Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: first impressions matter more than ever.
In the old days, you got to know people because they LIVED NEXT TO YOU, or because you saw them at the feed store when you saddled up Bessie and rode there on Saturdays.
People make a first impression about your entire life in less than two nanoseconds, based on three tiny little things:
Sidenote: If you don’t understand the headline reference to Achy Breaky Big Mistakey, here’s the original Billy Ray Cyrus video and a link to Mullet Junky, which is guaranteed to make you feel better about your hair. Enjoy.
So, instead of giving you five big Twitter boo-boos, or seven, I’m giving you 30 dumb moves to avoid on the Twitter — ten no-no’s apiece when it comes to your profile photo, your handle and your bio.
I believe, deep in my soul, that ten times three equals thirty, or possibly 30, depending on whether you use the metric system and what edition of the AP Stylebook you sleep with.
Top 10 achy breaky big mistakeys with your profile photo
You see the worst ones on Facebook, but Twitter is not immune from wacky profile photos.
1) Make the duck face
2) Try to be sexy
3) Flash gang signs with your hat on sideways
4) Show us your chest / cleavage / tattoos / how much you enjoy fake orange Oompa Loompa spray tanning (it makes you look like a reject from Jersey Shore)
5) Pretend to chug tequila or smoke the Biggest Blunt Known to Man
6) Make the duck face while trying to be sexy, flashing gang signs with your hat on sideways, showing us your tattoos and pretending to chug tequila
7) Use a self-portrait shot on your phone, using the mirror in the bathroom (we can tell, and yes, Mirror in the Bathroom is a good tune from the GROSSE POINT BLANK soundtrack)
8) Go with extreme close-up (I see your pores!) or incredible longshot (that might be a person, or Bigfoot) or a weird angle (up your nose)
9) Use a shot with two / four / six different people and make us guess which one you might be
10) Wear sunglasses, hats and other accessories that make it impossible to tell if you’re a 12-year-old girl, a 35-year-old man or a wax dummy
Basically, don’t freak people out or make people guess who you are. And don’t try too hard.
Now, there are some variations that aren’t bad. Random photos and symbols are sometimes bad, but not always. If you’re a writer or editor, go ahead and use a photo of books as your profile shebang. Totally fine. Actors can use the Hollywood sign or the comedy and tragedy masks. WE TOTALLY GET THAT. But the weirder you get, the weirder your first impression will be.
Also: A huge STAR WARS geek can use Yoda as a profile photo. Just remember the first impression — even if you’re a 6-foot-tall redheaded supermodel — will be that you’re a short, 900-year-old frog-thing with wrinkled skin. It is not really a surprise, or remotely cool, for men to be use photos of THE MATRIX, lightsabers, Captain Kirk or Call of Duty 17: Blowing Up Stuff on Mars. Yet it is unexpected, and therefore kinda cool, for women to be into comic books, Spock, anime and all the things that would make you say “dorkahedron who lives in mom’s basement” if a man picked it for his profile shot. This is a paradox, and possibly unfair, but tough noogies. (My AP Stylebook is silent on the correct spelling of “noogies,” so by my reckoning, I’m establishing the correct spelling right here and now, for all time.)
Top 10 achy breaky big mistakes with your handle
This is more of a Twitter thing, though these 10 achy breaky big mistakeys also apply to what you pick as your email address, blog title — and any visible tattoo involving the alphabet rather than a drawing of Wolverine riding a My Little Pony.
1) Use a handle that nobody can pronounce, like “puqnI’loD,” the Klingon word for grandson (I looked that up at Klingon Language Institute, which actually exists, and this fact frightens me)
2) Throw in a bunch of slang numbers in your handle like “2legit2quit,” unless you are, in fact, MC Hammer
3) Use lots of random numbers, because who doesn’t want to be buddies with mike349829402?
