If you’re an avid Twitter user, this has happened to you at least once.
You get a Direct Message, or DM in Twitter parlance, from someone. You try to send a DM back, but you can’t. Twitter won’t let you.
After hitting send three or four times, you realise that the person who DM’d you doesn’t follow you.
Ouch — How embarrassing.
You have to lamely tweet at the person in public asking them to follow you back so you can reply to the DM. There is literally nothing more emasculating in the world. Or, in social media world, at any rate.
Well, Twitter is about to save you from that embarrassment, but at the same time, risk making itself much worse.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, a DM is a private message that isn’t shown on the public Twitter timeline. A DM can only be sent to someone that is following you. So, if I follow Barack Obama, he can DM me. However, because Obama doesn’t follow me, I cannot DM him.
This DM convention protects people from unwanted messages. If I’m following Obama, presumably I’m interested in what he’s saying publicly, so I would also love to hear from him privately.
Twitter is testing a new system where I would be able to DM Obama regardless of whether or not he’s following me. This would allow users to send more messages to more people.
It’s unclear why this is a good thing. Facebook has been trying to cut down on unsolicited private messages by charging users $US1 to send messages to strangers. Twitter seems to want to encourage this behaviour.
As a user, you’ll have an option to turn on or off the unwanted DMs, but you’ll have to dig it out of the settings.
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