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Ratio or Be Ratioed: Reluctant notes on Twitter

A guide to Twitter.

Twitter is where my good ideas go to die. It is a medium created for solipsistic yelling into the digital abyss with the most fucked up Jerry Seinfeld inflection imaginable.

When an editor suggested I write a guide to Twitter, I had instant reservations. Not only did I fear it would sound like a VICE article, but speaking about Twitter, not ON Twitter itself, can descend into a Fibonacci spiral of sacrilege. Recent pieces by the New Yorker on the Post-Dirtbag left or the New York Times article on Lindy Living received decimation on Twitter in response — decimation I typically would find myself in the camp of. 

Making sense of Twitter’s ironic side is a self-indulgent endeavour. It’s condescending to pin a hypothesis to the humble practice of taking the piss. Categorising Twitter phenomena as some benign theory or as being “symptomatic of modernity,” in a cold-brew of abstract terms, is insufferable and boring. However, I’m willing to impart some advice for the Twitter novice without becoming a cushy, condescending thesis shielded behind a paywall.

Twitter is an absurd platform that should be met with a reciprocal level of absurdity. I rarely tweet earnest opinions. It feels heinously reductionist to condense earnest ideas into the space of 280 characters. 

There are many spheres of twitter that are algorithmic blind spots to me that I cannot account for. Personally, my timeline consists mainly of Sydney and Melbourne’s sharehouse population and ‘weird’ twitter, known in ‘twitterature’ as an absurd genre of tweeting pioneered by users such as @dril

Twitter is a choose-your-own-affliction novel. You may choose to have your timeline flooded with sanctimonious blue checks or curate your algorithm to cater to your niche and interests. You may choose to fall into a number of different rabbit holes, which can often quickly mutate into k-holes of wild fringe beliefs. You may ask yourself, in a David Byrne voice, how did I get here?

There are several tropes to avoid on Twitter, including:

  1. Former Gifted Children: The most pretentious kind of poster. Avoid at all costs.
  2. Reply Guy: The Reply Guy is typically found in the replies section of podcast hosts (typically women). They can occasionally be funny but are known more for being dispensaries of desperation.
  3. Taking provocateurs seriously: Those new to the platform may be tempted to bite the perpetual hooks of ironic bait. Don’t.

Once you’ve avoided the tropes, there are many avenues for forging a voice on Twitter. Many friends of mine stream of consciousness tweet, but I’m an unwavering tweet drafter. Ideas will marinate for days, maybe weeks. Some will live to see the paradisiacal light of the timeline; others will perish in draft-folder purgatory.

Patterns for new users can fall into many traps, especially that of clinging onto buzzwords parasitically. What starts as a bit, can shift into vacuous name-dropping of cultural references for likes. It can start with calling something Lynchian, making crass references to The Sopranos, or podcasts. More endearingly, Melbournians are responsive to tweets about incu and Hope St Radio. I’m not against the use of buzzwords, but it must be done judiciously. 

Once you’re amongst all of this, you may begin to wonder how one reaches a status of Twitter oligarchical opulence. This is all in the art of the ratio. To “ratio” means that a reply or a quote tweet receives more likes than the original poster. Becoming the ratio victor is comparable to reigning triumphant in gladiatorial combat. It is essential that you ratio anyone who comes for your honour. 

For a beginner, Twitter can be hard to navigate. For a long time, I was under the impression that Twitter was a boring place, until my friends corrupted me by way of a well-cultivated algorithm. Twitter is a five-dimensional multiverse rich in subcultures. Instagram meme accounts such as @on_a_downward_spiral (which I have since unfollowed) meticulously follow what Twitter sets as the comedic agenda by reposting whatever was viral on Twitter that day. 

To enjoy the platform the most, you have to keep the earnest-to-irony pendulum swinging. Otherwise, the app can become a rather insipid experience. The shunned, aforementioned New Yorker article quotes podcast host Sam Adler-Bell, stating “[If] You get a reputation for being earnest around here” — Twitter, that is — “you’re in trouble.” 

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