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Here’s hoping that this nasty little trend can be thrown in the bin of outdated social media tools, along with #HASH tagging #EVERY other #WORD and frce cntrctn of wrds 4 chrctr’s ske.