10 Oct 2019

How to avoid a Twitter spat

One story dominated the news yesterday, and it wasn't the latest development in the Brexit negotiations. It was Coleen Rooney’s Twitter accusation that fellow football spouse Rebekah Vardy had been selling stories about her to the tabloids. Half an hour later, Vardy issued a reply denying the claim, but by then, Twitter was aflame and the news had gone viral.

Rooney is by no means the first person to broadcast her beef on Twitter. Musicians and actors, talk show hosts, MPs and senior statespeople – not least Donalds Tusk and Trump – have all been known to air grievances in outbursts of 280 characters or fewer. There’s something about social media that makes us all more susceptible to candour, but if the thought of getting embroiled in a highly public hoo-ha fills you with horror, here’s how to keep your friends close and your enemies closer online:

Keep it positive

Celebrate others' successes with a retweet or congratulatory comment, and don't forget to thank those who celebrate yours.

Beware irony

Irony is often misinterpreted in written communication, so keep your meaning literal unless you're confident that your humour and intention are crystal clear.

Tailor your privacy settings

Twitter profiles rank high on search results, so consider setting up a protected account unless you're willing to share your feed with colleagues, your boss and prospective dates. Alternatively, set up a protected account for private use and a public one for work.

Consider a disclaimer

If you mention your workplace in your Twitter bio, consider including a sentence like 'opinions are my own and not that of the Little Trading Company, Ltd' to distance your comments from your employer.

Remember there's no edit option

Tweets can't be edited after they've been shared, so if you change your mind about the way you've worded something, you'll have to delete the whole post. Still, bear in mind that tweets can be screen-shotted and shared in an instant: you may find that material has a life even after you've hit delete.

Ignore trolls

Trolls set out to provoke, so any response - however cutting - will be taken as encouragement. Limit trolls' airspace with a blanket 'ignore' policy.

...unless they are being abusive

If you receive abusive or threatening material, however, don't hesitate to report it and block the sender.

And finally, if in doubt...

...Don't tweet. If a post has left you feeling particularly angry or upset, give yourself some time before responding. You can always compose the tweet and save it in your drafts for 24 hours before deciding whether or not to publish it.


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