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How Do I Correct My Friend's Horrible Twitter Etiquette?

Without seeming like a troll. Also: dealing with friends who say "LOL" out loud, and erasing a bad internet date.

Posted on May 3, 2013, at 2:06 p.m. ET

My friend isn't using twitter nicely — he manually retweets everything! How do I tell him he's stealing everyone else's thunder without being the equivalent of that grammar troll in the comment thread?

How many followers do this goon even have? You can tell him I said that, verbatim. He'll say, "who … is that" and then you'll have to explain about the column and my self-granted, time-honored, proud but ultimately powerless rule of law and everything, but at least you will have someone to throw under the bus. "I'm not saying I have a problem with you. Someone on the internet does. I just thought you should know." Like that!

Also, you can give him a primer. My colleague Katie Notopoulos recently wrote a comprehensive guide and ruling on the issue of the manual retweet. She came down hard on using manual RTs for jokes, but said there are cases where using them for news and/or links makes sense. I agree.

The most salient point is this: if he has less than a few thousand followers, probably, there just really isn't any REASON for him to use the manual retweet. He's just hoarding material without a specialized audience to distribute it to. But he might not have understood that. So just ask him! I'm not sure that this doesn't make you an internet behavior troll of sorts. But that is also my job description, literally, so. Come join me, under this bridge.

This is kind of almost an IRL etiquette question as opposed to a tech etiquette question, BUT: what do we do about people who use internet speak (lol, brb) IN REAL LIFE, even if as a joke?? Out loud, in words?

One of my good friends Gchats in sentence fragments. She puts a period where you'd pause in real-life speech, and then she hits enter, and then she finishes the sentence in the next entry. So it'll be like. This kind of? I used to type out great big paragraphs when I talked to her anyway, because it was always my tendency to ramble. But at the same time, I thought her style was endearing, because it made me hear the way she'd say it in real life. And eventually I just sort of started typing her way too, at least some of the time. It just happened, because we talk everyday.

I have also, perhaps more alarmingly, started talking like a cartoon caricature of a Midwestern cattle farmer. I probably always did, but it's gotten worse, thanks in part to the jokey-folksy speech patterns of a few of my internet friends. It's funny, but it's also getting out of hand. I've started saying "what in tarnation." I said "got dangit" the other day and surprised even myself. I typed "what in the heck" to a friend, and she asked me why I was talking like a grandpa. I wrote back, "I'm kidding obviously! I don't *really* talk like that. It's, like, this joke thing people do." But IS it? Or is this just who I am now?

So, first: we are all influenced by the way the people around us talk and type, even if we pretend not to be. We're all making it kind of okay for each other to write and speak like this by doing it ourselves. And second: there is no such thing as an ironic speech pattern. If you are someone who says "what in the heck," or someone who says "BRB" out loud, you can't really fairly claim you're doing it "as a joke," especially when it's a joke you only have with your three nerd friends from the internet. That's just how you talk, and that is fine. It won't be everyone's thing, but it doesn't have to be. However! The only truly unacceptable internet-based acronym to say out loud is "LOL." Don't say it if we can see it's not true. That's just — as the teens would say — wack.

When you've recently gone on a first date with a guy you met online, and you know you don't want to go out with him again, but he's nice, and he texts you just to say hi with like a picture or something — not to ask you out yet, but you know that's what'll happen eventually — do you respond?

Okay, there are three things: why I hate that this is an issue in the first place, what I want you to do, and what I think you should do. First! This is an annoying practice. If you plan to ask someone on a second date, please just do it. This kind of water-testing text puts people in an uncomfortable position (by delaying the inevitable, be it yes or no) and you're almost certainly not in a place for casual chatty texting after just one date anyway, and I know you're nervous but you're going to have to ask the question eventually. Small talk texting (small texting) is for AFTER you've got plans for your next date!

What I want you to do is to text him back a picture of, like, a chair. Or your TV. Or just really any random object around your house that is impossible to interpret. Do that and write me back to let me know what he said. Omg I can't wait.

But, fine. What you SHOULD do, probably, is just respond. If you feel up to it. If you're sent some pretty beach picture or something (hopefully in a way that makes ANY sense, but I know that's a lot to ask for), or just a brief greeting text, and it occurs to you to write back "pretty!" or "good, how was yours?" or whatever it may be, it's probably easiest to just do it. You can ignore it if you want, but it's nicer to just help this poor person along to asking you out again … so you can say no.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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