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10 things you can learn from a terrible Twitter account

To paraphrase first lady Michelle Obama: even when something is absolutely terrible, possibly the worst in history, it also represents an opportunity — for you to do the same thing but the opposite.

The Twitter account operated by Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and current spouter of dangerous bullshit, is terrible — you don’t need me to tell you that. Many have already noticed that Mike Huckabee’s Twitter is bad enough to remark upon, and subsequently remarked upon it. What you do need me to tell you is that Mike Huckabee’s Twitter is also an opportunity. An opportunity for you and I to learn how to have a good Twitter account, the opposite of a bad Twitter account.

At the end of this valuable how-to you will be good at Twitter, because you will also know how to be bad at Twitter. I very much look forward to reading your tweets, though I would prefer that none of them are directed at me. Thanks!

Tip 1: No stand-up

Not even actual stand-up comedians use Twitter to tell stand-up jokes, because setup / punchline is not the comedy style of the internet. This format falls flat, as it is old and doesn’t have the right cadence for a platform that favors drier wit.

Even ignoring the facts that there’s 1) no way that Mike Huckabee has seen Boys Don’t Cry, and 2) absolutely no reason to mock someone for tearing up when discussing President Trump’s inhumane and unconstitutional travel / immigration ban, this one-two punch of faux-sincere setup and then extreme overreach for a pun or vintage pop culture reference is deeply embarrassing.

It should go without saying that your jokes should not be about your weird stances on which emotions different genders should or shouldn’t express, or about Hillary Clinton… dying? But even stripped of their meaning, these tweets are still failures that you can analyze for your own personal gain.

You can do yourself a favor by not structuring jokes this way on the internet. The opposite of this would be a joke with no structure, no puns, no references to decades-old films that the writer has clearly never seen, and no misogyny. Here you go, here’s one example:

Good, right?

Tip 2: No linking to film Kickstarters

Even if this were not a link to a Kickstarter created by a very obviously racist person for very obviously racist and paranoid reasons (great combo!), nobody likes to see their Twitter feed clogged with links to dumb fundraising efforts. It’s similar to how people don’t want to hear about how much you would like them to listen to a friend’s new cover of Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher,” or consider endorsing your copy-editing skills on LinkedIn.

Here’s an example of a tweet that’s not about a filmmaking Kickstarter, and still manages to support the arts:

Nice.

Tip 3: No tweeting compliments at brands

Tweeting friendly missives at brands is decidedly uncool, largely because the only reason to do it is to be retweeted by a brand or sent a smiling emoji by a brand or get offered free stuff by a brand. We all participate in consumerism, but it’s indelicate to be so brazen about enjoying it.

Tweeting at airlines is a whole other category of horrific, because on top of being a brand tweet it’s also the type of boring, self-indulgent behavior that you could lump in with making someone listen to the story of a long and complicated nightmare. Huckabee’s tweet also departs from reason in that, usually, people tweet at airlines to complain. Those tweets are still not interesting, but at least they unite us as human beings with shared experiences. Huckabee’s tweet is baffling from end to end, and it’s one in a longrunning series.

Here’s an example of a good consumerism tweet that’s the opposite of a compliment:

And here’s an example of a good air travel tweet that’s the opposite of a boring overshare:

Lovely.

Tip 4: No hashtags

Here’s a tweet that doesn’t have a hashtag. You can see how it’s better.

Tip 5: No wordplay if that’s not your strong suit

Comic Sans, the most despised font in the history of typography, is actually a pretty good choice for homemade memes. However, if you are going to try to get into the meme game you should think carefully about the wordplay therein. For example, here we have a portmanteau joke that doesn’t really hold up under even the weakest of dollar-store-magnifying-glass scrutiny. It has that in common with many of Huckabee’s tweets.

