“I follow you on Twitter. You don’t follow me though.”
How many times has someone said this, or something similar, to you lately? It feels like I hear this at least once a week, and it’s almost as guilt-inducing as hearing my grandmother tell me I never visit.
I have 400 followers on Twitter. And I follow maybe 70 or so. One look at the lopsidedness of the numbers proves that, no, I am not returning the favor of following those who follow me. So the question is: is this fair? I’ve thought often about this, and I think I’ve finally come up with the answer that works for me: No. And I don’t care.
The rules of social media can be tricky. While I do want to practice good Twitter etiquette (I don’t retweet anyone with a private account, I give credit to those whose links I retweet, etc.), I draw the line at following someone simply because they follow me. It’s like that thing where you have to invite someone to your wedding because they invited you to theirs, even though you’re only distantly acquainted. Pretty soon you end up with 300 people, most of whom you don’t know, eating salmon and doing the chicken dance on what’s supposed to be your special day.
I’m not saying following someone on Twitter is special, but it can be meaningful, or at least purposeful. What it comes down to is this: I follow those whose thoughts serve a purpose in my life — specifically, they offer me either entertainment, education, or something else that makes my day more interesting. And I hope that anyone who follows me is doing so for the same reason.
The thing about Twitter is that it’s like any other form of entertainment — it gives you the power to create the world you want to be in (temporarily, of course). If you need a break from what’s going on around you, you can focus on a world of your creation featuring just those people and things that make you happy. The best part is, you can change and adjust that world as you see fit, following and unfollowing at will.
Of course, there will always be hurt feelings. Not following someone who follows you is a type of rejection, in a way, and no one likes to be rejected. I guess you can either spend your time worrying about who isn’t following you, or you can spend it enjoying the words and ideas of the people and institutions you have chosen to follow.
Twitter is one more of those things adding noise to our increasingly cacophonous world. By keeping tight control of who I follow, I keep the noise out, or at least, control it as best I can. My recommendation to anyone on Twitter is to do the same — even if that means unfollowing acquaintances or people hovering near your circle of friends who don’t enrich your life in a purposeful way.
You can start with me, if you like. I can take it.