Using old-style retweets makes you look like a bit of a dick

Sorry. But yeah, it does. You know the ones I mean: where you actually tweet “RT @someone Stuff they said & maybe a funny link http://t.co/yadda” instead of using the native retweet button.

They didn’t always make you look like a dick. Back before Twitter got madly busy and everyone understood the protocols a bit better, it was actually fairly sensible to use old style. Folks, especially folks who fancied themselves as anchor journalists, preferred to have their own names & pictures next to the words they endorsed or passed on, whatever the source; they wanted to build trust with followers, and identity was part of that. People felt it was worthwhile to tweet separately because a new-style RT might get missed, if some followers had seen it before. (Which, well, what? No. Attention is finite and precious and why would you deliberately try to make me read something I’ve already read? That is wasting my time.)

There are still some situations where it’s legitimate to use old style. You have more control over the tweet – it won’t disappear if the original tweeter deletes it. (But people have started using old style RTs to put hilariously incongruous words in other people’s mouths, so actually you might just have a problem anyway if that happens.)

Arguably, you can make it clear you’re curating a source’s story (but native retweets make you look less like you’re trying to editorialise rather than report, and less like you’re trying to get credit for someone else’s original reporting). You can add a comment or frame your response. But if that comment is “This.” or “haha” or “BREAKING” or something else that serves no purpose other than to justify your old-style retweet then you still look like a bit of a dick, sorry. (Yeah, I’ve done this. I am not perfect. Sometimes I’m a bit of a dick.)

These days, the vast majority of people on Twitter understand retweets. They don’t generally need to see your avatar right next to the tweet to understand you’re passing it on. They don’t need a LOL next to every amusing comment – people can generally work out from the context that you’re passing it on because it’s funny. It looks like you’re trying to get more credit as a discoverer than the originators are getting. It looks like you’re trying to build your own following at the expense of other people’s. And while that’s no crime, and not the end of anyone’s world, and it probably works well if that’s all you care about, it does mean you look like a bit of a dick.

You do, however, look like less of a dick than the folks who wholesale copy a tweet’s content without credit. So you’ve got that going for you. Well done.

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Mary Hamilton

I'm a journalist-type tech-ish geek person, working in that interesting ambiguous place where reporting the news meets all sorts of peripheral skills. In my spare time I herd zombies, design games and write stuff.

6 thoughts on “Using old-style retweets makes you look like a bit of a dick”

  1. Fearful of agreeing just in case someone points out that I sometimes do the copy and paste with the RT thing when I want to comment…but in my defence, I do do the normal (‘native’?) RT first – so people can see the source – and then I try to make my comment really clever and witty and all round brilliant (because that is so in keeping with my twitter persona).

  2. I find the people who do it with others pix most annoying because that’s really taking away from someone else’s work. But I also think I’m probably a bit more irritated by things on Twitter than I used to be, and I find it easier to adopt an ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ approach.
    So retweets are just one of a number of my narks. Maybe some advice for the #teamfollowback crowd in the next post, please Mary?

  3. It depends on how the site in question packages up its retweets. Most do a nice enough job, every so often some idiot decides to put something spam-like in the retweets that just screams for editing before hitting the button.

    Also when I know the journalist, I prefer to credit the retweet to the story writer, not the publication. If that makes me a dick, well so be it.

What do you think?