Is it rude to mention someone on a volatile Twitter hashtag?

Take your finger off the “at” sign, and slowly back away …
Take your finger off the “at” sign, and slowly back away …
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How do you find yourself in the midst of a Great Twitter War? Maybe it's with your real life friends, online pals or ... Suppose you're a really famous celebrity, and the Twitter war is with your fans or people just following you for fun. Let's say you're Anne Hathaway in this scenario and someone tweeted at you with a controversial opinion: "Jane Austen sucks and Philip K. Dick is the greatest #AustenVsPKD."

You tweet back something about how you loved playing Jane Austen in "Becoming Jane" and that Philip K. Dick never really did it for you. Suddenly there's a Twitter war between Jane Austen fanatics and Philip K. Dick zealots. When you also mention that your friend Emma Thompson (who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for "Sense and Sensibility") would be horrified by anyone disparaging Austen, you've suddenly put yourself in the gray zone of Internet interaction. You brought a perfectly innocent person into the social media frenzy.


Now before I get dragged into my own online war, some disclaimers: Anne Hathaway hasn't expressed an opinion about Phillip K. Dick as far as I know, Emma Thompson doesn't even have a Twitter account and nobody in his right mind would find a reason to pit Philip K. Dick and Jane Austen against each other in a celebrity death match. They can happily co-exist. But using your imagination is fun, right?

Most importantly, the point remains: Is it entirely appropriate to mention someone on a hashtag that's grown a little (or a lot) controversial? Well, first, you should know that @mentions aren't even cool anymore, according to some in the know [source: Baker]. On the other side of the coin, some people are adamant that you should go so far as to thank those that mention you on Twitter, which is probably really burdensome etiquette if you're a celebrity like Anne Hathaway or Emma Thompson [source: Spencer].

The most reasonable solution seems to be kindness. Are you trying to pull someone into a conversation for reasons that are selfish? Inflammatory? Pointless? Then yes, it's rude to bring someone else into it. If you think it's a decent argument and that someone else has a genuine interest in adding to it, mention away. Perhaps the most useful tip is that you shouldn't go starting arbitrary Twitter wars. Miss Austen would never approve.

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  • Baker, Mills. "Hashtags and @Mentions: What's In And What's Out On Twitter." Forbes. Feb. 24, 2015. (March 4, 2015)
  • Spencer, Laura. "Ten Rude Twitter Habits to Break Today." Freelance Folder. July 27, 2011. (March 4, 2015)