Today, I wanted to post a simple tweet of five words that I had been thinking all day:
I wonder if she knows?
But as my thumb hovered over the ‘tweet’ button, something came to mind that I had never really considered before. The thought that this tweet could mean so many things to so many people.
I realise that this is probably obvious to most internet users (and I’ve always been careful to say exactly what I mean online, so that it cannot be taken in an unintended negative way etc.) however, I’m not sure that we always think before we hit send.
In this blog post, I will go through some of the possible ways this tweet could be read, and then I will reveal my actual thoughts, in an attempt to both explain why the tweet never made it online, and how this thought process could be very important to the world of public relations and business in general.
Each of these examples are taken from real people that I know and/or have encountered in the past few weeks – therefore, each of these meanings could actually have occurred. Some are positive, some are negative, and only one was intended at the time of writing the tweet.
- The Anxious
As an anxious person myself, I have come to realise that this tweet could have done some serious damage to anyone with mental health issues that follows my personal Twitter account.
The vagueness of the sentiment could easily trigger questions of ‘what if she means me?’ and further questions such as ‘what don’t I know?’.
If I had read this from a friend’s account, I would (as narcissistic as it sounds) automatically assume I’d done something wrong. Assuming this, or something similar, was the intention: I wonder if she knows I hate her? Therefore, to those who worry about such things, and to friends of my own, please know that this article is nothing to do with you – you’re doing just fine!
- The Girlfriend
Recently, I have been informed that someone I know has been cheating on their partner. I wonder if she knows could quite easily be construed as I wonder if she knows he’s been cheating? But that is not how it was intended.
This misunderstanding, if it had occurred, could have caused all kinds of personal conflict for me and the people involved. It could have led to the exposure of the culprit and caused more pain for the victim. It could have fractured relationships further if it had become a thing of gossip, or it could have been misread and internalised by any number of those involved, causing emotional harm.
And again, none of this was intended.
- The Crush
Thirdly, and more positively, I realised that I have never shared my sexuality on this platform (and I don’t intend to) but it could also have been construed as I wonder if she knows I like her?
As a hopeless romantic, this option occurred to me in the process of wondering how I would read it from someone else’s account. I like to assume the happier meanings behind vague tweets and posts, but I know that I am among the very few with this mindset – so many people online these days like to see the negatives, that perhaps this crush viewpoint is more wishful thinking than reality.
Of course, despite the cuteness that would be involved here, this was not the intention.
- The Friend
As I think to the people I care about, I can’t help but wonder how they would read the tweet. They have personal insight into my world, and know more about me than anyone! So, I wonder how they would react?
I hope that they would simply ask me about it, if they cared at all, but so many possibilities could cause issues. One example being; I wonder if she knows about the surprise I’m planning?
Can you imagine if a friend read this, and got excited about a secret I was planning for them? A secret that never existed, a surprise she would never receive? I have friends with birthdays coming up, and the last thing I would want to do is raise expectations through vague tweets only the dash them when I explain it to be about something else.
Better get those back-up plans ready!
- The Inspiration
This possibility is a nice one, and not so far from the intended truth. Had I posted the tweet, I hope that this would have been taken away by the people that have inspired me – I wonder if she knows how much she means to me?
I follow several people that have inspired me over the years, and I’m fortunate in the fact that a few of those people have followed me back. I hope that those that have inspired me are aware of that fact, and that this tweet would have been received well in this way.
However, it would work much better if it were very specific in giving praise and acknowledging inspirations. This widens networks and strengthens existing bonds in a way that nothing else can.
- The Truth
And finally, we come to the real meaning intended by the tweet. The idea occurred to me as I contemplated the women in my life for International Women’s Day, 2019.
Indeed, I thought of those that have inspired me. And I thought of my female friends, both present and past. I thought of influencers and life changers, and I thought of one person that was all of those things.
Like many others, I have been inspired and influenced by, become best friends with, and have always loved my mother.
The tweet was an abbreviated version of the following things;
I wonder if she knows I love her?
I wonder if she knows how much she’s done for me?
How much she’s influenced me?
How often she changes my life for the better?
And then I cried. And I’m crying as I write this. As I typed the tweet, with pools of tears in my eyes, I realised all of the above in a single epiphany moment. I also realised that the one person I did want to read that line wasn’t even on Twitter. She has built a world of her own that involves no social media, so it would be a pointless gesture even if all of the above didn’t matter.
The tweet would have been a shout into the void of social media that could have caused problems, but solved none. It’s a simple sentence, that I would have been happy to explain to anyone that asked. It was a nice, interesting sounding snippet of what I was thinking, but it could have been so much more. I’m so glad that I caught myself before I sent this out into the world, for different people to read different things into it.
So here I am, explaining that simple thought and wishing that things were simpler. No double meanings, no vagueness to be misinterpreted.
And though it feels less significant to me in this moment, all of the same things can be said in the world of PR – something that may seem innocent or harmless in the mind of the writer can so easily be turned into something much more by the reader. We each have to consider what we say online, and how we say it, because we cannot share our facial expressions and vocal inflections through written tweets and status updates.
For example, if an influencer were to tweet something this vague, their audience could read anything they wished into it. They could expect a confession of love from a vlogger, a new song from a musician, the exposure of a scandal from a reality star, amongst other possibilities. From a company perspective, expectations could arise from a tweet this vague, or speculation into things that are entirely irrelevant to the intended meaning. Hidden or missing meanings can be assigned to even the most basic posts, so we must watch ourselves in this world of speculation.
I guess there are two points to this blog – one being be careful about being vague online, being ambiguous can be a wonderful tool if used correctly, but could be a minefield if unintended or done badly. And two, find a way to tell your mother you love her… even if you have to write a silly PR blog post and ask her to proofread it for you!