How to read a tweet

Tweet translation for non-Twitter users –and some tips for Twitter newbies.

OK, this is a humor blog, so why do I have a page about reading tweets? Beats me, it just seemed like the right thing to do. See, every once in awhile I post some of my favorite tweets. It turns out that some of my readers have lives and therefore don’t use Twitter, and it occurred to me that if you don’t actually use Twitter, then this stuff just looks like gibberish. Well, the first thing you need to know is that most of it is gibberish. But don’t let that stop you from reading it.

When you’re done, have a look around I’ve Become My Parents. I promise you won’t learn anything else.

So here’s a quick guide to reading tweets:

  1. You only get 140 characters, including spaces.  So if you’re the kind of person who goes ballistic over poor grammar and bad spelling, slang and general sloppiness, go read a book; Twitter isn’t for you.
  2. Everyone has a Twitter name.  Mine is IBecameMyDad (ITweet4Cash was taken)
  3. Twitter’s cool because people who sign on to read your tweets are called followers.  So I have followers.  I’ve not yet tested to see exactly how far they’ll follow me.  But it’s not like a Jonestown kind of thing, so probably not far. On the other hand, they probably could have picked a better name; I am getting a bit of a Jesus complex.
  4. Everyone could, in theory, see whatever you tweet, but they don’t because there are pretty much only 5 ways to see a particular person’s tweet: you are following them; they include your Twitter name in the tweet; someone you are following re-tweeted the tweet; you do a search for their name or a word they happen to have used in a tweet; or you are following a hashtag.
  5. Right, now you want to know what a hashtag is.  See all the words below that start with the # symbol?  Those are hashtags.  If you want to label your tweet with a subject, say, #thingsthatsmellworsethanateenager, you stick the # in front of it. Then anybody else that that wants to talk about that can follow it and they’ll see your tweets even if they aren’t following you. They show up a different color because you can click on a hashtag and all the tweets that include it will show up. I follow the hashtag #idiot just because I’m paranoid and like to know what people are saying about me. People also sometimes use hashtags #Justtohighlightsomething. Like that.
  6. You’re going to see the @ symbol a lot. The way to get a specific person’s attention is to use their Twitter name with the @ symbol in front of it.  Maybe you’re replying to something they said or just want to tell them you think their profile picture is hot.  They’ll see it even if they aren’t following you. So when a tweet contains @ followed by a Twitter name, it means that it was directed to that person.
  7. If you start a tweet with “@”, the only person who sees it is the one whose name follows the @. That lets you respond to someone’s tweet without boring all your followers with exciting tweets like: “@bob6137264 Yes”. If you want the rest of Twitterville to see your response, you need to stick a character in front of “@”. Most people use a period. People can go ahead and eves drop on the conversation without feeling creepy. It doesn’t mean you’re not a creep, just that it’s OK to be a creep on Twitter.
  8. You’ll also see RT or MT a lot.  If you like something someone else said you can re-tweet it to all of your followers.  RT means someone else wrote it and you are passing it along (the name of the person usually follows the RT).  MT means modified tweet and if you need to shorten the original or make other changes, you can use that to come clean about it. These days, a lot of retweets are just in quotes and don’t use the “RT” in front.

So here’s a typical tweet:
I’m content here in my prison of denial and ignorance, thank you. RT @sassypiehole @IbecameMyDad the truth shall set you free. 😉 #truth

Now let’s decipher it:

Someone named Sassypiehole sent a tweet directed to me saying “the truth shall set you free (that was this part: @IbecameMyDad the truth shall set you free). Then I re-tweeted her tweet (RT @sassypiehole followed by her original tweet) and added the statement, “I’m content here in my prison of denial and ignorance, thank you.” The hashtag was added so that anyone following “truth” would see this tweet. Get it?

If you do decide to actually get your own Twitter account, here are a few things to note:

  • Yes, of course all the profile pictures are the actual person doing the tweeting. Except the cute kitty pictures; the cat is tweeting on their owner’s behalf.
  • The better looking/less dressed the girl in the picture, the more likely it’s spam. Fantasize all you want but you’re never getting a date.
  • If the profile picture includes the person’s hand supporting their chin or holding their glasses, then you’re being followed by an “expert.” They probably like to tweet all about how you can get rich using a very professional profile picture and by following everybody on the planet hoping they’ll follow you back so eventually they’ll buy your book on how to get rich following people on Twitter. If you don’t follow them back within a few days, they usually go away.
  • As a general rule, if a person has to call him or herself an “expert” in their Twitter profile, they probably aren’t one.
  • Nobody actually laughs out loud; it’s just an expression. Sorry.
  • There are 7 billion people on the planet so no doubt someone will be interested in whether your bagel was stale at breakfast. But, really, do you want to hang around with people who sit at their computer all day waiting to hear about what you ate at breakfast? Tweet about something interesting and interesting people will follow you.
  • You can’t actually say you know Barack Obama just because you responded to one of his tweets.

There’s a bunch more to using Twitter, but those are the basics.  I post my favorite funny tweets on the blog from time to time.  You can find them in the archives. Now go read some gibberish.


40 Responses “How to read a tweet” →
  1. Always fun to learn about twitter even though I knew what it was already…. Im going to follow you today 🙂

    • Cool, thanks for the follow. I do appreciate it!


      • Anthony Attkisson

        November 4, 2017

        I just started Tweeting…Face Book was easier to use, but I’m tired of the Face Book Nazi Police interfering with my First Amendment Rights so I cancelled the account. Your Tweeting Info helped me use it Twitter more effectively AND efficiently…thank you.

