Twitter is not Tinder

Repeat after me: Twitter is NOT Tinder. Say it ten times. Then say it some more. Say it until you believe it, and then tell your friends. Because far too few people understand the differences between these two monolithic digital beasts for my liking.

For those wondering what this is all about, let me start by sharing the issue I see repeated time and time again. A single person joins Twitter and eventually stumbles across the little corner of it let’s call Dating Twitter. In this corner are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who are all single, many of whom use the platform to share their hopes, their fears, their victories and their defeats. They use it to share stories for others to learn from and to get the support that perhaps they don’t get in other areas of their lives.

Some do it under their real name, using photos of themselves as their avi and not worrying about who may find them in future, whilst others do all of this anonymously, with a stock photo or random image depicting them online. Either way, people share their highs and lows with the world and open up about very personal issues affecting them as well as sharing some of the greatest memes in history.

Our newly-joined single person sees this group and rejoices! They have found their people! They dive into conversations, liking things and sharing with wild abandon until they find themselves conversing with one or two individuals more and more regularly. Conversations start orbiting around, flirtatious comments made and liked until eventually the phrase “Twitter Crush” is mentioned somewhere and they take the leap, sliding into their crush’s DMs and initiating a more romantic connection.

In and of itself, that tale is fairly harmless and often encouraged. Two people taking their time and finding a mutual attraction before things progress to meeting and, perhaps, more is the thing that many of us dream of. But, sadly, it is far from the only way Twitter is used by single people.

There is a small but persistent subset of Tweeters who seem to think that it is acceptable to essentially use Twitter as a dating app. To move from person to person to person, flirting and sliding with impunity and perhaps keeping multiple people on the hook, maybe even using it as a way of keeping multiple physical relationships on the go. Occasionally this blows up in a big way, with people being outed, named and shamed only to see them shut down their account, slink off for a while and then return when the heat dies down under a new guise.

That shit is not cool.

Twitter should be a safe place. It should be a way for people to connect and get support, advice and guidance around some pretty challenging topics (as well as sharing those aforementioned kickass memes). If people feel like they are being preyed upon by chancers and players then they lose one of the few spaces they have to feel part of a community.

For those looking for hookups, use dating apps. Use dedicated websites for that sort of thing. Go to other places where the damage won’t be so long lasting and where both sides know what they’re getting into, as all too often Twitter, especially dating Twitter, isn’t looking for hookup action. Or at least be open and honest about it publicly. There is a corner of Twitter for everything, so there’s probably one for that too.

And for those who are using Twitter to form potentially romantic connections which are mutually consensual, a few words of warning. Warnings not shared with the intention of putting you off, merely of ensuring that you approach things with eyes wide open and mindful of the potential knock on effects if things go wrong.

Sadly, not all relationships work out. In real life this can result in difficult conversations with friends and with people feeling caught in the middle, even if there was no fault in the breakup. In those real life situations most have the benefit of being able to keep their own friends and not really engage with those of the other person going forward.

However, on Twitter there is a good chance you are going to still engage with those people regularly. They will pop up in conversations and replies even if you unfollow them, reminding you of all that happened before.Hell, you will probably see the other person regularly, unless one of you leaves Twitter or you go on a real blocking spree.

Having constant reminders of the other person can be painful, especially when you see them flirting and engaging with other people openly. They are not doing it to spite you, they are merely moving on and exploring other potential relationships as they once explored one with you. It hurts, though, to see that happen before your eyes, to see how happy someone else’s replies make them, to see them talk about planning trips to see them or reporting back to the world on how well things are going. No-one likes being regularly hurt.

There is also the way that gossip spreads online. If you think that there aren’t cliques on Twitter, little groups of people in DM groups or on WhatsApp, well you’re kidding yourself. They are chatting and gossiping in a way most people haven’t seen since the school playground, and if you are involved in their world then they may be gossiping about you.

In part this is a good thing; it helps limit the spread of the players as people privately share information on potential Twitter Twats who go around sleeping with anyone they can convince to do so before walking away without a second thought.

But when you’re not a twat, when you were merely looking forward to some consensual fun or perhaps more, it can become very uncomfortable indeed to know that you are being talked about. No-one likes intimate details of them to be bandied around with no thought to truth or ability to do some fact checking. Even the thought of it is more than off-putting.

You may meet someone who turns out not to be a match and, before you know it, they are going around telling everyone you are in fact a horrible person. You may agree to someone’s request to help them get off by doing a little sexting, only to find them claiming that you had two-way video sessions which left nothing to the imagination. You have no way of knowing what is being shared around the Twittersphere, and for many that is scary.

Should you avoid or ignore all romantic connections made via Twitter? No, of course not. If you fancy someone and they fancy you then that’s wonderful and you should of course pursue it as you see fit. Just do so knowing that there could be Twitter-related consequences should you fall out later on down the line.

And never, ever forget; someone being nice to you does not mean they want to sleep with you. Someone flirting on a public timeline does not mean they want you to slide into their DMs. Someone responding to DMs you send does not mean they want to meet up. Someone being a basic and decent human being does not mean you have the right to send them whatever you want to send.