Understanding Twitter and visibility
I’ve heard the same question about a billion times… Often from the same people time and time again. “Who can see what I post on Twitter? Now what about replies? And what about direct messages?”
Well, maybe the reason I hear it so much is because people are afraid that they’re going to say something stupid or offend somebody in a very public manner. Perhaps it is asked so much because it actually is more confusing than you may think.
The difference between “visible” and “accessible”
Let me start by saying there is a difference between something being visible and obvious, versus being accessible, if not still somewhat hidden, to someone.
Twitter essentially gives people their “Timeline.” A timeline contains the tweets of those you follow, assuming it isn’t a reply. However, it will also show up on your timeline if you also follow the person it is a reply to… Confusing already, right? How about a real life scenario…
Let’s say we have four Twitter accounts. Eric, Devon, Alyssa and Kathy.
Eric follows Devon, Kathy and Alyssa all.
Devon only follows Eric.
Kathy follows Eric and Alyssa, but not Devon.
Alyssa follows Kathy and Eric, but not Devon. Apparently Devon needs to step up his Twitter game!
Eric tweets “Hello world” – Everyone sees it in their timeline since they follow him.
Alyssa tweets “Hello Eric” — Eric sees it in his timeline, Kathy sees it in her timeline, Devon does not, as he does not follow Alyssa.
Eric replies to this tweet saying “@Alyssa Hello!” — Again, Devon does not see this on his timeline as he only follows Eric, not Alyssa.
Now, this is where it gets a bit confusing. Eric has responded to Alyssa, Kathy is mentioned nowhere in this tweet, yet Kathy sees this on her timeline. The reason for this is that Kathy follows both Eric and Alyssa, the two people involved in this conversation.
So that is how timelines work, the timeline being generally what users look at.
Just because it isn’t right in front of you, doesn’t mean it is completely hidden
Now, data is visible to others. After all, this is a social network. So when Eric replied to Alyssa above, Devon could go see it by visiting Eric’s Twitter page, or viewing his profile timeline directly, which many Twitter clients allow you to do.
Looking for a piece of advice? Don’t say something offensive on Twitter, even if it is in a reply.
There is one more way to communicate on Twitter and that is using direct messages, or DMs. A DM will only be seen by yourself, and the person you send it to. It is simply a 1-to-1 conversation that is hidden from others. Think of it somewhat like a text message. You send it to one person, they see it, they respond and you receive that.
Hopefully this helps clear some things up! If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.
Welcome to the site. I’m not entirely sure what this will turn into. I just thought it’d be nice to have a place to put things. I’m asked some questions a LOT, so I may as well write some of it out.
I am also looking forward to writing more about designing, developing and testing apps.
Sometimes putting things in words just helps them make more sense, and in a world that makes little sense, couldn’t we all use that?