Twitter Etiquette for Foodies: A Hot Potato

Note:  If you’re my mom, or someone else who is otherwise unfamiliar with Twitter, allow me to direct you here.

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

gilv @Fayza Yes, I agree – while not a direct invite, in the web world it is an implied invite: “Don’t bother me, but come on out!”

CortneyMIcon_lock 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.

pumajenIcon_lock 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

TheHZAIcon_lock NO. But some people might think it is.

theWynkIcon_lock@ 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.

TheRafaelaIcon_lock 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.

richhumofairIcon_lock 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.

erinen31Icon_lock 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.

nadnukIcon_lock 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 😉

12 thoughts on “Twitter Etiquette for Foodies: A Hot Potato”

  1. Very, very interesting array of responses indeed. Thanks for sharing. It’s always nice to get others’ perspectives.

    Funny though – I can think of one time when I tweeted my location and was surprised by a visit from some of the folks who gave loud-and-clear NO’s above. Not that I minded (yay, friends!), but it’s puzzling now to know that it wouldn’t be appreciated if the tables were turned.

    One pet peeve – if you are having a party, say, at your house and are not inviting the entire Twitterverse, please don’t tweet incessantly about how awesome your party is going to be (or live-tweet during the party). Because if I’m not invited? I don’t really care.

  2. I agree with Cortney…. this is a really interesting topic.

    Everyone who knows me, knows I live my life a lot like an open book. I am always down for getting a big group of friends together and I love meeting new ones.

    However, I do have a problem with a comment made in the web world being an implied invite. I think there is a distinct difference between saying “woohoo party at Onion Creek! Come play” and me saying “Having a quiet girls night with so-and-so.”

    If someone made that second comment to you over the phone, would it be okay to just show up without an invitation? No, it would not. Because the comment makes is implicitly clear that you are merely sharing your experience, NOT opening an invitation.

    I have been put in several awkward situations where I’ve said something online and regretted it when one or two people show up and expect it to be okay to sit at the table with a friend and I. Maybe I can understand showing up at the same place…. but sitting at my table? With an old friend I haven’t seen in ten years?

    This type of thing has made me very wary of posting to twitter when I want to be alone, which I think is sad. At its most basic level, Twitter was intended to “let your friends and family know what you are doing” NOT as an invitation service.

    And sorry for the long comment…. I’ve just thought about this a lot 🙂

  3. great post. interesting topic. i’ve often pondered this one myself since i’ve actually had people just show up to bars where i’m at after i’ve tweeted my location and expect most of my attention. it can lead to awkward situations. send a DM first. and a bar situation is different than a restaurant situation.

    meals are intimate affairs for me. i would not appreciate someone just showing up and expecting to sit down at my table unless they were a really good friend and they knew in advance that i wasn’t “working.”

    but sometimes i do want company and the more the merrier. just send me a DM to find out!

  4. I’m sticking with solitaire. I’ve reached my techno-limit with tweeter. I just don’t get it and don’t want to. Plus, it sounds potentially dangerous to broadcast your location. But if I happen to run into you without benefit of tweet, I shall simply smile politely and leave you to your meal.

  5. Yeah, mock your Mom and make an example of her ignorance about twitter. She’s WAY too old to even use a television remote, much less something as technologically advanced as this. (LOL!!!) 😉

  6. I don’t know. If I’m going to a bar (not very often, though Anvil could become an addiction) or if I’m going somewhere casual (and I’ve cleared it with Matt), I’m cool with people joining us. But if we’re going somewhere on a date, I may say, “Matt and I are going to blah blah.” I agree with Jenny – if you want to join, DM first. Or, if you know my cell number, call me. I usually answer. 🙂

  7. Fascinating. Count me in the “no” column, but you shouldn’t be surprised especially if you use that BrightKite thingy.

  8. When common social etiquette and nerdery cross paths, it can often end in serious miscommunication. Common courtesy would dictate that you NEVER show up uninvited to an event unless the announcement (virtual or otherwise) states it is open to anyone and everyone.

    At the very least in the Twitter world, I’d assume a simple DM, “Hey, want some company?” is appropriate.

    I think there are a lot of people online who have been there for a while and don’t understand the typical boundaries of normal social interaction. Just as there are newbies on the web, there are newbies offline too.

    There are also those who think of web 2.0 as a means of meeting, dating, networking, etc. and often break a lot of rules online and off in pursuit of those relationships.

    Eventually, I’m sure all this will find a natural equilibrium when Twitter gets a little older. Then again, MySpace is still just as nasty as ever. 🙂

  9. Twitter? @ replying? Tweet? BrightKite thingy? DM? What language is this? What planet is this? I got a headache just reading this. I will have to save the article for us dinosaurs up at the top for a later time.

  10. @ Danhole, I don’t even know why I put the @ before your name, but everyone else seems to do it. Does that mean “at Danhole?” That is what the @ symbol used to mean, back in the day (last year). I am as flummoxed as you are. I hate that the Houston Community College at Town and Country has on their sign, “HCC @ Town and Country.” They are a community college, and can’t spell it out?? The “at” part is one more letter!!!

    Liguistics are changing, right before our eyes. Witness an article which is “dead on” in the latest My Table magazine referencing how things are changing much like they did in the Gutenberg printing press era. And how sad it is that we are losing our language to “text-speak.” And that we are spending precious time on earth with our families and friends “tweeting.” Face first into our computers and other devices. I don’t even know how you get tweet, I guess it’s in the phones. I for one, am staying with real life people, in communities of friends and family, church even! Seems our K knows some of that. Even a lot of it.

    Now, in the last week, I hear of Skype on every TV channel. Never heard of that before. Just like I never heard of Twitter before Feburary. WTF??

    Thank you for tolerating my short rant.

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