4) Get your full first, middle, last name and favorite hobby in there, aka “lauraingridhasselbackLOVEShorses”
5) Use initials or whatever to nake it completely impossible to know whether you’re a man, woman or cyborg from the future sent to kill Sarah Connor (there is actual science here, and not just me spouting off, but that is a post for another day)
6) Be so obsessed with pimping your business / book / movie / album that your handle is simply the name of your business / book / movie / album, and once you move on to the next project, you’ll abandon that handle anyway
7) Put serious TMI into your handle, as in “singlemomthinksmenSTINK” or “stillunemployedyear3” or “livinginmomsbasementplayingcallofdutyallday”
8) Get all lovey dovey with a handle that’s a bunch of mushy nonsense about your husband / wife / kid / dog / cat / ferret / horse / capuchin monkey / boa constrictor, as in “debbie+fluffy4evah”
9) Appropriate the name of a celebrity, unless it’s to make fun of Snooki, Jonathan Franzen, Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump or any of the “Real Housewives of I Don’t Care” — and yes, you should follow @EmperorFranzen and @English50cent
10) Try to be funny with some kind of gag handle, a la Bart Simpson and “@ipfreeley”
Top 10 achy breaky mistakes with your bio
It’s hard to screw up when you only have 160-characters or whatever.
Despite this challenge, there are bazillions of bios out there which are assaults upon the English language and, left unchecked, will not only tear the very fabric of society, but will rip a hole in the space-time continuum, sending Jean-Claude Van Damme back in time to battle an ancient Schwarzenegger in TERMINATOR 9: NIGHTMARE AT THE NURSING HOME.
1) Try to give your life history, in chronological order, using Every Abbreviation Known to Man
2) Claim to be a pro photographer / Olympic gymnast / black belt in jujitsu / supermodel / billionaire CEO / secret agent / Indy 500 driver / actor / bodyguard / author / consultant — we might believe two of those, maybe three if we’re drunk, but not six or nine
3) Throw in a bunch of wacky symbols and graphics that nobody understands, or use numb3rs & txtspk 2 say what8vr u cld say uzn wrds
4) Share intimate details that nobody needs to know, like how many times you’ve been married and divorced, how many kids you have or the nicknames of your seven most favorite cats
5) Treat the Twitter, the Book of Face or any other social media shebang like it’s a dating website, telling us what kind of partner you prefer and how you enjoy slow dances, long walks on the beach and all that nonsense — and as a bonus, here is the worst bio page ever
6) Expect us to believe you live on nine different continents by listing your “location” as “London, Moscow, Tokyo, Kenya, NYC, Antarctica, LA and the International Space Station” (yes, somebody is going to comment with a link to Wikipedia proving there are only seven continents)
7) Get all cute with your location by saying, “in limbo” or “everywhere but nowhere” or “right behind you”
8) Turn it into a resume with where you went to college, a summary of skills and your career goals
9) Making it completely obscure by writing it in French when you are NOT FRENCH AT ALL, using a Gertrude Stein poem instead of a bio, wussing out by using a quote from a famous person — or Capitalizing Every Word Of The Entire Bio While Not Understanding That People Actually Want To Be Able To Read The Stupid Thing Without Getting A Migraine
10) Trying to be shocking by saying insanely offensive things / packing all seven of the FCC’s seven dirty works in there / working very hard to make your profile form an obscene gesture using ASCII art nonsense
In the future
Will I do the same sort of post for the Book of Face? Nope. Sorry. I do this for fun, and for free, and the Book of Face bores me now.
What if some billionaire obsessed with social media sent his people in black SUVs to deliver suitcases stuffed with purple euros? Still a no. The Book of Face just seems clunky, complicated and old to me. Also, the stock may become worthless.
Pinterest, however, is different and new and exciting. Just joined it, and am playing around. I will try evil experiments and report back.
Also in the future: There will be robots that mow your lawn and sexy flying cars. Just wait. Are you done waiting? Here you go. If Daniel Craig doesn’t already have one of these, he’ll steal one this weekend.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.