Back at the end of 2008, I was completely infatuated with Twitter. I engaged everyone in dialogue. I would jump into conversations between people I didn’t know, and debate issues that I probably had no business talking about. But the idea of open communications with new people was an amazing revelation for this introvert. Plus, I could do it in my underwear. There was no longer an issue of being invited to the right party and then wearing the right clothes. Thanks to Twitter, I just had to sound the part. As a writer, this was like my Xanadu.

Then about a year ago, I had a wake-up call. That’s when I noticed my precious time slipping away into random dialogue. There was no time for much else. If I took a picture, I uploaded it. If one of my daughters said something funny, I posted it. And then I responded to everyone who @ replied me. Twitter was becoming larger than life. Now I know what you’re thinking – that Twitter doesn’t affect you this way and you manage it just fine. And yes, if you’re someone who follows only a few hundred people, then you’re probably right. But if you’re tweeting every five minutes every day with the thousands of people you follow, then you’re full of shit. No human being can focus on having anything like a sincere conversation with another human being and do much of anything else. Sure, you can create lists and manipulate Twitter clients to make your dialoguing more efficient, but if you’re really engaging in intellectual banter, you’re not doing much of anything else. Rather, when you’re in Twitter, you’re in Twitter. And your friends and family who engage with you in person look at you like you’re crazy.

Anyway, regarding my own obsession with real-time, global interrelated communications, I realized that I had only myself to blame. So last year I switched accounts from @smashadv to @jmitchem and kind of started over. And for the most part, it’s helped. I don’t @ reply nearly as much as I used to. My @ ratio used to be about 70%. Now I’d guess it’s closer to 30%. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like talking to people, I just don’t have the time to watch my stream all day and jump into conversations. And no, I don’t respond to everyone who @ replies to me. But that’s rude, right? If someone came up to you at a party and said, “Hey, I was thinking about that thing you said earlier, and here’s what I think.” Then you’d feel compelled to talk back to them. Right? If not, you’d look like a complete dork. Well, back in the day I’d say yes. Back in the day I’d respond to everyone. But now I only really do it if someone asks me a question. Likewise, I don’t just ignore everyone in my stream – I do look at it a few times a day. And I do @ reply to people. But when I @ reply someone and it’s not a direct question, then I don’t really expect a response.

However. When I do @ reply to someone with an inquiry, I absolutely expect an answer. I don’t care whether you’re the president of a Fortune 100 or the creepy guy in his mother’s basement. When someone asks you a question here – and if you don’t respond to them? Then you’re a dick. Yes, there are exceptions. For example, if you’re Justin Bieber. Ok, that’s an extreme example. Let’s say I’m driving somewhere and someone @ replies me a question and by the time I get to where I’m going that @ reply is buried in my stream (you know, because I’m *so* popular) then no, I probably won’t respond. Same goes for the guy who only checks Twitter once a week and who randomly @ replies about things that have long since passed. I can barely remember what I said to my kids yesterday, much less something I tweeted last week. And DMs – if you have a reciprocal follow with someone and you send them a DM and they never respond to it – maybe you wait a day or two and politely try again. But if they just don’t respond – I recommend unfollowing them. Because they obviously don’t care about your relationship. And don’t give me that crap about ‘I don’t ever check DMs’ either. That’s a like saying, ‘I don’t listen to my voicemails.’

Bottom line – if you’re here, you’re not really anywhere else. And that’s ok, as long as you accept it. To each his own, and all that. But if you’re going to be here, don’t be a dick. BE here. And if you do follow someone who is a dick, unfollow them. You don’t need that in your life. Now go hug someone. In person.


Jim Mitchem

Time and Facebook's Timeline
She Said Yes

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.