say, for the record: “Just because I retweet something doesn’t mean I agree with it.” This is a good general rule for Twitter and should probably be assumed for most everyone whether they have this phrase in their profile or not.

FOLLOWING BACK

Here’s something I’ve noticed about some Twitter users: There is a certain breed who seems to do nothing but follow everyone they can find. They then wait an arbitrary amount of time and then unfollow if no return follow back has been forthcoming. Understand if someone doesn’t follow you back, you shouldn’t take it personally. People follow people whose content they want to see in their news feed. It also helps if they’ve ever met the person. Speaking for myself, I can think of several people who use Twitter whom I like and respect very much in real life and whom I don’t follow. I just don’t want to see what they have to show me. It has no bearing on my opinion of them as human beings.

BLOCK ME, PLEASE

Online fights are a complete waste of time. Even if you “win” one (whatever that even means), you still feel dirty for having gotten involved. At least I do — or did. You can’t change everyone’s mind. If you don’t like what someone has to say, please, for both your sakes, block them. Don’t hesitate. They aren’t even going to be mad at you, most likely. They won’t get an alert saying you’ve done so. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it from the Twitter Help Center:

1. Log in to your Twitter account.

2. Go to the profile page of the person you wish to block.

3. Click the person icon on their profile page. This brings up a drop-down actions menu.

4. Select Block from the options listed.

Blocked users cannot:

• Add your Twitter account to their lists.

• Have their @replies or mentions show in your mentions tab (although these Tweets may still appear in search).

• Follow you.

• See your profile picture on their profile page or in their timeline.

As comedian Doug Benson’s Twitter profile used to say: “If you can’t stand the tweet, then unfollow the kitchen.” You’ll be doing both of you a favor.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.