To thank or not to thank on Twitter?

Nick Bilton’s suggestion that e-mail thank-yous are a time waster has sparked debate on whether or not it’s appropriate to thank people in digital communications. Some have gone so far to suggest that this new social ethic of efficiency is creating a generation of sociopaths.

I was just thinking about this the other day in the context of Twitter. I follow a couple people who thank their followers for every retweet and mention. While these tweets are technically typed in manually, there’s an automatic quality about them that makes them about as meaningful and personal as an auto-DM. And I hope we all know by now how gauche those are.

A few days ago I received an auto-thanks and Follow Friday mention from a popular education blogger, mentioning about ten other Twitter handles. Then I received about eight retweets and thanks from people on that list replying-all to the original tweet. It might have been more had I not started blocking people out of frustration.

My advice in two words: stop that. The automatic “thank you” for a door held open IRL is welcome because it is fleeting. But many of us have e-mail and phone alerts turned on for retweets and mentions. If you had to delete an e-mail or tap an icon on your phone every time someone thanked you for holding a door open, the gesture would begin to lose its charm.

If you want to thank a follower, try doing what I often do: go back through their feed a few tweets and see if there is something there you can retweet, favorite, or comment on.

If you feel you must thank, thank sparingly and genuinely. Take the time to verbalize the reason you are grateful.

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