The culture of the DM inbox

For those of you who aren't sure what a DM is, the letters refer to the private messaging service on Twitter, the

Direct Message

For the most part, ever since I've been on the site, it's been mainly used for sending and receiving
  • Thank yous for RTs
  • Thank yous for other stuff :)
  • Follow up messages on projects, conferences or activities
  • Sending or receiving congratulatory messages when a Twitterer's done something great
  • Giving/receiving feedback on typos or on anything that needs feedback
  • Arranging to meet-up with friends/working colleagues
  • Asking and answering questions related to blogging, tweeting, web2.0
  • Sending or receiving links to examples of lessons using edtech
  • Personal conversations with people I "know"/ have spent a lot of time with / like on Twitter or in real life
But recently I've been receiving links to people's blogs (completely out of context to any conversation and from total "strangers") sometimes out of niche, sometimes even asking me to RT it for them; questions on what my interests and activities are and basically stuff, well that, well, really... belongs either in the main twitter stream or in an email once we've gotten to know each other...


The DMs were vaguely bothering me until I realized that actually, it's culture, isn't it... different people and their different identities and their relationships to space and intimacy - so hmmm, while I now get it I have to admit that I'm also a bit culturally challenged to be honest - do I respond with a smart retort saying - um, like, you know, don't spam me...

Or do I say "hey, we don't know each other, not at all and as a general rule, what I do in my private time is hardly any of your business..."  but that feels awfully rude...

Do I ignore?

Do I unfollow?

Has this sort of thing happened to you too - how do you feel about the nature of conversations which occur in your DM inbox?  Do you have any communicative "borders" you don't like crossed?

What would you do in my shoes?

Useful links related to this posting: 
ELT Guide to Twitter
Paid to Tweet
Thnx 4 ur RTs
In the space of 140 characters

Best, Karenne

p.s the danger of doing a post like this, as I've learned in the past, is that when you don't name names and you don't give specifics, sometimes people think that you're personally criticizing them ... so, um, if you are one of my darling PLN and we've been friends for a while now or even if you're new and I've written you back/we've had a conversation then do understand please that obviously I'm not talking about you...  :-) (but you can DM me to check if you like, LOL)

12 Responses to “The culture of the DM inbox”

  • Tara Benwell says:
    September 14, 2010

    Hey Karenne,

    I can't say I have the same problem (yet) on Twitter, but I do have this problem on MyEC. I've tried to address it a few times with learners and some of them get it and some of them don't. I hadn't thought of it as a cultural thing, so I found your blog post very interesting! In fact, I was guilty of using the "send to all friends" DM at the very beginning of MyEC (to save time), but quickly realized it was rude and a form of spam. These days I only open a DM (on MyEC) if it is addressed to me personally. Many learners still use it in the way you mention in your post. If you think of any solutions, let me know.

  • Cecilia says:
    September 14, 2010

    Hey Karenne!

    What I like about your blog posts is that they always make me stop and think, reflect. And this is always positive. Especially since I am very new in the Twitterverse / PLN / Web 2.0 triad. Add to that the fact that I am from a different culture, and many people find some of my habits unusual and you have someone who was glad to read your post.

    I believe good sense plays an important role in our virtual interactions - just as important as in the face to face ones. But I also think you are right when you talk about the cultural difference. What would I do if I were you? Well, I think you did the best thing: you wrote a blog post about it, and hopefully those people will read it and learn.

    On a last note... Have I ever done that? Please let me know... I looked over my DMs trying to identify any abuse/inappropriatness and wasn't able to, but will always be thankful for any help you give me with my Twittiquette ;-)

  • Sue Lyon-Jones says:
    September 14, 2010

    Hi Karenne,

    I don't get this kind of thing much, though it does happen to me from time to time as well.

    I tend to deal with DMs from strangers that are a bit too personal in a jokey kind of way, without really giving any information out... whereas if people I hardly know send me links via DM, I respond by saying that I don't click on links in DMs because of malware issues (which is actually true).