  2. Way too complicated! At my age, my brain is already in overload, and I’m going to be selective about what else I try to jam into it. But thanks for the clarification. Keep the posts coming on your blog…they brighten up our days!

    • I just saw your comment for some reason so I’m a bit late on the response, but thanks for such a nice comment! Twitter quickly uses up the 90% of the brain we weren’t using, then eats away at the rest.

  3. Wow, that is the closest I have come to sort of getting tweeting and twitter (they are related, right). I don’t think I’m going to go there just yet (unless you decide to do a more in depth blog on the topic – I need an idiot’s guide), but thanks so much.

  4. Who invented this stuff? How did the second person know they were being RT’d or MT’d and it wasnt just a hash up? And you reckon your son lives in an alternative reality??
    I think the tweets around my bird feeder are easier to decipher. But thanks for the heads up, you do it brilliantly.

    • Thanks Ian! Honestly, I have no idea who comes up with this stuff but I’m pretty sure they have far more free time than us and wanted to make sure we have even less.

  5. This was a great read. There’s something to writing in 140 characters or less, even though most of my posts are about 500 words. Unintentional hint taken, thanks!

  6. Que va, es la difícil tarea de informar sobre los acontecimientos diarios en 140 caracteres.¿Que dolor de cabeza? se nos en crispa hasta los chicharrones.

  7. i dropped into your bit bc i googled “tweets look like gibberish,” which was actually my backdoor way of inquiring what the hell does the stuff mean, but i knew i wouldn’t find any answers googling that. a straightforward question only gets answers to the extent of stuff I’ve already figured out, never any answers to questions i can’t already answer for myself. so when i saw that indeed, you have become your dad, as i have become my mom, i knew immediately you could define the symbols and abbreviations for me. they don’t really seem to have any concrete context, so i haven’t been able to just figgie out. i really wanna resist the whole twitter thing bc it does appear to be a bad spelling and attention deficit disorder fest, but hey, so half-thoughts and pared down grammar are the new literacy. i don’t make the rules, i just try to keep up.


  8. Norman Tauber

    February 9, 2012

    Thanks for ‘splainin it so briefly an to the point. Was wondering what that # followed by a word, now I know it’s a hashtag. Fantastic. And I love the line “That doesn’t mean you aren’t a creep, just that it’s OK to be a creep on Twitter.” LOL

  9. Love it! Plus, it is PG enough to use in my classroom.

  10. People commenting on the Olympics keep asking for questions via Twitter. I set up an account, but I can’t send my questions cos the BBC don’t follow me (well, why would they?!) But how come others are getting their questions read out and answered?

    • You need to start your tweets with @BBC, or whatever twitter name they use: @TwitterName. That’s how you send a tweet to someone that isn’t following you. Sorry for the very late reply. Somehow missed your comment 😦


  11. Markie Mooswe

    October 21, 2012

    Great article on tweeting. Well written.

  12. Simply, now following you and thanks.

  13. Thanks for explaining this – really had trouble reading tweets that people had posted in forums. Much clearer now. Next step for me to understand is “why do people find it necessary to tweet so much rubbish, and why are others so fascinated by it? Perhaps I’ve missed the point of it.”

  14. Wow, thank you! I have 2 questions:
    1. You replied to Sassypiehole, “I’m content here in my prison of denial and ignorance, thank you.” Do people sometimes write the reply at the bottom (at the end) of the tweet? Or do you always begin the reply with your contribution?

    2. Unless one is a narcissist or are starved for attention, why would you want to invite others outside of your follower to contribute to the discussion with the #truth thing? I can understand, “Great game tonight! #ClevelandIndians, cause maybe I would want to tweet with others about the game, but I don’t understand it with “truth.”

    • Re: question 1, people do sometimes put their response at the end, but it’s definitely more common to lead with it.

      Re: question 2, keep in mind that most of us on Twitter are narcissists and starved for attention. Regardless of that, I think the #truth hashtag was more a stylistic thing than an invitation to others to participate in the conversation in this case. There are some common hashtags like that. #winning Is one of those.

  15. I appreciate the tips – they were helpful.

  16. Lol – really! I wasn’t going to leave a comment, but your ending statement got me. Still LOL.
    I simply wanted to be sure I was resending an interesting tweet properly so I asked “how to…” online and found this site. Funny thing is, I normally just go to pertinent info and move on. But I obviously read everything right to “hey wait…” Quite enjoyed the read and the info. Thank you! (From one of those people whose cat tweets behalf of its owner 🙂

  17. Thanks, I don’t think I’ll involve myself in that world. However, I love the idea of your blog, so I’ll follow you here.


  18. michael Garabaldi

    May 15, 2014

    I thought twitter was for twits …


  19. subhash arora

    July 17, 2014

    Is it not possible to learn by graphic…..


  20. Rawr! This ‘twitter’ you speak of sounds despicable. Utterly despicable. What is this ‘twitter?’

  21. I still don’t know how to decipher a tweet

  22. At the end of several tweets I see …
    How do I read the whole tweet?

  23. Yay! Thanks. Been trying to figure out Twitter for a long time ~boggling~ but you’ve cleared up a bit. I’m 61 years old, so yes the old need to learn….I’m gonna follow you today!


  24. Queenbeblack

    July 30, 2017

    Appreciated the coaching as I’m such a newbie..

  25. I often like to follow certain people’s twitter feed but isread it prompts me to reply to tweet but I don’t want to write anything . I want to read what others have said ….. what do I need to do?

  26. Some people I follow I press the little bubble to read others tweets and it will just allow me to reply???

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