  1. Jill Stein is not a member of the Democratic Party.
  2. Transylvania is the birthplace of a different famous monster, Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
  3. Frankenstein, as I’m sure you’ve heard from countless pedants every Halloween since you were born, is the name of the scientist in Frankenstein, not his monster, which is named Frankenstein’s monster. Though, to outdo the pedants for a second here, the monster is referred to in the book as “Frankenstein” sometimes — as a nickname. Which person / thing is Huckabee referring to? No idea. That’s why the joke is bad.
  4. If Frankenstein (the monster) were president… would that be better or worse than what’s happening right now? He would certainly tweet less, due to rigor mortis.

A few weeks later, Huckabee quoted Franken’s famous Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley while promoting his own upcoming appearance on a Facebook Live. He made no indication as to whether he was aware of what he was doing.

Anyway, here’s the opposite of bad wordplay — good wordplay:

I’m laughing, are you?

Tip 6: No setting them up like that

Think about whatever is most humiliating about you and your seedy past. Now, don’t use any words that set people up to make jokes about it. For example, it’s widely known that Mike Huckabee’s son David was allegedly fired from his role as a camp counselor in 1998 after management discovered that he had tortured and killed a stray dog.

A good rule of thumb for Huckabee, as evidenced by the replies to these tweets, would be to not reference dogs in any way. If you’re not a public figure, there’s less to worry about, as hopefully the internet at large has little reason to bring up your failed promposals, old AIM screen names, etc. In any case, the opposite of baiting people with easy openings for you (for Huckabee it’s “stop tweeting”) is called “just make the joke yourself,” and it’s a classic tactic for dodging hurtful quips. You might remember it from nearly every children’s television series. Here’s an example:

Here’s another example:

Yes, they’ve done it!

Tip 7: No addressing the haters

Here’s the thing: the haters hate you. You aren’t going to change the haters’ minds with logic like “don’t follow me” or “follow someone else,” particularly if you also present those suggestions with what reads as escalating desperation.

If you’re going to talk to the haters, you have to disarm them with wit and charm, two things that will be easier for you to do if you are not Mike Huckabee. Here’s an example:

And here’s an example of the true opposite of addressing the haters, which is addressing the people you love instead:

Gee, that really is better.

Tip 8: No quoting genocidal maniacs

Easy enough, here’s an example of the opposite of quoting a genocidal maniac:

I have every confidence in your ability to follow this simple rule for good tweets. In fact, almost every tweet you’ve seen follows this rule, assuming the people you follow aren’t despicably evil or very, very dumb.

See? Here are some more:

Wow, incredible.

Another:

Yay, I’m laughing and that’s the point of all this.

Tip 9: No references to guitars in your bio if you are a boy

If you’re an adult white man, a good way to be a parody of yourself is to claim that one of your main descriptors is “bass guitarist” when that’s obviously not one of your main descriptors. There’s no direct opposite to identifying yourself as a bland musician in your Twitter bio, but I think thematically the farthest you can get from it is my co-worker and friend Lizzie’s bio, which is a terrifying quote from a Woody Allen press conference at the Cannes film festival last year, repurposed into a context where it’s much more pleasant.

See? Good one.

Tip 10: Simply tweet less

Mike Huckabee tweets very often — many times per day. If you do that, you’re bound to put out some duds. Nobody has dozens of hilarious or insightful things to say every day that they’re alive, I don’t care who they are. When you tweet less, you give yourself the time and space you need to come up with truly valuable tweets that improve the lives of others and don’t embarrass you until you’re dead. Plus, even if you’re still bad at tweeting, people are less likely to notice.

Here’s a good tweet from someone who doesn’t tweet more than once a month, often less:

I am uplifted by this carefully considered tweet!

If you abide by these 10 tips, your Twitter account will be great — or at least, not the worst the world has ever seen. I believe in you, and I think it will be easy. While researching good tweets to use as examples for this post I laughed so hard I almost threw up, because there really are so many good tweets and so many people are capable of making them. Not Mike Huckabee, though.


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