Thank Me Later: The Role of Gratitude in Social Media

Good manners are great- like social alchemy, they lubricate the processes of every day life, giving a little advantage to those who use them effectively.

But as with all things, they require balance.  Perhaps it’s because it exposes their ritual, arbitrary nature but gratuitous deployment can breed suspicion or come across as weakness.  I think it’s much the same with the gratitude that some people demonstrate in social media.

On Twitter, responses and retweets are what it’s all about.  For me, it was these instant responses that made it clear what social publishing had become today.  Naturally, one feels a twinge of gratitude when you see someone has retweeted something that you were trying to get out there- it’s nice to know that they valued your contribution too.

There’s definitely a time and place where it’s appropriate but thanking every retweeter is unnecessary and may actually harm your integrity if it becomes a habit.

My reasons for this follow below:

  1. Thank between the lines
    A retweet almost carries with it an implicit note of thanks by attributing the content to the original poster.  Saying thankyou for them thanking you just doesn’t quite ring true to the dynamic.
  2. You are worthy
    Too much gratitude gives a sense of over-humbleness and almost insinuates that you don’t believe the content you’re publishing is worth wider attention.  You should have confidence what your send out to the world otherwise it can seem weak and insecure.
  3. Kind regards
    Over the long run, there are much better ways to show your thanks to that user than to say it out loud- this is a good thing.  Your gratitude to them is borne of their engagement with your feed and likewise, it pays to know who listens to your account and properly interact with them.  Advance the debate, ask for their thoughts; take thins up a notch!  This will build a far more meaningful relationship.

Far be it from me to say “THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD TWEET, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG” but if this generates some good discussion on the topic, I think it could use it.

At the moment, feeds are cluttered with tweets that are, by definition, irrelevant to almost everyone following and if I get some people thinking about why they’re doing things, then the post was worthwhile.

Oh, and before I forget, thanks for reading…

- Max Tatton-Brown

January 19th, 2010