Cool online people know that there are some things that you just do not do online. I bring this up because yesterday cool magazine Vanity Fair asked its readers to lean in and follow them on Twitter in a blog post, and on Twitter too. They were mocked for doing so, also mostly on Twitter, because where else does one go to mock things?
Of course, some or much of the mocking is in itself moot, because one would guess that if one is reading Vanity Fair online, and reading this particular post titled "Help Vanity Fair Reach One Million Twitter Followers," one might already follow the magazine on Twitter. And if one is tweeting about the tweet (positively or negatively), that's likely, too. As PandoDaily's David Holmes wrote yesterday, part of the shame comes from not only asking but also trying to buttress the ask with sort of lame tweets. "They went on to list their 'greatest tweets of all time,' which are mostly just standard observations or bottom-shelf jokes about the biggest news stories of the year," he explains. And even though the magazine has gained more followers since the posting of that piece (at the time of this writing, 985,278 followers, up from some 983K prior to the post), Holmes adds that it's not like that was any different from a day in which such an ask was not made. The ask just added a frisson of good old Internet mockery.
Speaking of which, there are lots of things that we (and by we, I mean a lot of times, me) do on Twitter that I feel very sure I should be ashamed of, things that should be mocked, and things that other people do that make me feel ashamed for them—things arguably more shameful than just being like, "Hey guys, can you get me to 5,500 today?;)".
Herewith, a ranking of Secret Twitter-Shamehaviors.
Comparing the Number of Followers You Have to Someone Else
Look, we're all competitive in these parts. If we weren't, we'd be out guzzling Greek yogurt in the sunshine instead of Googling "how to minimize the impact of carpal tunnel and improve blogging efficacy." So is it wrong that I sometimes covet the follower-numbers of another, say, Atlantic Wire staffer? Or even someone out in the bigger world of online creationism? Is it wrong to feel like you want to get ahead, prove yourself, be the best you can be, and that the only way such accomplishments can be truly reflected is by accruing a K at the end of those little numbers in your Twitter follower count? Answer: It may be weird, but it's not wrong.
Ranking: This is the most minimal of crimes, because we are all humans seeking semi-truthful acknowledgements of our importances in greater society.If you don't do this, do you have eyes, and are you even on Twitter?
When People Unfollow You, Immediately Assuming They Must Be Bots
Aka, the only healthy way to live one's online life.
Ranking: If you don't do this, do you have feelings, and are you even on Twitter?
Hate-Comparing the Number of Followers You Have to Someone Else
You can't help it! That person who's always producing only the most shameful sort of content with misspellings and under-nuanced views and assumptions but everyone just loves anyway, you just can't help checking back and seeing oh holy crap they're up to 45,000 now? What the hell. You do better stuff than they do. You deserve more. Someday your ship will come in, and on it will be 50,000 Twitter followers wearing life vests, and as the ship starts to dock, they'll jump out and swim to shore and embrace you, damply if a bit weakly, from all the swimming. It will be that other guy's Waterloo.
Ranking: Uncool but reasonable and oddly satisfying, sometimes, like a hate-read but with numbers.
Only Following People Who Follow You and Have More Followers Than You Do
While this is utterly unacceptable, sometimes you have to say when, lest the field of those you follow grow unwieldy and full of dandelions.
Ranking: Lil bit lazy there, a little bit Twitter-digging, a little bit deplorable.
Only Favoriting or Retweeting the Tweets of More-Followed Tweeters
This is truly mercenary, and you should be ashamed. You are probably the relative of a famous person, and you will probably go far in life, but behind your back everyone will call you "Little Machiavelli."
Ranking: You're reading a copy of The Little Prince right now, which, hilariously, is the wrong book.
Angry Drunk Tweeting, or Hilarious Drunk Tweeting, or Cutting a Drunk DM Off Mid-Sentence Because You "Fell Asleep"
This has never happened to any of us.
Ranking: The only shame is deleting in the morning.
Asking Outright For More Twitter Followers Just 'Cuz You're Awesome
There's nothing really wrong, or at least, immoral, with asking for Twitter followers. It follows the age-old generally fairly legit advice that one is not going to get something unless they ask. But of course, while following that advice may get a person what they want, (or it might not) it doesn't mean it's going to make a person "cool." So if you do this, you're not cool. Of course, we're talking about Twitter here, a social media platform upon which you are asking people to follow you. Cool is hardly the point.
Ranking: Laughable, occasionally a little bit sweet and unknowing and hopeful, a little bit "You're Doing It Wrong." But if you're really awesome, you don't have to worry about a thing.
Asking Outright For More Twitter Followers Just 'Cuz Your Marketing Department Thought It Was a Good Idea
If a bunch of people were jumping off cliffs because the water is so cool and refreshing but you had a painful nasal infection that made water and your nose a nearly impossible and highly inflammatory pairing, would you just jump off a cliff, too?
Ranking: Lemmings drown.
Twitter-Shaming Other People Who Have Fewer Twitter Followers Than You Do, or Fewer Than You Think They Should If They're Going to Express an Opinion of Any Sort
This is not marketing-askew, it's just human-nasty bad. It's very bad marketing, too. And even if it's true, because of course it's true, why are you going to even read the 140 characters of that random with the 38 Twitter followers, why are you going to care if he tells you that you ruined the entire Internet (thank you, thank you), you shouldn't say it. You especially should not go on attack, say, if you have many more followers and a platform and a job and try to shame said person who may or may not be a kid and probably lives in a basement and might be an actual troll, because that is close to a kind of bullying. Unless, of course, they really, really, really deserve it. (See also.) (And also.)
Ranking: Automatically deduct 3,000 Twitter followers for each 10,000 currently held for this shame-havior.
Paying to Promote Your Account
Pretty sure you are not supposed to do this, no matter how the serpent of Twitter attempts to convince you otherwise.
Ranking: This had to be accidental?
Buying Twitter Followers
Unless you do this ironically, or receive them as a gift, or had to take them in, the poor orphans, after their parents were in a debilitating Twitter accident (so you're really doing something for the good of society; it takes a village!), this is the ultimate in shame.
Ranking: Never admit to it and you'll be just fine. This is the Internet, not church.
In an effort at being open-minded, I'll say, you can follow me on Twitter if you feel up to it, but I really don't care either way. (I do. I do care. I hate myself, but I do.) Also, I lost one follower during the creation of this post.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.