I want to tell you of a realization that struck me regarding behavior on social media, something I’ve seen quite often but whose meaning hadn’t dawned upon me until now. This is an epiphany you’ve probably realized already and have mixed reactions to, but it’s meaning has made me smile a little bit. No, don’t worry, I won’t be going on an angry rant or call out anyone for their misdeeds or controversial comments.
Though this epiphany could apply to any social media platform, I reached this through the platform I use and read the most often, Twitter. As any Twitter user knows, if you want to highlight a specific Twitter user in a tweet, you include their user handle (e.g. @wordpressdotcom). If your handle is included in a tweet, you get notified. This is meant to help generate conversations about or with the owner of that handle. The owner of the user handle gets notified one way or another when they’re part of a tweet, reply, or direct message, so they have at least a clue about what the rest of the world is saying and learning about them.
Usually, a tweet mention falls into three themes, the first of which is to promote or endorse what the user handle being referenced is doing. For example:
“Hey, everyone, check out this awesome video by [insert user name here].”
Theme number 2 is to provide praise or criticism (hopefully of the constructive variety) to the directed user. To wit:
“Say, [insert user name here], your performance last night wasn’t without error but it was still a great effort.”
Then there’s theme number 3, or as I call it, the “include a famous handle in a tweet so that you get the attention of the apple of your eye because you think they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and you really want a reply or retweet from them so that you can brag about it to your friends later on or maybe include in your profile description” approach. Observe:
“OMG! OMG! [insert user name here] I love you and I have every one of your songs and albums and I’ve been to every one of your shows and I’ve seen every single one of your movies or shows and It’d be so awesome if you would retweet my undying love for you to the rest of the world! OMG! Love you! Love you! Love you!! (And I meant it, so that skanky girl at school better shut it!)
Yeah, that run-on sentence has more than 140 characters but you get the idea. While I don’t stoop toward that level of fan-girl behavior (and use far fewer “OMG” moments) when directing praise toward a famous someone, I am still generally a complimenting person. Which leads me to a recent moment that generated my epiphany. I won’t note which account I used in this instance (though my my male and female sides both have a Twitter presence). I also won’t clue you in on how long ago this moment came, though it has occurred at least a couple of times this year (it’s just that the epiphany didn’t strike me until only recently). And I won’t disclose the identity of this famous person to whom my praise led to this epiphany, though I will say they’re nowhere near the 1 billion Twitter followers range but they’ve still done universally-acclaimed work. (Please don’t play the guessing game; who they are and what I said isn’t as important as what happened afterward.)
Anyway, the gist of this particular praise was basically this: I saw something this person did and wanted to include their handle in a complimenting tweet, to highlight the person and their good work to the world. As I noted above, including their handle in the tweet would gain their attention in some way (it’s how Twitter works, you know). And a little bit of that “fan girl” in me was hoping that they would retweet my praise to the rest of the Twitterverse; I mean, how cool would that be?
Instead, they did something I realize was much better: They “favorited” my tweet. Yep, that’s all they did, just clicking on that “star” icon next to my tweet and added it to their list of tweets they thought were cool. No reply or retweet; just a “favorite” moment.
Now, if you’re thinking the “fan girl” in me had their heart broken over not being retweeted by someone world famous, well… only just a little bit. But that led me to the epiphany: Some people on Twitter will retweet just to show the world they’re getting mentioned, either in a good or bad way. (Again, I’m not naming names, though I imagine we’re all guilty of that at one point in time or another.) But there was something about this person making my tweet their “favorite” that made me think… oh, my gosh. They read what I had to say about them. And they liked it! Rather than moving an audience of a hundred followers or even several hundred thousand, my praise moved just one person — but that one person was the object of my praise.
Yeah, you’re probably thinking, “Really, Allison, what makes you think they really favorited your tweet, let alone read it? They probably have an assistant or agent handle their Twitter account.” Well, I won’t challenge you on that, but here’s where my “fan girl” side starts creeping back in: Not every single move by every famous person on Twitter is handled through a proxy; and besides, would that proxy be awake enough at 12 midnight to favorite a tweet of praise their master has received? (Don’t ask.)
What I’m getting at here is this: Praise was given. The person who was the subject of that praise likely read it. And as evidenced by their giving it “favorite” tweet status, that praise may very well have brought a smile to their face or perked up their day (because who knows what kind of a day they had until then?). And we all went about on our merry little separate ways.
So, when you give someone praise — be it through Twitter, some other platform, or even in person — know that more than anyone else, praise affects two people: You and and the person to whom your praise is being directed. And if your praise makes them happy in some little way, it’ll make you happy as well… even if it’s a happy feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t always need to know about.