Subtweeting is a skill: delicately throwing 140 character-long shade at people who do you wrong on the world stage that is Twitter. The artistry is in the underhand; the passive-aggressive craft that is an exasperated release at Sarah who copied the hell out of your hair again or Jim from HR for just being Jim. But it’s without the fall out of an actual, real life confrontation. Adult right? Rude, and socially incompetent more like, according to a new study.
Computers in Human Behavior journal basically found that everyone hates subtweeters. Researchers at Western Michigan University asked 349 undergraduates to rate four different tweets, based on their effectiveness, appropriateness, social competence, attractiveness and credibility. Two were nice, two were pretty shady.
The first read: “Thanks @RyanS for completely making my day. You’re awesome.”
The second: “Thanks to a certain person for completely making my day. People like that are awesome.”
Then the not so nice: “Thanks @RyanS for backstabbing and completely ruining my day. You’re pathetic.”
And: “Thanks to a certain person for backstabbing and completely ruining my day. People like that are pathetic.”
Out of these four takes, the more positive and clear posts were rated the most, while participants thought of the shadier tweets as socially incompetent. The authors of the study, Autumn Edwards, and Christina Harris, wrote: “By publicly insulting or complaining about another user without revealing his or her identity, those who subtweet may garner poor impressions for their lack of directness (passive aggressive, vague, attention-seeking), negativity (bitter, anti-social), or both.” Basically, being indirect and vague can mean you’re rude.
However, respondents rated the more indirect, negative response over actively, aggressively @-ing someone. So maybe your habit of 4am subtweeting isn’t all neg, just stay in the shade.