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What Kanye West can teach you about Twitter

Twitter tiffs. Are we fed up of them yet? If your interest in the online arguments of the more famous occupants of this world was waning then the all out rant that spewed forth from Kanye West’s Twitter account last week may well have relit your fire.

As well as illustrating why West is such an….original, it’s also a prime example of the way that Twitter fights just don’t end well for anyone, even the uber rich and famous. Kanye has had a relatively subdued time of it on Twitter – when he joined in 2010 his activity levels were fairly low and innocuous, particularly compared to others on the social networking site (Charlie Sheen, for example) and especially his now-wife Kim Kardashian.

Unlike some other celebrities there’s always been a total absence of trite self-promotional tweeting with his account and the content of the tweets are so distinctive that they could surely only be the product of the West brain. Typically for West he’s also managed to use Twitter to make a statement, following only one person – his wife – despite the 18 million strong crowd of users he has accrued. West obviously takes Twitter rather seriously.

My theory for the absence of initial tweeting was that he’s a perfectionist and, like most perfectionists, when faced with something that he didn’t understand and wasn’t immediately good at, he didn’t launch right in and blithely see where it took him. I doubt Kanye does blithe. Instead, there was a period of consideration, observing and absorbing before he found his voice. But now he most certainly has found that Twitter voice and it’s a rather fascinating one, totally unapologetic, totally shameless and totally authentic.

Which brings us to the circumstances that got Kanye trending this week – his argument with rapper Wiz Khalifa, which started out as an epic rant that also included a mention of Wiz’s son with Kanye’s ex, Amber Rose. As the child is just three years old it was this part of the ranting that was particularly unpalatable for many Twitter users.

Of course, the rant ended up drawing in Amber herself and then descended into a crude slanging match about bedroom habits, which is still rumbling on. So, what can we learn from this face off? Well, primarily, the lesson here is that nobody wins when you take to Twitter to express grudges or resentments.

There’s a sense of being untouchable in this kind of forum, as if you’re a gladiator with the crowd behind you, and this can lead you to forget that your tweets are being read by millions all over the world – and also that your target is a human being. It’s an arena in which we go that one step further than we might do if we were standing face to face with the person in question, forgetting that there are real life consequences to every one of those 140 characters.

While you may not have 18 million followers and high profile celebrity exes, getting into arguments on Twitter can do significant damage to a reputation, whether personal or professional. Avoid that kind of reckless firing off of statements that Kanye specialises in (you don’t have his legal team for one thing) and if there are genuine problems between you and someone in real life, then come offline to sort them out.

Twitter is a fantastic forum for communication but no one is untouchable and – as Kanye has found out via a wave of screenshots taken by others of the now deleted rant – Twitter doesn’t forget.

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