Avoiding Negative Engagement



Updated January 28, 2020
Using Twitter

We’ll cover dealing with negativity on Twitter later, but you can do your own big part by not contributing to the platform’s toxicity.

  • Don’t be negative. While being kind but critical in conversation is fine, being overly cynical on Twitter is off-putting to others—there’s rarely an opportunity to go back and explain “what you really meant.”

  • Don’t be pedantic or nit-picky. Everyone is working under the same 280 character limit when they’re sharing ideas. This leaves little room for nuance, so try to assume good intentions. If you need something clarified, ask. Being reductive or picking apart ideas is viewed as annoying. Try not to say things like, “You probably haven’t considered…,” or any reply that starts with, “Well actually…”

  • Don’t join pile-ons. Twitter’s allowance for people to amplify the positive is countered by its tendency for people to escalate the negative—aided by its own algorithm. Unfortunately, sometimes a certain individual or group within your industry can be a target. It’s not uncommon for someone prominent in your field to make an error or misstep. However, this often means being held to a higher standard in their professional community and experiencing outsized criticism when people disagree with them. There are compassionate ways to extend criticism that don’t include pile-ons. Don’t join in. Focus on amplifying what you like instead of jeering at what you hate. Don’t take part in dunking contests and ratios.

  • Don’t engage in snitch tagging. Often people want to critically talk about something or someone without notifying that individual or their following. They’ll often speak in slightly obscured language or use a screenshot to discuss a specific tweet, rather than quote tweeting. Subsequently tagging the person they’re referring to in the comments is considered bad form and can lead to the exact outcome they were trying to avoid.

Sending DMs

Direct messages or DMs are a good way to contact someone 1:1. On Twitter, if you follow someone and they also follow you, you can send them a DM. Many people have their DMs open for everyone, meaning you can send them a message even if they don’t follow you. This means you might have the ability to contact some of the most interesting and influential people you follow.

You can use DMs in a similar way to how you would use comments: sharing appreciation for someone’s work, providing anecdotal support for something they’ve said, sharing recommendations, et cetera. In all these instances, again, it’s important to hold low expectations for a response—but it’s always worth a try. It’ll happen someday.

DMs can have a few use cases:

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