You’re Unfollowed, Get Over It! (Why Twitter Works – Part 1) January 15, 2009Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
So Twitter is an amazing tool for those that are into it. It seeds my own daily ambient awareness of what every single one of my online friends are doing, what they’re reading, where they’re going, what’s going on in their world that day and all kinds of things. I explicitly chose to follow each and every one of them – something like 450 or so people these days. When I started I didn’t think I could keep up with more than 200 people, but it’s not hard to alter your usage pattern to keep up and… well… selectively ignore. But I digress, my point is this – Twitter is opt in. As a user you blurt out whatever you think is interesting. As a consumer, you decide who you want to listen to by “following” them. And here’s the fun part, if you don’t like it you can stop listening to them by doing the unthinkable: unfollow them.
Ever have that awkward moment at a cocktail party where you feel you’ve talked to someone long enough and you’re eager to move on and talk to someone else but you don’t want to be rude so you just sort of let your conversation dwindle with longer pauses? It’s human nature. No one wants to say “I’m done talking to you now” or “We’ve talked long enough and I’d like to move on to a new more interesting conversation”. And the same thing is true on Twitter, it’s reeeal easy to start treating these conversations just like live conversations. It’s quick and real-time and just like a noisy cocktail party (except if you’re good on Twitter you can actually listen to every conversation going on at the party).
But it’s different. And it needs to be. The reason it all works is because you opt in and decide who you follow. Online relationships are different (good ones are ones that you integrate and blend in with your offline “IRL” relationships though – but that’s a whole different blog post). So we all need to get used to it. You need to be able to experiment with who you follow. I personally like a mix of work and nonwork, but it’s mostly about me learning something from people I admire. I always enjoy the fun banter between people I know (@MichaelBowers, @NickSeguin and @Figliuolo send some zingers each day that crack me up). But just like in real life, the less you know someone the less you might be interested in all their “personal” stuff. However, for example, I’m happy to weed through these personal things (slowly getting to know someone, their true personal brand, their quirks, what they think is funny and everything else) in order to get to the good stuff which, for me, is the links to great reads on the Internet I might not have found myself. So if you produce good content, I’ll keep reading about what you had for lunch today as well. And the more I follow some of these folks the more I do in fact feel like I know them. But they need to produce for me. My time is valuable. And isn’t that true in your offline relationships as well?
If you hang out with someone that you don’t really get along with, aren’t entertained by, or don’t learn much from you’ll start hanging out less and less until maybe you’re not even friends anymore. Well that lifecycle of friendship can happen and be proven or disproved very quickly on Twitter. I find in just a few days (sometimes in just a few tweets) whether or not I’m going to want to keep following someone.
So here’s the hard part. You *can’t* be offended if someone unfollows you. You don’t really know how that person is using Twitter. They might only be looking for good recipes or something. And if you’re not talking about your favorite butterscotch chip maple brownie recipe then dammit, they *should* stop following you. Some people are purely socializing (you can usually tell who these people are pretty easily, right?) and some are all business. Some tell jokes. Some philosophize. Some just like to mess with people and say weird shit to see what people will say. And yes, some people (ahem, Fig) manage to do all these things in the same day.
So, remember, it’s not about you. Twitter works because it’s all about who you follow. It’s a self managing system. And to be a good Twittizen you should ease up and not freak out when people unfollow you. In fact, why don’t you go take a look at your network right now and see if you’re getting out of it what you want. You’re time is valuable! (Now… if only you could get a free Whopper for trimming your Twitter friend list often!)
How do you use Twitter?