Do People Understand How To Use Twitter?

by @edent | # # | 4 comments


Learning a new skill is hard. Evidentially, twitter is too hard for some people.  Robert Llewellyn was rightly confused when he saw this...

Photo of a TV screen which seems to quote BobbyLlew talking about Question Time.

What Had Happened?

Turns out, the BBC had read a tweet to Robert Llewellyn and mistaken it for a tweet by him

When Is A Retweet Not A Retweet?

Look everyone! Stephen Fry wants to organise a protest!

(In fairness, many people made this mistake, I've picked Allison randomly)

What Really Happened

A user asked Stephen Fry to retweet her idea

Later confirmed

People retweeted her, then those people were retweeted. Then, like Chinese Whispers the original message got truncated, garbled and misinterpreted.

Can't People Read?

No. People, in my experience, read what they want to see.

The syntax of retweeting and replying is confusing to some people. Maybe it's me, but I picked it up fairly quickly - others struggle. This is then compounded by not bothering to check the original source.

As Churchill Mark Twain Sarah Palin Stephen Fry said "A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has logged in to twitter."

4 thoughts on “Do People Understand How To Use Twitter?

  1. Allison Downing says:

    Hi, Allison here. I was perfectly aware that Stephen Fry hadn't Tweeted this as his own idea. I purposefully retweeted back to him. I left the RT at the beginning of the post to indicate that it wasn't me who had originated the Tweet. Including the original author's @ took me over 140 characters, so I simply deleted it. People read what they want to see.

    1. Hi Alison,
      Sorry for picking on you unfairly - I can remove your tweet from this post of you like?

      There is no doubt. however, that may people assumed they were retweeting a message from Stephen Fry. You're right that I confused your tweet with one of them - that's because "RT @x" is the syntax for a retweet from @x.
      I think Twitter's upcoming change to retweeting will help with this confusion (

      Incidentally, your tweet is only 108 character, giving you an extra 32 in which to quote the original author.



  2. Gonçalo Valverde says:

    It´s not as if twitter is a real new skill but actually a fad that is going to disappear in one or two years.. so to be honest, trying to understand a flawed concept is IMNSHO a total waste of time

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and scholarly opinion. Regardless of whether a service running since 2006 is going to fold in the near future, the fact remains that as a service it has a syntax. When that syntax is abused, it leads to confusion. I assume that "IMNSHO" means "In My Not So Humble Opinion" - you've used the "Internet Speak" that people were sure would fade away by 2001 - it didn't. I am able to understand your initialism - even though I've never seen it before - because I understand the grammar you are using.

      Of course, you could be saying "I Make Noises Sometimes Heating Oranges" - but because we've both taken the time to learn a "fad", I can be pretty confident that we I understand your intended meaning.

      Thanks for the comment


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