Twitter Is Public

In light of certain arguments currently taking place on the internet, we would like to issue a gentle reminder of a fact: Twitter is public.

The things you write on Twitter are public. They are published on the world wide web. They can be read almost instantly by anyone with an internet connection on the planet Earth. This is not a bug in Twitter; it is a feature. Twitter is a thing that allows you to publish things, quickly, to the public.

Most things that you write on Twitter will be seen only by your followers. Most things that you write on Twitter will not be read by the public at large. But that is only because the public at large does not care about most things that you have to say. It is not because the public does not have "a right" to read your Twitter. Indeed, they do. They can do so simply by typing Twitter dot com slash [your name] into their web browser. There, they will find a complete list of everything that you have chosen to publish on Twitter, which is a public forum.

If you do not want your Twitter to be public, you can make it private. Then it will not be public. If you do not make it private, it will be public.

Because Twitter is public, and published on the internet, it is possible that someone will quote something that you said on Twitter in a news story. This is something that you implicitly accept by publishing something on Twitter, which is public. That is well within the rights of a "journalist," as well as anyone who clicks the "Retweet" button on something that you published on Twitter. Just because you wish that someone would not quote something that you said in public does not mean that that person does not have the right to quote something that you said in public. When we choose to say something in public, we choose to broadcast it to the world. The world is then able to talk about it. That is how it works. Anyone who has ever publicly spoken or written something dumb (hello), only to have that thing quoted and insulted by others, has probably wished that the thing that they said or wrote was not public. That feeling, while understandable, is only a wish. It does not mean that the thing they said or wrote was not, in fact, public.

Do you find it unsettling that everything you write on Twitter is public? Fortunately, there are alternate means of communication that you can use. If you would like to communicate with someone privately, you can speak to them in person, or call them on the telephone, or write them a letter, or write them an email. If you would like to communicate with a large group of people privately, you can send an email that goes to those people, but that is not published to the public, on the internet.

It is true that Twitter is a very convenient way to communicate with people. It is also a public way to communicate with people. It is true that, instead of calling several people individually on the telephone, it would be easier to simply broadcast our thoughts on a radio network, and have everyone tune in. It is true that, instead of mailing letters to several people individually, it would be easier to simply purchase a billboard, and write our thoughts there, where everyone could read them at their leisure. These examples are illustrative of the benefits and drawbacks that we must consider when deciding whether to use a public or a private means of communication. Sometimes, the public nature of our communications on Twitter draws attentions, plaudits, and praise. This is a nice feature of Twitter. Other times, the public nature of our communication on Twitter allows for people to quote things that we have said on Twitter, in the past. This may not be so nice.

When choosing to use Twitter, it is important to weigh the pluses and minuses of choosing to use Twitter. Because Twitter is public.

[Image by Jim Cooke, source via Shutterstock]