Recently I’ve come across a fun account on Ye Olde Twitter that is tweeting out lines from PG Wodehouse without any context or citation:
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never been able to bear the sight of a kid with golden curls. I always feel the urge to step on them.
— PG Wodehouse (@wodehouseoffice) February 19, 2016
Lord Emsworth uttered a cry of rapture. The Empress was feeding.
— PG Wodehouse (@wodehouseoffice) February 18, 2016
I read yesterday that Shakespeare is not alive. It steeped me in a profound gloom.
— PG Wodehouse (@wodehouseoffice) February 9, 2016
For me, these are a super-fun way to re-experience an author I already love, and I’m now itching for a deep dive into the Wodehouse canon!
But I also got to thinking today about the importance of context, especially on Twitter. I’m sure we’ve all seen listicles on Buzzfeed, Someecards, etc., rounding up hilarious comments during live events, notable folks’ opinion on a current event, and other person-on-the-street-style reactions. These posts can be very fun, but is it always a good thing for a single tweet to be taken out of the context of your Twitter feed, where your regular followers and others in your social media circles are aware of your values and priorities, or may be following an ongoing conversation you were having that the compilation missed?
No one wants to be offensive or hurtful to others and it’s certainly important to be aware of your words’ impact on those who read them, especially in a public forum like Facebook or Twitter. And sometimes folks use the “out of context!” excuse to cover-up for views that are simply offensive. On the other hand, social media is a tool for sharing our personalities with others, especially when it comes to artists engaging with fans, and social media often provides a platform for important conversations about tough issues like racism, sexism, or homophobia. So it’s important to keep in mind that our social media posts can be taken out of context, and to be alert to hurtful or damaging statements in or out of context when using social media for genuine interactions and productive conversations.
What are your favorite tips for honest but respectful social media posts? Any best practices you’ve found for limiting the out-of-context danger of Twitter?