Daily Thought: Uncaring Sharing

It occurs to me that it’s actually really rough being retweeted by basically anyone.

Social media content sharing can be helpful if you’re just shilling a product, but I can guarantee you that if you use twitter for any length of time to try to interact with human beings outside of selling them things or garnering personal cachet, it’s almost always going to become an inconvenience to you sooner or later. Getting retweeted by the wrong person (or even by the right person) can practically put your account out of commission for hours, or for days, if not for actually fucking ever.

Twitter’s retweet option is a lovingly baked slice of hell pie.

Everyone knows what it does, but let’s take it apart: your tweet, including your avatar (which might be a photo of you), and your name, and your username, and a link to your profile (which might contain even more information about you) is lifted entirely from your timeline and into someone else’s. This takes one click of a button to do. If you’ve got actually correct location data on your tweets and haven’t pointed them all to a random country in Asia, then everyone knows where you’re from now, too.

Let’s say you’ve got a public account, because you actually want to talk to someone at some point.

You basically never want to be retweeted by someone with more than like 200 followers.

Think about the math of being retweeted by a celebrity for a moment.

Taylor Swift has 6.1 million followers. For the sake of theory, let’s say Taylor Swift actually uses her account in the way ordinary humans do, or that her interns are ordinary humans trying to use her account in an ordinary human way. Say you compliment Taylor Swift and she manages to catch it on twitter, amid the flood of mentions she probably gets that make reading her own twitter interactions impossible. Miraculously, she sees yours. She is so elated she retweets that compliment to her 6.1 million followers, and she doesn’t post much more than that on that day because she’s a busy lady. Your tweet is now sitting, exposed, on Taylor Swift’s twitter account, for perhaps a day, or maybe several days; exposed to 6.1 million people.

Say at least 1% of the people following Taylor Swift are horrifyingly vile gremlin underdwellers who spend much of their time slashing at her heels, lambasting her every word and by extension anyone who actually likes her. That’s 61,000 hobgoblins who saw you naively compliment Taylor Swift. If 1% of those guys are soulless enough to press their advantage, you just got yourself 610 violent twitter stalkers, for who knows how long. Even if it’s only like, an afternoon’s worth of bile from 610 dudes, that’s already enough to make you not ever want to get on twitter again. And that’s for saying something NICE to Taylor Swift.

Imagine Taylor Swift has fucked up super massively, and said something racist on TV (she probably has, I have no idea what she’s up to). Say you want to put her on blast for this, because you’re a solid twitterer who won’t stand for bad shit in your world. Say Taylor Swift sees your scorching hot criticism, and spitefully retweets you into her timeline to deliver a folksy comment about the burden of her own stardom, and then disappears for the day. We can do the same math as before, but let’s say that at least 25% of her followers are huge, die-hard fans who love her more than anyone can love the Gods of their dad’s religion. You’ve just spat in the face of the Goddess of a cult 1.5 million strong. If even 1% of those people declare a crusade on you, that is 15,000 twitter users who will make your mentions column a bubbling cauldron of bile.

You might find it really farfetched that Taylor Swift would ever retweet anyone, but you can just dial the numbers down and pick anyone who has a lot of followers and actually interacts with people who tweet at them. I’ve seen internet randos with 10k followers, who just got them for being dudes online regularly enough. Those guys do look at their mentions. When they retweet you, that’s still exposing you to enough people to make looking at your mentions painful. At best, it’ll be cluttered with people trying to talk to you because you’re cool, and you’ll just be faced with your inability to hold a conversation with a thousand people. At worst, it’ll be a wall of gorno and death threats that twitter will assert does not violate their terms of service.

Basically if you use twitter to interact with people you probably don’t want to get retweeted ever.

And the thing is, that’s assuming nobody retweets you out of Taylor Swift’s timeline and into their own, because that’s a whole ‘nother world of shit you’re flying into. Most people do not understand the absurd power their retweets carry. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and I only have like 700 twitter followers. In the past, I’ve retweeted people for the purpose of debating their points or arguing with them or making fun of them. Those people have, almost always, ended up on the spot from some of my followers. Imagine if I had 7000 or 70,000 instead of 700 followers. How many more opportunities are in there for your tweet to find that very special person who will make you hate this website and its content functionality absolutely forever.

I very rarely retweet people who aren’t dril, journalists or celebrities nowadays.

Retweeting an ordinary person who wants to talk with people could easily be counterproductive to those purposes.

Twitter sees all of this as clickthrough rate numbers. Those 70,000 theoretical people who hate you are 70,000 potential interactions, devoid of any context. They’re people who clicked your profile, kicking up your Klout score and whatever in the process. You’re famous now! One more evil ruffian has clicked your twitter to send you a photo of a bloated corpse, and at Twitter HQ that’s registering as a number that’s good for you, good for them, and good for everybody in the web biz.

When I hit publish on this post, it’ll get sent to twitter, because I am a goddamn dumbass.

On twitter, it can get retweeted infinitely to the pages of millions of people I don’t know. I can only stop this by protecting my account, which is worthless to me, because I’ve got links to The Solstice War to shill, and those aren’t gonna shill themselves from a protected account. Your only options on twitter are to expose yourself to the yawning abyss and await the burning eyes of the ancient ones, or to become a hermit and live in a cave and basically render most of twitter’s “features” nigh unusable. There’s no middle ground, and there likely will never be one, because when you’ve posted in the wrong hashtag and thousands of people are rarin’ to tear you apart, that’s cool. Those are clickthroughs baby, learn to love them!

And, I guess, learn some tricks for blocking people really, really quickly.

I’m not saying never retweet anyone, but just, consider what you’re doing when you do that. It might be better to just carry on a public conversation with this person by yourself. That gives them considerably less spotlight on your timeline.

If someone begs for retweets, retweet ’em. They probably know what they’re getting into.

Be judicious with this great and terrifying power you’ve got, because it’s really something else.


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Madiha is a creative writer and a lover of books, anime, manga, video games. You can contact her via email at wyattsalazar[at]gmail[dot]com.

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