A personal take on various topics

Tips to Avoid a Dysfunctional Twitter Conversation

After observing a conversation turn quickly dysfunctional on twitter, decided to post some of the practices I follow to avoid conversations getting dysfunctional on twitter. These are some quick random thoughts in no particular order. Feel free to add any other tips in the comments section below.
  • The window view is not the world view : We are a product of our experiences and these experiences are our window view of the world. While real, it is not a comprehensive view. Thus before contesting someone’s experiences ask yourself if there is a possibility that his window view is also a reasonable window view even if not consistent with one’s own view. Remember the humanity thought for a long time that the sun and stars and planets revolved around the world before it was conclusively proven otherwise.

  • Be clear if you are looking for expression or conversation Twitter and blogs are a great way to express. They also are wonderful medium to have a conversation. However the rules of the game between an expression and conversation are different. It is a little easier to get away with treating the twitter account or the blog as just a soap box in hyde park a.k.a a Speaker’s Corner if one is looking for expression. However if you are conversing, rules of normal civil conversations apply. Once you apply the rules of conversation, you have to decide how much you want to temper your freedom of expression. Thus aggressiveness, profanity, bravado are all fair game, if you have established that as accepted conventions with the other participants. If you don’t know them - play it safe.

  • Avoid being judgemental if you can This is one of the most important rules of a conversations. Focus on issues and avoid labeling tags on each other. Moment you attach a judgemental tag, the entire conversation shifts around a debate over the judgement than over the issues.

  • Move some attacks to third person, or better don’t make personal attacks : Attack the issue not the person. If one has to bring in a person, is there a way to tweet in a third person context rather than a second person context ?

  • Escalating debates are hard to exit out of. Quickly move to private conversations. Twitter supports a free flow of conversations with many people looking on. As a conversation gets intense, remember that we find it harder to exit a conversation gracefully due to fear of losing face. Quickly move to a private channel ie. a DM if feasible, even if it seems to all the onlookers that you seem to have left some points uncontested. Know that its a lesser of the two evils. If you can’t DM the other person, publicly request him for an email id over DM to carry the conversation offline. But please remember to make sure that you never, never, never make a DM or an email public. Unless agreed upon thats a complete No-No. There is an exception zone of it being for the greater good of public / someone else (eg someone threatening suicide or violence on some third party), and even in that case, make it non-private to only a select audience.

  • Feed positive energy into the system : Realise that twitter is not just an information stream - it is also an energy stream. It is built to amplify and reflect the energies. Don’t, repeat do not, feed negative energy into the system. It will soon enough boomerang and hit you on the rear. If you have to make a point figure out how to make it in a manner where you are feeding positive energy into the energy stream. If you can’t figure out a way to say something positively, thats probably a cue to exit the conversation.

  • A couple of related posts on the topic :