    Although I don't hit the unfollow button very often, I've unfollowed a few twitter chuggers in my time who kept badgering me to RT their tweets and/or leave comments on their blog... more often than not, they were people who I'd followed who didn't follow me back, though curiously that didn't seem to inhibit them from sending me DMs asking me to promote their stuff ;-)

    Personally, I'm not sure that it's a cultural thing myself; I'm more inclined to think that it's down to a lack of understanding of how social media is supposed to work, personally :-)

    September 14, 2010

    Thanks Sue,

    Yes... I think that was what I had thought but then I started seeing a bit of a trend:

    the people who generally bold-faced ask me to RT their posts (when they're not a part of BELTfree) were American or British

    the people who generally write trying to engage in more intimate conversation (in my opinion intimate questions reserved for people I know better) were from, wow - pausing a bit because I don't want to be out of line culturally - let me say non European...

    September 14, 2010

    Hi ya Tara... no solutions just yet - thinking of a slideshare on social media "manners" but that reminds me of some posts in the past by other bloggers that made me think - whoa there dude, who are you to decide on social media culture... ooooh, it's a sticky one!

    Sort of reminds me of "space" issues when I was travelling through Asia or South America

    September 14, 2010

    Hi Cecilia,

    First of all you're an absolute doll on both Twitter and the blogs, no need to fear!

    I agree - we've got to use our good sense, trouble is whose? :)) I don't know, have lived all over the world and I know that I can read a piece of text and think it means one thing because I carry my own history and culture with me in whatever I do but someone else can read the exact same thing and read something entirely different.

    Someone can write something and think they're just being friendly with someone else yet the reader reads it as being flirtatious - one person can write one thing and think that they're being funny and ironic but a hundred readers can think it is angry and sarcastic... and then along will come 150 who read it as a touch of irony!

    Communication strategies are so incredibly difficult and without the face to face, how do we let each other know what we really mean - what our intentions are?

  • Alex Case says:
    September 15, 2010

    I have never have any Twitter DM inbox problems

    September 16, 2010

    Alex... you were a good man staying out of the Twitterverse...

  • Arjana says:
    September 16, 2010

    Hi Karenne,
    I thought I was the only one in the twitterverse with the DM problem. Not that I get tons of private messages with questionable content, but there have been some recently, mostly by educators (or so they say in their bio) totally unknown to me. What they want from me is to leave a comment to their blog post or RT their posts. But since my twitter account was spammed a while ago, which was terribly embarrassing, I think twice before clicking the links that come to my DM inbox. I usually wait for a couple of days before deleting the message. Actually, I haven't clicked any of those links yet, so I will never know if it was spam or a wonderful blog post.

    I've just realized that my problem is that I don't share my problems with my PLN, as I don't want to bother people with stuff I'm sure they will find unimportant or trivial. You know, this probably has to do with culture....

    And I'm so grateful that you brought it up.


    September 16, 2010

    You're welcome Arjana!

    It is bad, isn't it? I've been suffering in silence for quite some time but I decided that as some of the DMs were decidedly making me feel uncomfortable it would be better to do a post on the subject.

    The problem though, like you, is that you worry other people will think you're ranting (and I have a rep. for that, LOL) or perhaps that one's airing dirty laundry, but basically... I guess... as you saw earlier today on twitter :-) I also wanted to have a quick link I could send to those who cross over borders while unfollowing them at the same time!!!

    That's pretty easy - the trouble of course is what do you do when it's someone you once respected... eh? Twitter - what a new ballpark to play in!

    And.. of course, not all people mind at all - some are surprisingly proud to be asked to do stuff like RT (and the thing is as you all know I love RTng my community's work) but... being "told" to is a whole other ballpark.

    And one of my top favorite bloggers sometimes sends me links to things I've missed - and I'm incredibly grateful for that because I can't keep up with everything but this is because he knows my interests and he's following up or sending me a link because he knows I'll be glad to get it...

    so trust me when I tell you I hesitated over writing this post!

    :-)) still crossing fingers that my friends and professional colleagues who I respect and admire do continue to DM me without fear!!!

    Thanks so much for adding your comment, it was nice to hear from you!

  • Anonymous says:
    September 19, 2010

    Very interesting topic. I agree that tackling social media has to do with culture. Some people may want to chat you up via DM, because they use the DM as a chat up medium, well I just answer with a joke usually, like Sue. No one ever asked me to RT anything, because I am not a VIP in ELT like you. So you should see this as a way to measure your fame, really!
    As for the twittiquette, it is a job in the making, everyone reflecting and creating it as we tweet along... and yes, asynchronic communication has specific issues but that's so interesting and complex, just like any form of human communication, I guess.

    Alice M

    September 20, 2010

    Alice, I agree! And it's subject to all it's all clarity and confusions too!


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