Since its inception in 2006, countless guides on Twitter etiquette have been written by well-meaning users attempting to provide some definition and guidance to people using the microblogging service. Widely-accepted Twitter etiquette includes things like not @ replying the same person several times in a row and instead taking the conversation to DM, making sure your Tweets contain substance and not just endless links to your blog or whatever product you’re trying to promote, and not following people to increase your own follow count and then immediately unfollowing them. (Again, if none of this made sense, check out the link above or…maybe you can play a nice game of Solitaire until my next post.)
Because everyone uses Twitter differently — whether to keep up with friends, promote their product, network with like-minded individuals or simply entertain themselves — it’s no surprise that foodies have their own way of using Twitter, too. In my case, I use Twitter as an extension of my blog and to interact with my readers and friends. That means Twittering about restaurants at which I’m eating, food or meals I’m enjoying, recommending places to folks who ask, answering food-related questions when able, and other food-related (and often non-food-related) errata. Other local foodies who use Twitter this way are Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle, Jenny of I’m Never Full, Chris of Houston Foodie and Misha of Tasty Bits.
However, not all Twitter users are created equal. As I’ve discovered on many different occasions, Twittering my location invariably leads to one of my Twitter followers showing up at that location to join me. Do I mind? 90% of the time, no. I’m usually glad for company and to get to know my followers better, if we aren’t friends in real life already. However, it begs the question: Does announcing your location on Twitter mean that you’ve issued an open invitation for others to join you?
I surveyed my followers on Twitter about this issue and was surprised at the wide array of responses. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though: It’s just another example of the amorphous nature of social media and how everyone uses Twitter in their own, unique way.
On one hand, it’s astonishing how one small tool can be used in a million different ways. How often has technology been that endlessly flexible in the past? On the other hand, it can be disturbing when there aren’t at least a few rules around its use. What if people drove cars without any rules? There would be chaos in the streets, quite literally.
My opinion on the matter is straightforward: When I Twitter that I’m at a certain location, it is not an invitation for others to join. I am only sharing an experience — to my point above — that I believe is no different than what I would share on this blog. If I were having a conversation with someone, whether on phone or email or in person, and I mentioned that I was going to be at Feast for dinner, that is not an implicit invitation for that person to join me. I’m simply relating a fact about my life, not issuing an invitation. Twitter — as a conversation between a lot of people at the same time — is no different.
However, I will happily have others join me and often issue invitations via Twitter: I’m at Boheme. Drop by and join me for a glass of wine if you’re in the area.
That is entirely different than, for example: Enjoying the duck gumbo at Rainbow Lodge. What a great view from the dining room!
I trust that we can all see the differences between those two statements. And I hope that no one would take the latter as an invitation to come and crash a dinner. And while I suppose I can’t be entirely surprised if someone does show up, I’m not going to censor myself or my Twittering on the off-chance that someone might do that.
As mentioned, there are plenty of guides to Twitter etiqutte while you’re online, but nothing about the offline world. Because Twitter is such a social medium, you’ll meet your fellow Twitterers out in public much more often than you would, say, fellow posters on a WoW forum. So it only makes sense to develop some sort of guideline for interacting with each other in an offline setting. Common sense would dictate that human beings don’t really need guidelines on how to interact with one another in person, but experience has shown that’s not always the case. Example: Is it really appropriate to have your opening words to someone be, “What’s your handle on Twitter?” No, of course not. But it happens all the time.
Below, I’ve included a sampling of the responses that I received when I asked the original question. They’re loosely grouped, as it’s difficult to aggregate such dissimilar responses. Read them and please feel free to provide your own feedback in the comments section.
Question: Does announcing your location on Twitter mean that you’ve issued an open invitation for others to join you?
The Yes Responses
explauren If it’s a bar, yes
CortneyM For me – yes. If I’m out somewhere and bored enough to be on Twitter, I could use the company.
SteffChilds At very least, you’re saying “Ask me if you want to join the fun.” Otherwise, why tell folks where you are specifically? And… If you don’t want folks to join you, then why are you telling them w/o saying it’s a private party in some fashion?
Snakecharmers If I want someone to join me I’ll say so, but if I Tweet location, I’m not surprised if someone joins me (tho seldom happens).
barrymcw How can it not be an invitation? Maybe if you’re an asshat & in that case, STFU! If I tweet it, that means ya’ll should join me.
jamesosully If I tweet my location and it’s a public place that is an open invite. If I didn’t want anyone there I wouldn’t announce it.
pumajen If you don’t want people to know where you are, don’t announce it.
JenXer I kinda think so. That’s how I do it anyway; which is why I never tweet out my home address! 😉
ruthiejsf Yes. The more, the merrier!
FoodPrincess Yeah. I believe that a tweet is an invitation for someone to DM you and ask if they can join you.
cvmorrow If I’m publically announcing where I am then yes join me. Why post your location if you don’t want company.
clickwindrepeat I don’t care if people join. People take Twitter too seriously. If I don’t want someone there I’ll let them know.
The No Responses
TheHZA NO. But some people might think it is.
theWynk@ NO. If I want people to join I will specifically say “come join me if you want” or something similar. And if it is not clear to you if they want company or not, the polite thing to do is ask first.
sarahnoid I think it sends a message of invitation to people who want to take it that way. Which is why I don’t do it unless I want company.
TheRafaela No. If you’d like to join, you still need to ask the person.
Fayza No, it isn’t, but by putting it out there in a public forum such as Twitter, I can’t be surprised if people do decide to join.
richhumofair No. What an uncomfortable way to start a conversation: “So I saw on Twitter that you were going to be here…”
cybertoad No, only if I specifically ask for people to join me. I *might* DM if I know the group well & am nearby.
tastybitz Um. No please. I don’t like people.
thisisnotapril No, but still, you can’t be too surprised if they do. if you don’t want people joining you, don’t announce where you are.
erinen31 No. Unless I say “come join me”.
urbanhoustonian No, I’ll make it clear if I want people to join me.
christinebpc It is only an open invitation to join if the tweet says that it is, otherwise don’t crash the party. Or be a weird stalker.
The Sometimes Responses
JavaPeg In general no, but could depend on person/circumstances.
nadnuk Sometimes. But I generally will say come on by in my tweet. If I note that I’m with friends, probably not a general invite.
jodycakes hmmmm, kinda sorta (you’re putting it out there) but not really 😉
klww I feel it’s safe to stop by their table (or barstool) & say hello, but not really an invite to come join their group unless asked.
collierchin If you don’t say, “come join me” then generally speaking no. But that is what DMs are for; I ask in private
viva_victoria I would expect at least a “hey, mind if I join ya?” DM.
brittanieshey If I say “I’m going to XYZ” then no. If I say “I’m going to XYZ. Come by and I’ll buy you a beer. I’m the loud blonde” then yes.
etee It depends. If I am entering a public place, maybe. If I am going to bed, and you aren’t my spouse… probably not.
skquinn I can understand how people would see it that way. if it specifically is a private event, you might want to say so.
rejectreality I wouldn’t mention where I was unless it was an open invitation; then again, I don’t tweet about what I have for lunch either.
The Miscellaneous Responses
brandius If I ever tweet about my location, it’s an open invitation extended to you and you alone. By the way, I’m currently in my bedroom.
melissawoods Just start lying. That’s what I do. I’ll be all like, “I’m at boondocks, party yo!” But really, I’m at home drinking choco milk.
JRCovington In the loue… No. I learned that the hard way. More than once.
bshirley i wasn’t waiting for an invite to your 500 lbs. of crawfish, i was just going to stalk you because i saw it on twitter 😉