Home » Social Media » Why Twitter Doesn’t Work with Sarcasm, Chap. 823

Why Twitter Doesn’t Work with Sarcasm, Chap. 823

21 January 2016

From The Atlantic:

Here’s an illustration of something I understood in principle but have been reminded of in specific.

In the wee hours of last Friday night, I finally finally finally said adieu to a long story that will be in the March issue of the magazine. On Saturday, groggily, after guzzling coffee and doing the crosswords and generally moaning, I decided to turn on the TV. There, on a “mainstream” network (NBC), I saw something I hadn’t expected. It was a soccer — sorry, “football” — match from the English Premier League, Leicester City v. Aston Villa. On the good side, Leicester is the land of some of my forebears. On the bad side, for me, I am just not a soccer/ football fan.

People who have watched Saturday-daytime TV in recent years apparently know that EPL matches are a standard feature. I haven’t, and didn’t. And I made a mistake I won’t make again, putting out a sarcastic tweet .

. . . .

I’d forgotten a reality of the world of Twitter. It’s a different audience, an unknown-by-the-author audience, especially as a message gets passed around. Over the next few hours, outraged responses poured in by the metric ton. All of them were self-righteously outraged about my closed-mindedness, and old-style thinking, and “major fail,” and so on. I have never before received anything close to this volume of response on Twitter, and it has never been more vitriolic. And all of it from people taking obvious (to me) sarcasm right at face value.

Live and learn. I have learned that on Twitter, you cannot assume that you know the audience. In particular, you cannot assume that an audience beyond the one you intend will recognize the difference between sarcasm and sincerity.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG confesses that he only uses Twitter to send out links to new posts on TPV. It happens automatically with no effort from PG.

Whenever he has gone to see what others have to say on Twitter, he has wished he hadn’t. Writers Digest has a Twitter list of agents. PG checked it out. The experience was short-lived, but nonetheless quite regrettable.

If you examine The Passive Voice’s Twitter presence (@PassiveVoiceBlg), you will discover that TPV has over 55,000 followers and follows 51,000 Twitter accounts.

Lest you think PG is bloviating out of both sides of his mouth, he will disclose that 2-3 years ago, he signed up for a trial version of software that claimed it would automatically get him lots of followers on Twitter. After the trial was over, he did not buy the software, but he still had 55,000 Twitter followers and was, in turn, following 51,000 Twitter people he didn’t know.

Twitter’s stock price has been in a long decline for the past year. PG wonders if investors figured out that 99% of Twitter traffic is created by software programs.

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44 Comments to “Why Twitter Doesn’t Work with Sarcasm, Chap. 823”

  1. “PG wonders if investors figured out that 99% of Twitter traffic is created by software programs.”

    Yeah, I haven’t bothered with a twit account yet and don’t think I will. It seems to have been made for people to react without thinking first … (or so it seems from all accounts.)

    • Yes and no. I’ve had some thought-provoking discussions on twitter, and I’ve even learned a thing or two about myself.

      For example, I now know what it looks like when I mansplain.

    • This kind of hostility to Twitter and to people who use it baffles me, but then I hate Facebook and only use it because I have to.

      • And no sarcasm was detected or made note of …

        (and while I did set up a facebonk page, it sits un-looked at because they insist on your ‘real’ name rather than the name your readers may know you by …)

        • That’s for your account, which your readers shouldn’t be connecting to. They should be connecting to your author page, which you use sort of like an Avatar. It creates a one way relationship on Facebook. They can Like you, and follow your posts, without having to become your “friend”.

      • I love Twitter, but I keep a carefully curated feed of friends and news sources. With that done, it’s huge fun.

        Of course I have the advantage of being a very small fish, so I don’t attract much attention from the more noxious elements, so overall Twitter adds a huge plus to my online life.

  2. In my experience, machines do not play well with sarcasm.

  3. Fallows made the mistake of making a Trump/Cruz “joke” and was shocked to learn that there were people who disagreed with him and weren’t afraid of telling him in no uncertain terms.

    Sarcasm does work on Twitter, but you either have to be funny, and/or take the heat without whining, and journalists are notoriously thin-skinned, certainly compared to politicians.

    • To be fair, it’s really hard to tell the difference between a parody and an actual Trump supporter sometimes.

  4. Twitter is like whispering in a crowded room where everyone else is screaming.

    Twitter is like p*****g into the wind.

  5. I remember an article from a while back saying, ‘if you have something interesting pertaining to writing or publishing, send me a link on Twitter.’

    It was something like that, with the mention that slow weekends are your best shots.

    So I do that every once in awhile while I have something I think is interesting.

    I’ve not seen one of my articles appear here…yet.

    I’ll keep trying.

  6. I’m a big fan of Twitter. I have an account in one of my pen names but don’t use it to promote titles under that name. When there’s on-going news about a topic that interests me, I search for the hash tags to get tweets about the topic. Lately I’ve been following #Oregonoccupation and #bundymilitia. Using those hash tags enabled me to “attend” a community meeting while folks live tweeted what was going on.

