The Many Irritating Online Habits of Otherwise Nice People

Two days ago, I sat staring at yet another harsh political tweet from a well-known author (who writes fiction, not political punditry.) I chose to follow that author months ago thanks to his very creative and likable online presence, but too often he'd upset me with statements demeaning some of my own views.

Wait, I thought. I have control over my Twitter feed. And I unfollowed him. The guy is a great writer and I hated to do it, but I'd reached my limit.

He's not the first person I've unfollowed for political bashing. Some weeks back, I went into my list and culled another author and an agent, both of whom had posted numerous incendiary tweets. I just cut a book reviewer from my Google reader for a particularly nasty statement (usually, it takes more than one), and can think of three more tweeps and two bloggers (none of whom follow me—I doubt very much that any of them are you, oh my friend) who have had me hovering over that unfollow button for similar reasons. Life is too short to spend it frustrated at people who treat others as if they're stupid or evil for having different beliefs and ideas.

Author Jody Hedlund posted an excellent piece on her blog last week, entitled Five Ways Authors Alienate Readers on Social Media Sites. It's not just authors, of course. It's also not just politics—that's referenced in her first point, but all of her points are absolutely correct, and number three is another serious frustration for me.

I highly recommend Jody Hedlund's post. Go read it, if you will, and then here are a few additional comments from me:

The worst thing you can do, in my opinion, no matter where you stand on the political scale, no matter what the issue at hand, is assume that everyone with heart or reason agrees with you (or your party, etc.) That is an incredibly arrogant and unjust assumption. For every time you do that, I'll find you someone with the opposite perspective who has a well-educated and reasonable, questioning mind, very real feelings, and true love for those around them.

Ms. Hedlund doesn't mention religion, but it has a similar effect to that of politics. It's possible to offend people either through overbearing religious comments or by making offensive anti-religious statements, both of which just sound stupid to those who disagree.

Dirty language is another big turnoff for some people—myself included, honestly. An occasional use of even the worst swear words will not upset me, but use a steady flow of them, and I just don't want you in my head. I'm sorry.

As for self-marketing: If you want to make a name for yourself through social media, join communities and participate. Do not push your book or website in every comment you make, and don't harass people into re-tweeting your promo posts. Those sorts of things are in extremely poor taste, and those who practice them make me feel as if I can't promote them because they'll annoy the heck out of all of my friends, too.

The snarky image is popular, but dangerous. If you choose it, know what you're risking.

Okay, I think I've ranted long enough.

Nobody's perfect, of course. I've learned a lot in my few years online, and can think of several statements I've made that I would phrase much differently or not say at all now. People usually deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Most of us enjoy knowing and working with people who are well-informed, reasonably open-minded, kind, clever and/or funny, pleasant, cheery, friendly, and other such things. The longer I'm online, the more I realize the importance of generosity in all human relations. Let's be the ones who keep the peace.

What makes you consider unfollowing someone?


  1. Excellent points, Jenna! I appreciate you expounding on my post! And I agree with all that you said. I've appreciated getting to know new people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.
    But we can appreciate one another without having to shove our opinions down each other's throats!

    Thanks for delving into this topic deeper!

  2. I have to confess, I unfollowed someone earlier because they filled my timeline with an regional political protest which bore absolutely no interest to me. I tolerated the first few tweets and looked upon them as a good human being for drawing attention to the issue, but eventually it was too much. I know I'm in danger of doing the same thing myself. I do get very politically involved at times, but where possible I check myself and mix my tweets up a little. I have various 'boxes' of followers - the writers, the politically minded, the musical lovers. It's tricky to please everyone but I don't deliberately try to offend. However, that's not to say I don't because some people are easily offended!

  3. Ha! You must be in my head, Jenna - these have been my exact thoughts for the past few days. I can't follow people on twitter who make me tired. The whole point I follow people on twitter is because I believe I could learn from them and because they're interesting and/or funny. So - when people start doing a politcal dance, or bad language gets out of hand, I sigh, say 'bye-bye' and hit the delete button.

  4. I unfollow people who post the same content over and over (for their morning, afternoon and evening audiences). Language is a biggie. Constant anger and ranting are another deal-breaker (bad days are okay, bad months... not so much). Then there's the boring factor. Or people who carry on extended personal conversations with others on Twitter (rather than using private messaging).

  5. Jody, thanks so much for writing that post in the first place! I'd been thinking of these things for weeks, and your words and Amy's made me want to cheer. :)

    CharmedLassie, I probably should have added a point about flooding a Twitter stream. I've unfollowed people for that. And you're right--it's impossible to please everyone, and some people are easily offended. All we can do is our best.

    Nicola, excellent points. I sympathize with getting tired by these things. We all have enough things to tire us out--that's not what anyone gets Twitter for. :)

    Farmer's City Wife, people tweet for three different time-based audiences? LOL. And yeah, someone who rants constantly is terribly exhausting to read.

  6. Great post! I think the biggest annoyance for me is when someone treats their community on Social Media like a marketing avenue. Drives me bonkers. If they're following you they're paying attention and interested anyhow. If they push, they're just like spammers.

  7. P.W. Creighton, you're absolutely right. Pushy marketing in what's supposed to be a community is every bit as bad as spam.


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