The XX Factor

How Not To Conduct a Twitter Fight

At least make fun of his pants

Photograph by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

By the end of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, many of us start to feel cooped up and bored, no longer even able to enjoy looking at low, low prices blaring out from every store website. It makes very good sense to relieve that boredom by getting into an old-fashioned Twitter slapfight, which is exactly what Chris Brown and comedy writer Jenny Johnson did on Sunday. Under the right circumstances, this could have been highly entertaining for the stir-crazy masses, particularly those of us who spent the holiday wearily trying yet again to explain Twitter to our elders. Sadly, Brown and Johnson, perhaps tired from overeating, really failed to bring their A games to the TweetDeck. Here’s what we can all learn from their battle—what they did right and what they did wrong—and hopefully save Christmas. Observe: Johnson’s opening shot in the battle shows promise. She saw an excellent opportunity to use Brown’s own words against him, and took it. Feigning a “we’re all friends here!” tone up top adds a little something special. People who were tuning in had every reason to believe that this could only get better from here. Brown makes a rookie mistake right away in his reply. Never retweet someone’s insult at you unless you can top it. Never. It just makes you look less witty in comparison. Trust your audience to be able to click the link and see what you’re replying to, if they’re curious. Brown’s effort at a rejoinder may have been a C-, but that’s no excuse for Johnson’s slacking off here. Picking on someone’s spelling is the cheapest form of insult. Doing it when the word in question is slang is even lamer; can one really say there’s a canonical spelling for “ho”? (If anything, Brown’s mistake was dropping the apostrophe. If you’re using the “e”, you really should spell it “ho’e.”)
Vivid imagery, plus fart jokes are always way funnier than spelling corrections. Brown wins this round, hands down. Still, points deducted for saying both “seize the day” and “carpe diem.” Explaining a joke ruins it, Chris.
Never, ever clutch your pearls in response to a crude tweet. It just makes you look like you’re not ready for the big leagues of Twitter warfare. Also, if you’re going to bring up someone’s mother, the proper way to do it is to say, “Well, your mom loved it when I did it to her last weekend.” The battle continued to devolve after this, with Brown reduced to sputtering and Johnson completely giving up on being funny, instead linking to an article about Brown’s abuse of Rihanna. As she notes later on Twitter, he doesn’t seem to feel any remorse or embarrassment about beating up his girlfriend, however, so it’s unclear what that was supposed to accomplish. Johnson did eke out something of a victory at the end, when Brown pulled the ultimate move of the Internet coward, deleting his Twitter account, possibly on the advice of his publicist. Still, the entire situation should serve as a reminder to us all that Twitter warfare is only as good as the insults you dish out. You’re not changing anyone’s mind, so the least you can do is make your audience laugh.