    I also have bookmarked the feeds of several people so I can follow their tweets multiple times per day because they post a variety of things that interest me.

    I seldom tweet, but I often re-tweet.

  7. I have the same set up as PG (FB posts auto post to twitter) and I’m always surprised when I get any traction on Twitter as I don’t spend any time there. It only happens once in a blue moon….or, funny enough, JUST as I’m about to post this! I just received a message saying someone liked one of my tweets. Can’t remember the last time that happened.

  8. But without Twitter, we wouldn’t have Drunk Hulk: https://twitter.com/DRUNKHULK/status/687662175960317954

  9. I had some epic soccer trolling on Facebook last summer. It was nuts. I mentioned on a friend’s page some things about soccer and suddenly we were swamped!

    Basically I said I couldn’t watch soccer because of all the flopping and whining, and then when they act all tough and strut around. I find the whole thing ridiculous. Then like 1/3 of the matches end in a tie? So the majority of the time there’s no loser? How namby pamby is that? And 1/3 of the time I have to sit through all the flopping and whining and there’s no winner? What a waste of time.

    Oh gawd. The responses were brutal.

    You can see how much fun we had. 🙂

    EDIT: Note when we called American Football a bunch of fat guys standing around bumping bellies we didn’t get any hate at all. Soccer fans are sensitive I guess.

    • When trolling for trolls one must use the right bait. You seem to have good bait for the soccer trolls, but you need another for that 22 man game of ‘smear the queer’ as I’ve heard it called in non-PC terms.

  10. Okay, I just looked at the tweet. He didn’t mark it as sarcasm, and yet people were supposed to somehow know he was being sarcastic.

    Twitter has its problems, yes, but if you’re going to mess up basic chatspeak etiquette (which is to add “/s” after sarcasm), you can at least take responsibility for your own communication oopsie.

  11. Twitter is probably going to go the way of MySpace in another few years. The concept is good, but there are way too many fake accounts and weird algorithms. Also, the obviousl slanted way in which Twitter handles drama, such as unverifying Milo Yiannopoulos for no discernible reason and keeping certain hashtages (like #SadPuppies) from auto-completing. When something else comes along that fixes these problems the way that Facebook fixed MySpace’s problems, people are going to migrate en masse.

    • I have the same expectations for Twitter for the same reasons. They seem to be floundering around trying to find a role for themselves without addressing underlying problems. I was never there much but I’ve dialed down to almost never.

      • I mostly use Twitter to follow SpaceX launches when they happen. But every organization fails when S*** take over, because politics becomes more important than the original function of that organization.

  12. Dumping a sarcastic remark into one’s Twitter stream and expecting no one to respond is akin to shouting an opinion in a crowded room and expecting to either be unilaterally applauded or completely ignored.

    Twitter has its problems. So does every place that involves social interaction. But unlike crowded rooms, Twitter offers the opportunity to block and mute the most egregious harassers.

    Heck, I went through a day of being accused of all sorts of sick things on Twitter because–get this–I joined SFWA! Did I stomp off of Twitter? No. I enjoy the majority of the platform, and the connections I keep there. I did, however, give those wee trolls my best wishes for their morning church services.

  13. P.G.

    Well, the writer must enjoying the heck out of Leicesters soccer season, they are giant killing all over the shop. Vardy and Mahrez are terrorizing defences across the land.

    It is rare indeed for a small club like Leicester to do what they’re doing this year…it’s worth a watch.


  14. Surprised no one has yet mentioned one of the cardinal rules of the Internet, Poe’s Law:

    Poe’s law is an Internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will be mistaken by some readers or viewers for sincere expressions of the parodied views.

    Since I learned about it, I’ve often had cause to step back and consider how things might look.

    (Also, it makes it impossible for me ever to be certain whether Nate Hoffelder is being serious or not in our Twitter direct message exchanges, as he thinks it’s more amusing not to use smileys. 😛 )

  15. I’m on Twitter for two reasons: Scalzi’s adorable kittens, Josh Groban, and Faces In Things. Okay, so I can’t count. Neither can most of the folks who seem to be on there 24/7.

  16. Ha! My husband loves Premier League, but would have gotten this was sarcasm.

    That said, there are VERY few entertaining or informative agents or editors on Twitter. I find most complain about submissions all the time, which is completely unprofessional. I could never, ever complain about my job on Twitter (which is obviously open to the public) and expect to advance in any way. Plus, some of things they complain about–the manuscript was boring, etc. That’s part of your job, so buck up, soldier.

  17. The failure of sarcasm on the Internet has nothing to do with the server and everything to do with the receiver.

    • Sarcasm is a form of communication. Failure to understand how one’s communication will be received is a failure of the server.

      But, it does look like Fallows is taking the lesson.

      • Communication goes two ways. If the receiver is too dim to recognize sarcasm, then the message won’t be properly received. Most sarcasm, even in written form, is clear—based on its context. The failure of the receiver to evaluate and understand the comment within that context is not the fault of the server.

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