One of the great things about Twitter is that you often end up following a fairly eclectic group of people with a pretty wide variance in opinion, particularly when you start to get into conversations that stray from the original topic that brought you all together in the first place. For instance - me and my followers, for the most part, love zombies. Stop laughing. But sometimes we end up talking about things other than zombies - and that's when things start to get interesting.
When a hot button topic comes up in conversation with our real life friends, we tend to be fairly forgiving of differences in opinions - because we're all friends. On Twitter, though, a simple disagreement can quickly bloom into a full-blown argument, for the simple reason that besides this and the few other conversations you've had with your adversary, you don't actually know much about each other and don't have any particular reason not to argue.
But before you jump in, fists swinging, you might want to make sure you're prepared - on Twitter, there are a few easy ways to win a fight, and a few very easy ways to lose one. Here's a few Do's and Don't for having an argument on Twitter:
- DO: Make your argument public.
- DO: Bring others into the fray.
- DO: Retweet stuff your opponent says.
- DO: Cite.
Although it goes against common sense and decorum, on Twitter, if it isn't in the public timeline, it didn't happen. Since Twitter doesn't show @replies from people who aren't all connected to each other, if you want your followers to see your arguments, you'll need to precede the initial @someone with another letter so Twitter doesn't see it as a reply. I just use the letter "a," like "a @somebody You're a douchebag." That way my followers get to follow my side of the argument, at least.
Again, this isn't the way we might argue in real life, but Twitter isn't real life. If you've got people you know will get your back, by all means, bring them in on the argument. There's nothing quite like overpowering force of numbers to convince someone that they're wrong.
Remember, your followers will only see your side of the argument unless they also follow your opponent. For that reason, you might want to retweet stuff your opponent says (especially stupid stuff that proves your point) so that your followers can see the other side. Best of all, you can choose which stuff to retweet, so it looks to your followers like you're kicking ass, even when you're not.
An opinion is always more valuable when you've got supporting material to back it up. If possible, provide links to articles (preferably reputable ones) online that support your argument. Make sure you mention why they're significant or your opponent (and your followers) probably won't click on them.
Those are just a few of the things that I've noticed help people to "win" arguments on Twitter. Most of them are "high road" strategies that will make you look good even to people you don't agree with. But before you run out and start shooting your mouth off, check out this short list of things you most definitely shouldn't do in an argument on Twitter:
- DON'T: Use epithets, whether racial, sexual, or otherwise.
- DON'T: Put words in your opponent's mouth.
- DON'T: Create fake "sock puppet" accounts to pretend people agree with you.
- DON'T: Get into a block war.
When I logged onto Twitter the other day, I noticed that a huge number of people in my timeline were tweeting the word "jigaboo." It turns out that, in the course of a political argument, one of my followers' friends was called a "left-wing pro-Israeli jigaboo," and after that, well, shit got REAL. Given how easy it is to retweet, and the fact that tweets never really "go away," even if you delete them, you want to be very careful about your vocabulary. Avoid using any kind of stereotypical comments or charged language, because not only are you likely to instantly turn a huge number of people against you, you're also likely in violation of Twitter's Terms of Service, and could find yourself in Twitter jail.
Many people don't know it, but it's against Twitter's Terms of Service to create a fake retweet, claiming that someone said something that they didn't. It's a great way to completely invalidate your argument and get your Twitter account banned, all in one fell swoop. Besides, if you can't win a fight without lying about what your opponent says, you need a stronger argument.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? That's 'cause it is kind of crazy. But people do it - much more often than you might think. Although it might be in your best interests to have a bunch of people supporting your argument, those people should be real, actual people - not just appear as such. It's a violation of Twitter's Terms of Service and it's pretty easy for people to figure out when you've done it - your Twitter account shows how long you've been on the service and how many other tweets you've made.
Twitter's "block" feature shouldn't be used with impunity. Just because you don't agree with what someone says doesn't mean you should block them - although it might mean you should unfollow them. What you should NEVER do on Twitter is block someone so they don't have the opportunity to reply to you, then unblock them, send off a quick argument, and re-block them. And yes, I've seen people do that several times. It's a great way to drive your opponent so insane with anger that he might actually contact Twitter about your abuse of the blocking system. If you're ready to completely terminate all further contact with a person, you can consider blocking, but if you ever intend on communicating with them again, you shouldn't use this last-resort feature.
Hopefully these tips will help you the next time you get into an argument on Twitter. Of course, you're going to have to figure out how to best argue your point on your own - better or for worse.