There’s a certain freedom that comes with sharing your opinion online, sitting in front of your computer, protected by the warm embrace of anonymity. It also means scant repercussions from publicly disparaging other people — that is, until the person whom you’re deriding is made aware by an interloper who tags them.
This phenomenon is known as “snitch-tagging,” and it exists for no other reason other than to stir the pot, like a playground tattletale roaming the hellscape of social media with the sole intention of throwing kindling on the fire.
If you’ve ever been this person, know that you can do better. It’s possible to curb the impulse to snitch tag, if for no other reason than to leave the waters placid, and to realise that it’s more productive to add your own voice to a topic instead of lazily poking the hornet’s nest.
The fortunate among us don’t use Twitter at all, which undoubtedly bodes well for their peace of mind. But it also means they’re missing out on a major front in the modern culture war. And if you aren’t one of those compelled to dive repeatedly into the service’s vortex of...Read more
What is snitch tagging?
To those blissfully unfamiliar with Twitter, snitch tagging has a simple, yet maddening definition, laid out here in 2018 by @therealhorse:
Seeing a tweet about someone and then tagging them into your reply so they see it.
If the original tweeter wanted to pull that person into the conversation, they would have tagged them themselves.
Snitch-tagging is un-good. pic.twitter.com/SFxD25PZmk
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@TheRealHoarse) August 23, 2018
It’s become a faux-pax that earns zero respect or friends, because it’s largely seen as an act of cowardice. Sometimes, however, it can take on a more innocent form, when an unaware tweeter oversteps the boundary.
Here’s an example, courtesy of The Daily Dot:
DO NOT SNITCHTAG, COME THE FUCK ON
— Jessica Ellis (@baddestmamajama) June 22, 2019
When it comes to the example above, a writer wanted to keep her tweets about Captain Marvel’s soundtrack away from the film’s composers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Does a film composer need to know when anyone online has a lukewarm opinion about their work? The answer is definitely not, which is why the writer, Jessica Ellis, acted a bit incredulously when some faceless account shot in from the fringes and tagged the composer, Pinar Toprak, for no practical reason.
Why is snitch tagging bad?
Whether unwittingly or intentionally, you are fanning the flames of an already volatile and annoyingly repetitive website. Twitter in particular thrives on opprobrium and conflict, which fans out into the broader media ecosystem and even seeps into mainstream political issues. However, there are users — whether they’re writers, intellectuals, entertainment personalities, or just humble keyboard warriors — who aren’t looking for a public sparring match. Nor is it even useful for every mild rebuke or critical take to merit a response that could potentially become a toxic pile-on.
Social media is a limited medium for advancing meaningful dialogue, anyway. If you want to disagree with someone’s take about a celebrity, or even direct a public figure to an avalanche of tweets or comments mercilessly skewering them, there are classier ways to do it.
Instead of snitch-tagging, write your own post
Social media is an echo-chamber, which means everyone gets to fire their thoughts off into the void in pursuit of ever-fleeting validation and attention. So use it to your advantage. If you see a tweet maligning someone and you have an opinion, express it in your own post, using your own voice. And if you can’t placate the nagging desire to let a certain person know, tag them in your post.
This isn’t a complicated workaround, but employing it in your day-to-day social media etiquette could do everyone a small favour, just by depriving it of some of the vitriol it uses as daily fuel. What’s more, some celebrities and public figures have been known to interact with their fans on Twitter, so you could potentially earn a cool and memorable interaction by simply breaking the website’s toxic cycle.