Twitter, full stops, and co-ordinated bullying

Recently Twitter has found one item of punctuation in greater use than any post length would suggest necessary. It has annoyed me to no end, and I’m sure other Twitterers are wondering why people are breaking one of the most basic rules of written language. You may have seen lots of users’ updates starting with a full-stop and this is done for two reasons:

1)      The user is misguided

Given Twitter’s built-in obsession with trends, you can forgive those who have used the false full stop because they’ve seen others do it. There is a technical basis why these posts appear; consider the number of posts on Twitter at any time, and how many of them are between the same group of users. To stop every timeline from being flooded with thousands of minor conversations, Twitter assigns [TECHNOBABBLE REDACTED FOR BREVITY].

Most replies are hidden from your followers, but sticking a full stop at the start treats them as a unique post. Some have used the full stop in any old post believing it pushes them straight on to people’s timelines. These people can be forgiven (as long as they stop, please?) but not everyone is so naïve.

2)      The user is a cynical exhibitionist

For the Twitterati whose followers are an equal mix of the obsequiously adoring and the rabidly despising, broadcasting an otherwise hidden reply can prove useful. Ignoring abusive comments doesn’t lend much to the open and interactive nature of Twitter, but pulling someone out from under the conversational rug can save the user a lot of effort. Slap a full stop on the front of your cynical reply to a nagging critic, and let the flood of fans do the rest.

This isn’t to say that popular Tweeters should face every critic, and I’m certainly not suggesting that racist, sexist or openly threatening tweets should be suffered alone. However, when a single character has the potential to turn an already fragmented medium into a mob-ruled hub for lambasting those with unpopular opinions, something is very wrong. This Comedy Chat post is a great analysis of such co-ordinated bullying.

EDIT: I was reminded by a friend that Charlie Brooker has the perfect method of bringing offensive or stupid comments to light without directing a hoard of followers to the accused, which others should really take note of.


Here’s hoping that this nasty little trend can be thrown in the bin of outdated social media tools, along with #HASH tagging #EVERY other #WORD and frce cntrctn of wrds 4 chrctr’s ske.


4 comments on “Twitter, full stops, and co-ordinated bullying

  1. . Tom, this post was great. I had totally forgotten about this useful technique and will make sure to use it in future. Sorry I don’t have time to read the full article, but I’m sure I have the gist.

  2. I disagree with your generalisations. Maybe celebs & those with huge numbers of followers can use it to bully. For the rest of us it helps to make a tweet make sense when sentence starts with name, eg Tom thinks…, Also allows tweeter to share interesting discussion with other followers. I don’t agree it’s always (or even often) used for bullying.
    Not clear why shortening words to cater for 140 characters is so bad either! And I thought I was a grammar pedant!! Ha ha!!

    • The issue I have with ‘regular users’ using it is that it doesnt really serve any purpose – unless you stick a full stop at the start of a direct reply, Twitter still treats the @ as a basic post. It doesnt gain any extra status. As for extreme contraction, I don’t argue against it in its entirety, but sm usrs g rdcusly ovr t tp

      • Really? So if you & I are having an interesting chat & I think several people who follow me would be interested, they can see my replies to you even if not following you? I didn’t think they could. I thought that would be purpose of .@
        Are you sure??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: