When we talk about people on Twitter, should we let them know?

When we talk about people on Twitter, should we let them know? October 10, 2013

Flickr: mfakheri

A few years back a friend and I had one of those, “Yes, we’re a$$hats!” moment. We were hanging out at an event and – as we tend to too easily do – we started talking about a common acquaintance.

We were not being nasty, but our words were certainly not flattering. We were gossiping.

So of course, being out in public and within earshot of other people, someone says tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me but, X is a friend of mine and . . .”


No matter how I might have wanted to justify our actions or tell this yahoo to mind his own beeswax, this was just us participating in gossip. We were in public and there is no way that I would say the same things to that person’s face, so in the end, we were totally in the wrong and were called out on it.

And then last month, I starting typing in a tweet about someone else that was not going to be nasty, but it was not going to be flattering. As I did so, I thought to myself, should I include his twitter handle so he knows what I am doing so or am I just going to use his name?

Sidebar — For those of you not on Twitter if someone includes @breyeschow in their tweet, I will be alerted by Twitter, but if it just says “Bruce Reyes-Chow,” unless I specifically search for my last name there is no way that I would ever know that I was mentioned.

For example if someone tweets, “That @breyeschow is an kind of a jerk!” this would show up on my twitter alerts, but if they just tweet, “That Bruce Reyes-Chow is kind of a jerk!” I would be none the wiser and trapse along my merry way believing that everyone loves me 😉

So here’s the dilemma — Since Twitter, Facebook, etc. are public spaces where people see/hear what we are talking about, is it okay to talk about people without letting them know or has the “Don’t say it online unless you are willing to say it in person” rule lost meaning?

When we talk about people on Twitter, should we let them know?

For my two cents, I think that if you are going to talk about someone in such a public forum, friend or not, you should at least give them a heads up and let them decide how to respond, if at all. I find that this posture helps me to give my words more care AND, even in offering harsh critiques remind myself that every human being is, well . . . a human being.

So what do you think?

And if you plan on tweeting that this is a stupid question, I am @breyeschow on Twitter 😉

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