Saturday, July 09, 2011

Breach of twetiquette?

I am a regular user of Twitter. I like its simplicity and lack of intrusion. I like the fact that don't have to provide any personal details if I so wish, not even my real name or a photograph. And I like the fact that it isn't covered in advertisements and doesn't hound me to join causes or lob sheep at people. I use Twitter most days in preference to mobile phone texting or email because it's quick, concise and, perhaps most importantly, free. It has a conversational interface that sits very well with the way I like to interract with people.

I currently have around 2000 followers and am genuinely flattered, if bemused, that so many people would have even a vague interest in what I have to say. And when I joined Twitter I was told that it is Twitter etiquette to follow those that follow you (and that will get you more followers too). So, until yesterday I was following around 2000 people. However, following all those who follow you may be fine when you have under 150 followers (that's Dunbar's Number - the number of people we can have a meaningful relationship with at any one time), but anything over that starts to make the system almost unusable. I've now had to set my phone to only alert me to Tweets that mention my name and Direct Messages (DMs) because my 2000 strong Twitter stream is so busy with 2000 people's tweets that I can't follow it. And that means that I miss a lot of the stuff being posted by my friends and colleagues. As the result, Twitter has lost some of its usefulness to me.

And so, yesterday, I did something brave. I unfollowed 1200 people. I know, I know. What a bastard. But hear me out ...

I didn't do it all in one hit. My first trawl took out all of the bots and business and marketing followers. My second trawl took out anyone who hadn't used Twitter for a couple of months or more. My third trawl took out any celebrities that never bother to interract with Tweeters. Then in my final trawl - and this was the difficult one - I removed people who never talk to me on Twitter. It was difficult because they have taken the time to follow me (and I quite understand if they feel upset and now want to unfollow me) and I feel like a bit of a sod but if I hadn't taken this action I may as well revert to texting because I wasn't getting the benefit of what Twitter is.

This is, I'm sure, the reason why Oprah has 6,588,750 followers but only follows 33 people herself. It's not arrogance or nastiness. It's her ensuring that she doesn't miss tweets by people she likes or admires. Meanwhile, while Justin Beiber may follow 116,090 people, he has over 11 million followers. There isn't a chance in Hell that he can be having any kind of practical communication with all of those he follows. Half the tweets he gets are people begging him to follow them. Even if he did, then what? He couldn't possibly have any kind of personal communication with 11 million people. And that's assuming it's him on Twitter and not a small army of people tweeting for him (which I suspect he has).

I am still following a substantial 800 people but they are all people who chat with me. Twitter should be a two-way channel of communication. If I have unfollowed you, please don't take it personally as some already have. I am happy to re-follow anyone who wants to use Twitter for its proper purpose: conversation. Don't leave pissy messages ... nothing is more guaranteed to ensure permanent unfollowing. Just say hello! I'll follow you.

If you want a chat, I'm happy to chat (and follow) back.


Anonymous said...

Just to say that, as someone who has followed you for a long time, and as one of the people you opted to unfollow, I say bravo for doing what felt right for you, however difficult. I thoroughly enjoy your tweets, which is why I followed you in the first place, and while it was exceptionally flattering to be followed by you in return, it certainly wasn't a requisite.

I will, of course, continue to keep reading your tweets in my usual silence... but, though I've never talked to you on Twitter (hence the removal in the first place), I couldn't bear to keep silent and let you feel like 'a bit of a sod', simply because you chose to unfollow me and others who haven't been chatting with you, without giving some reassurance.

As you said, Twitter is a two-way street, and I (and I'm sure at least 90% of the others you culled) wholly respect (and, moreover, completely understand) your decision to unfollow. You have the right to follow, or not follow, whoever you like, and should never, under any circumstances, feel bad for doing so.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Dear 'Anonymous'

Thank you so much. You have made this sad old Tweeter feel 100% better. Don't be scared to chat! Love talking to people.


carol said...

hi, ou added me when i was liverpoollloon and chatted regularlyish , then i deleted my account in march and then missed twitter and rejoined twitter as rosietspecs , i went looking for everyone id previously chatted with including you and added you again but didnt get added back lol ok i know im boring :(( but like the other fella said dont feel bad its a free world , i cant manage talking to 300 peopel never mind 800 so well done !! :))

Vince said...

The thing to remember is that the actual process of following is a one way thing: one person follows another person - it's not like Facebook or whatever, where both parties have to mutually agree to become friends and therefore interact. The whole idea is to read what's being written by someone who interests you - not force that someone to (appear to) become interested in you.

If that suggested twetiquette - follow me/follow you - was how the founders intended it, it would've been designed that way, so that it wouldn't need to be some kind of etiquette, and we wouldn't have the system we now have where celebrities so readily and easily interact with their fans, etc. It simply wouldn't have taken off the way it has.

(And even if you don't follow someone who follows you, you can obviously still interact with them when they @mention you - you just don't have to read the boring stuff they write that doesn't interest you).

Bottom line: The whole 'follow me/follow you' twetiquette is nonsense. I suspect someone may have started it themselves early on just to get followers, and it had a domino effect - much like any other internet meme.