Last week I wrote a post about social media from the reader's perspective. This week, after digging through Facebook and Twitter home pages loaded with unnecessary twaddle, I'm feeling much more militant. And I'm asking you to join me in taking action. Here's what I propose: a 5-tweets-a-day rule.
I'd like to see the thought-leaders out there commit themselves to no more than five posts in a 24-hour period. More importantly, I'd like readers to commit themselves to "un-following" or "un-friending" tweeters who exceed the 5 post limit.
Radical? Perhaps. But I hold the following truths to be self-evident:
- A reader's attention is a privilege to be respected, not an obligation to be exploited.
- 5 messages a day is a generous allotment -- more than enough to sustain communications of genuine substance.
- Twitter behavior will not change unless there's a penalty for abuse. When excessive tweeters see their friend and follower numbers plummet, they will curb themselves.
What would The 5 Tweets Rule accomplish?
- It would encourage tweets of real substance by adding the key element of quality communications: thought. Instead of creating reflex posts, tweeters would be forced to ask themselves, "Does this comment really merit one-fifth of my daily allotment?"
- It would discourage empty chatter: the endless posts about exercise regimens, travel arrangements, goofy YouTube videos, what happened last night on American Idol, etc.
- It would save Twitter from itself. If participants fail to voluntarily limit themselves, readers -- as a matter of self-defense -- will abandon the platform.
Surely there will be objections to this rule. Let's review some of them:
"This is censorship!"
No, it's not. Censorship is the imposition of control, through law or force or both, by a central authority. The 5 Tweets Rule is more like a boycott: the voluntary action of many consumers. Tweeters remain free to say what they please as often as they like. Likewise, readers are free to say, "Enough!"
"It's contrary to the open spirit of social media."
In any real social situation, when are we ever at liberty to speak our minds without restraint, without regard for basic social norms? Never. If I were to go to a party and talk incessantly without regard for other guests, I'd expect to be ostracized or directed unceremoniously to the door. Why should online social media be any different?
"I find way more than five interesting things a day to talk about."
Sure you do. But just how interesting are they really? With a five post limit, you're forced to make a judgment call: it's not merely a matter of being "interesting," but interesting enough to deserve one of your now precious five daily posts.
"It inhibits conversation."
On the contrary, it stimulates conversation by clearing our home pages of unnecessary noise and allowing a greater variety of voices to emerge on our screens.
"You're an @$$hole. Who the h*ll are you to tell other people how to behave?"
Maybe I am an @$$hole. But that's beside the point. When someone chooses to follow me, I consider that an honor. When I choose to follow you, I'm showing respect for you and what you have to say. Is it really too much to ask you to reciprocate that respect by practicing self-restraint?
Let's set a date: April 5
We all need a little lead time. I propose that we set aside April 5 (note the "5") as the day we collectively initiate the 5 Tweets Rule. On that day, if you choose to participate, un-friend and un-follow those tweeters who regularly abuse our attention by spamming us with more than five tweets in a 24-hour period. If you have more energy, send them a direct message explaining what you've done and why you've done it.
Take the pledge: "5 tweets are sweet, six are nix."
We need collective action. If you're ready to make Twitter "safe for democracy," show your commitment by leaving a comment below that indicates that you will both limit yourself to five tweets a day and un-friend or un-follow tweeters who abuse the rule -- and your respect.