Defending a twit’s table manners

A word on the important matter of Twitter etiquette. Of course, Twitter itself is full of its own little rules and norms. But now it seems that there is a need for social norms to develop so that we know when it is acceptable to update Twitter.

I find myself once again on the side of Patrick Harvie. I spotted in The Scotsman on Friday that the co-convener of the Greens found himself in a bit of hot water for using Twitter while hob-nobbing with Gordon Brown and other politicians.

Tavish Scott bemoaned the poor manners of it. But a spokesperson for Jim Murphy (himself an occasional Twitter user was a bit more light-hearted, noting that it is normal for Greens to like birds, so it’s not unusual for Patrick Harvie to be tweeting.

Although The Scotsman article itself is not too scathing, immediately underneath was a comment piece by a curmudgeonly “etiquette guru” who says dislikes “antisocial BlackBerry use” because “it really is the worst sort of behaviour”. I don’t know about you, but I think someone takes it upon themselves to go around the place telling other people to behave is actually incredibly rude.

Richard Havers calls him a twit. But Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting doesn’t see the problem, and I have to agree. I wonder if there is a generational divide here. I can well understand why people might find it disconcerting for someone to occasionally prod on a gadget while at a social function.

But these devices are our umbilical cord to the world. Why be holed up in a room when you can be communicating with the world? I think people my age have a tacit understanding about the acceptable use of mobile phones in a social situation.

While I would certainly feel offended were it to happen during a one-to-one meeting, it is in the nature of discussions with larger numbers of people for everyone to find themselves not taking part in a conversation at some point or another. I would particularly be tempted if the conversation centred around that turgid game known as football, as Patrick Harvie found. It is not as though he was constantly plugged into Twitter. He only fired off seven tweets over the course of about three hours.

If you are not engaged in conversation, there is no harm in getting your mobile out. Everyone does it in larger gatherings, and from time to time I have even seen instances where almost everyone in the group is doing something on their mobile. It might seem odd, but it is not a demonstration of antisocial behaviour.

It is silly to call using Twitter antisocial. I never got this nation that using modern communication technologies is antisocial. In fact, it is the complete opposite. So Patrick Harvie decided to take a bit of time out from communicating with eight other people. But by posting to Twitter, he began communicating with his 100-odd followers. So which is more antisocial — ignoring the eight or ignoring the 100?

I also like Patrick Harvie’s point that it is those other 100+ people who are the important ones. If nothing else, the politician’s use of Twitter is a good demonstration of a desire to engage people in the political process, even if his contributions on the night were not always very serious.


  1. Generational divide! Boll**ks 🙂

    It’s not good manners to be sitting at dinner with people and to be fiddling with your mobile. Whether it be texting or twittering. This was not a large gathering, it was 9 I think…and frankly whatever your politics to be sitting with teh PM, the FM et al is not something that happens every day. From Harvie’s other twitterings he shows himself to be a tad suspect.

    If it is generational….I’m bloody glad I’m old!


  2. Thanks for the comment Richard.

    I think 9 is certainly a large enough gathering for me. Personally, I’d say that 4 is large enough. As for dining with the FM and the PM, I’m quite glad that Patrick Harvie isn’t too deferential to modify his behaviour. 🙂

  3. I was not suggesting he should be deferential, just well mannered! As you said before it’s a sign of the changing times. Do you open doors for ladies? Walk on the outside of a female? Get up on a train or bus for an elderly person?

    Manners are an interesting topic and from his other twitterings it seems that Harvie is keen to show us he’s a lad.

  4. In the old days on Teviot Committee, if you were caught with your mobile phone out at a committee dinner, you were duly punished – that was a dinner with 30 or 40 folk at it…

    If it was a formal dinner, he should have shown some respect. If it was a wee dinner with friends, he should have shown some respect!

    7 tweets in 3 hours – surely he could have left the damn thing alone for 3 hours?