The Anxiety of Having a Famous Follower on Twitter

 

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June 23, 2018, was a momentous day in the online life of Laura Pittenger, a New York playwright with roughly 1,200 Twitter followers. That was when the actor John Cusack, who has more than 1.6 million followers, retweeted her and followed her back.

Ms. Pittenger was happy to have a celebrity follower. Then came the anxiety.

“Honestly, I had a moment of paralysis,” Ms. Pittenger said. “I thought, ‘Why would he follow me?’ I was basically a nervous wreck that he was following me at all.”

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The curse of the Twitter reply guy

Steve has struck again.

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On Twitter, a place where a lot of bad things happen, there’s a mostly harmless but decidedly annoying phenomenon. A lot of people, mostly women, have noticed that one or two men always, no matter what, reply to their tweets.

These men are colloquially known as “reply guys.” While no reply guy is the same — each reply guy is annoying in his own way — there are a few common qualities to watch out for. In general, reply guys tend to have few followers. Their responses are overly familiar, as if they know the person they’re targeting, though they usually don’t. They also tend to reply to only women; the most prolific reply guys fill the role for dozens of women trying to tweet in peace.

I’m Deleting All My Old Tweets Because Nothing Matters

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In fact, over the past few months, many of the journalists I follow have casually mentioned that they have timers on their accounts set to delete their old tweets. “Why wouldn’t you delete them?” tweeted one, in a tweet I can no longer find because it has since been deleted.

At first, I was aghast. If something happens on Twitter but then gets deleted, did it even happen? Deleting it is an affront to history! Isn’t Twitter a sacred record of our [checks notes] … inane thoughts and bad jokes? Oh wait, maybe I do get it.

There are practical reasons to delete your tweets. Increasingly, old tweets are being used as ammunition to get their owners fired or ruin their reputation by people with an ax to grind.

Never Tweet

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Friends, reporters, fam: It’s time we journalists all considered disengaging from the daily rhythms of Twitter, the world’s most damaging social network.

You don’t have to quit totally — that’s impossible in today’s news business. Instead, post less, lurk more.

Of course, I’ve climbed onto this very high horse because we just witnessed a terrible week on the internet. Over the weekend, thanks largely to amplification on Twitter, MAGA-hatted high-school kids from Kentucky — and whether they did or did not harass a Native American elder during a march in Washington — eclipsed all other news. At first, the Twitter mob went after the kids from Covington Catholic High School. Then, as more details of the incident emerged, a mob went after the people who’d gone after the kids. No one won; in the end the whole thing was little more than a divisive, partisan mess.

So it was just another weekend on Twitter. But in its zigs and zags, the Covington story made one thing clear: Twitter is ruining American journalism.

The Covington saga illustrates how every day the media’s favorite social network tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and bot-driven groupthink.

Late-Night Tweeting Degrades Your Performance the Next Day

Late-night Twitter use social media

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A new study of NBA players reports that it does indeed: A player’s shooting accuracy declines if they were up late tweeting the night before a game.

“These findings may apply widely to other sports, and other cognitive and behavioral outcomes,” writes a research team led by Jason Jones, an assistant professor of sociology at Stony Brook University. Nearly one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep; these findings suggest the quality of their work may suffer as a result.

Twitter is thinking about killing the Like button — but don’t hold your breath

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The source was a Twitter event last week, where CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly said he “wasn’t a fan of the heart-shaped button” and “would be getting rid of it soon.” As the Telegraph piece traveled, that quote was taken as an immediate threat that the Like button’s days could be numbered.

Users responded to the report angrily, noting that the Like button allowed them to support others and offer solidarity. Some expressed fears that without the button, retweets and argument would be the only means of communication.

But the threat may not be quite as imminent as it seemed.

Welcome to Voldemorting, the Ultimate SEO Dis

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I’m so tired of all the bad news on birdsite.”

“Yeah, there’s just too much about The Cheeto.”

Cheeto and birdsite might not be common vocabulary, but the phrases are strangely interpretable. It’s easy to jump from Cheeto to Donald Trump or from birdsite to Twitter. Even more understandable is the attitude that comes along for the ride: Somehow it’s clear that someone who uses ornate synonyms isn’t happy about either entity.

…what does it mean for communication in the internet age that we’re increasingly drawn to elaborate synonyms?

A recent paper by researcher Emily van der Nagel puts a name to this phenomenon of hiding a word in plain sight. She calls it Voldemorting. Van der Nagel traces Voldemorting back to the Harry Potter books, where most characters are too afraid of Voldemort to say the word directly, instead replacing his name with euphemisms like You Know Who and He Who Must Not Be Named. This practice starts as a superstition, but by the final book there’s a deeper purpose: The word Voldemort is revealed as a way of locating the resistance: “Using his name breaks protective enchantments, it causes some kind of magical disturbance.”