With Twitter Lists Come Great Responsibilities

Ug. Lists. Sometimes I feel like they control my life. To-do lists, both at work and at home. Lists of groceries to stock up on, books to read, songs to download. And as the holidays approach, so does the annual list of presents to buy.

My relationship with the list is one of love-hate, to say the least.

Just as lists can keep us organized and to the task at hand, lists can also keep us captive to their rigid boundaries and lack of mercy. Even more disturbing, lists can actually hurt others.

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The other day Christopher Hart shared his concerns with me. He’d seen a large number of Twitter Lists suddenly crop up as the microblogging site rolled out the feature to a greater number of users. The lists he’d seen so far had ranged from playful to helpful and were clearly being used as an organizational tool.

But oh, what if?! It wasn’t long before Chris got to thinking of all the ways Twitter Lists could be abused. After all, history has proved it’s only a matter of time before shady abuses are dreamed up for all new technologies.

And that’s when it hit him: With lists come great responsibilities.

As Chris mentioned to me, think of the lists throughout history that have caused pain and suffering to those included. Just a small sampling:


Okay, as much as I’d like to joke about the situation and just laugh it off, Chris’s concern is a real one.

I’m a bit late to the debate as many bloggers, including Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble, have shared their initial thoughts. (For a great round-up of articles and posts on Lists as well as an intriguing argument about how Twitter Lists is proof that social media misunderstands itself, I recommend Justin Kownacki’s post on the subject.) But I haven’t seen much attention given to the reputation management aspect of Twitter Lists.

It’s only a matter of time until companies like Ripoff Report start creating their lists. And it’s likely that those are lists you and your company don’t want to be on. [It’s a little like Facebook groups but instead of people joining groups they agree with, you’re just labeled whether you want to be or not. –Susan] *Shudders* –Virginia

We can hope that Twitter will be quick to put protections into place. But as we know, spammers and scammers and those with a bone to pick are a rather determined bunch.

Then again, maybe there’s someone who stands to benefit from list abuse. Anyone think I should take bets on how many less-than-favorable lists everyone’s favorite cable provider gets itself on by month’s end?

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
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5 Replies to “With Twitter Lists Come Great Responsibilities”

Virginia Nussey

Hi Robert. There are some helpful resources available to Twitter users who want to create and take advantage of the recently launched Lists feature. Check out 4 Ways News Organizations are Using Twitter Lists for a good place to start on how to capitalize on the opportunities presented by lists. Hope that helps!

I think twitter lists have become more popular these days. Everybody are discussing about them. I am totally confused whether to use this lists or not to use. Please can anybody help me out?

Agree with Brett – Block people if they’re putting you on unsavory lists. If people are being jerks to you, they should be blocked anyway.

I’m not particularly impressed with the lists feature. I don’t know why anyone would really care who I deem the Top X or the Best Y. Create your own benchmark. And I’m careful enough with who I follow that I don’t need a list to help me break through the noise and find value in the friends I’ve selected.

I’m grumpy today.

Seems there is a simple way to avoid being added to lists, simply block the twitter user that created the list :)

Glad you wrote this, Virginia. I, too, have a love/hate relationship with lists. I’ve yet to create a Twitter list, mostly due to it not being at the top of the daily task list! :-)

Just as I read your post, I saw someone post the following tweet…

“Wow! A side benefit of setting up Twitter lists is all the people I am now Un-following cause they contribute nothing to my daily life.”

hmmm… is this another downside? But for the organization-aholic, Twitter lists offer an opportunity for another addiction!


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