Shooting The Messenger

I tweet a lot. Predominately, I share external content – according to Twitalyzer, I operate at a signal-to-noise ratio of about 84 per cent.

I pride myself on trying to find the best and most interesting links I possibly can. To do this, I regularly scan a number of different aggregators, subscribe to a lot of blogs, read the tweets of a lot of influential Twitterers, and a bunch of other, top secret stuff that may or may not involve speaking in tongues. I don’t share blindly, either – I actually check out each and every link in full. After all, if I can’t be bothered to read it, why should you?

Here’s the thing – my interests are pretty varied. A lot of my tweets are about Twitter, social media and tech, but I also share stuff about music, movies, TV, politics and current affairs, religion, comic books and lots of other things, too. Pretty much anything that takes my fancy. This slightly splintered approach has worked well for me. It’s probably true that if I only tweeted about Twitter I could significantly improve my targeting, but I don’t want to just talk about Twitter. Nor do I want to talk to people who just want to talk about Twitter, either.

While focusing on one niche has worked well for me on this blog, my Twitter account is a personal one, inasmuch as it’s me, and not a robot or a feed, and I dare say that normal people talk about normal things, which attracts other normal people. And vice versa. This is a good thing.

Most of the time, the response to the links I share is overwhelmingly positive. But every once in a while, somebody will take objection to an article, image or (philosophical or political) perspective that I’ve submitted, and let me know about it.

That’s fine. The problem is: I didn’t write it. I also didn’t draw, compose or film it, nor do I necessarily even believe in it, either.

For some, that doesn’t matter. You submitted it, you deal with the flak. And it’s certainly true that you take a level of responsibility for each and every tweet you share with your network. But only up to a point – if somebody else has a problem with the author‘s message, then, by any reasonable measure, they need to take it up with the author.

Or so you’d think. Often, suggesting to the other user that they should probably address their complaints with the person who actually, you know, wrote the article (or drew the picture, or composed the piece of music, or uploaded the knitting pattern) – that’s what the comments box on their site is for, after all – is often ignored entirely or rebuffed with a response that goes along the lines of, “No, I’d rather take it up with you.”

And (for my sins) while I’m prepared to do this for a tweet or two, once you start ranting and raging I’m going to lose interest fairly quickly. After all, and as a reminder, I didn’t write it. And if I can paraphrase Voltaire et al for a moment, defending another’s right to say something is not the same as defending something they’ve said.

The most guilty of this are headline readers – they scan the tweet without even clicking on the link (reading only the first one or two paragraphs if they do), and then let you have it with both barrels. If this sounds at all familiar, then I urge you to stop. Please refrain from making comment on anything until you’ve read the entire piece. Twice. Or at least until reading in full becomes a habit.

Trust me, this will make you a better person. Afterwards, and once fully digested, if you still disagree then by all means go ahead and be angry. But take it out with the author, not the messenger. We’re simply the bridges that provide the connection. If you shoot us down, you’re on your own.