Twitter is not a popularity contest. Step away from your ego…

Last night I cut down the amount of people I follow. I do this about once a month, after adding people throughout the month. It’s something I’ve always done, and interestingly, every time I do it – it’s something that has always caused some grumpiness from a few of those who I stop following.

I don’t get this at all. If I stop following you, you are still my friend. This doesn’t terminate our relationship, or mean that in any way I like you less. It just means that for now there are other people I am watching who I want to appear in my feed more often. If I follow over 80, in particular when I get close to 100, I find it very hard to track my real life close friends – you know, the ones I know personally, go drinking with etc. So I chop back a bit.

That’s not to say I only follow people who are my close personal friends, as that’s not true, but I do only follow people that aren’t close personal friends if I find what they tweet about very interesting. Not just “not boring” but actually really interesting.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ve had emails from people questioning why I no longer follow them, and then getting grumpy when I tell them. This morning I noticed a Twitter from ” target=”blank”>Paul Walsh:

@thayer reduces her no of feeds and my followers go from 606 to 605. Must do a little culling myself.

Do people actually keep count of those following them that closely? It might just be me, but that sounds like, “Thayer deleted me, I’m going to delete her” – it’s a bit playground. The word culling seems a bit harsh too – from

CULL n. Something picked out from others, especially something rejected because of inferior quality.

My personal thoughts are: follow people because they’re interesting, and because you enjoy reading their Twitters for whatever reason, don’t just follow people so they follow you back, or to proove your mates. That is just silly.

Oh, and by the way – I track “thayer” to my mobile via Twitter, so if I don’t follow someone and they talk to me I can still talk back. It just means that I can have a good clean feed that directly shows me the people I want to know about at that moment. Also, I tend to follow and unfollow people frequently, so don’t be surprised if I follow you on and off depending on where you are and what you do. I also read feeds of those I don’t follow when I get time and want to see what they’ve been up to.

A closing thought that I saw on Ben Metcalfe’s Twitter the other day:

@sexyseo sure, I’ll add u. But if I followed everyone who followed me I’d be drowned in tweets as I have 750+ followers. My blackberry would melt!

Exactly! And why should Ben have to follow someone just because they’re following him?! Aha – it’s because sexyseo uses Twitter completely differently from anyone I know:

Time to clean up my Twitter. Who do not follow me, you will be left behind 😉

So, it just goes to show, one persons Twitter does definitely not equal anothers.

Anybody else had any experience of this, either as a deleted followee who’s narked or perhaps you have run into trouble by stopping following people yourself?

About Thayer Prime

Tall. Eats a lot. Talks too much. I tweet over @thayer
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12 Responses to Twitter is not a popularity contest. Step away from your ego…

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you
    Hi Thayer,
    I completely agree, I regularly unfollow people who post too often on uninteresting things, or who just clutter up my feed with tweets that aren’t directly relevant. I view twitter mainly as a tool, so a bit differently to you, but the same principles apply – there’s a reason for me to use Twitter, and it’s not to follow as many people as possible.
    Josh March (I need to get an OpenID, methinks…)

  2. Anonymous says:

    For me it goes like this…
    I’ll let anyone follow me, that’s fine, if you find what I have to say interesting, great!
    I started out following only people I really know, and as more of those have come onto twitter the number has expanded. Mainly I still only follow people I know.
    Sometimes I actively add people, for example if they are of interest to me or are part of my wider circle of associates. Sometimes I add people because they are discussing something I am tracking, or because they are a friend of a friend.
    If people add me, I’ll check them out, if they look to be of interest, I’ll add them back, at least to start with. If I find ‘listening’ to them is of no value to me, I will stop following them.
    As I let anyone follow me, my ratio of followers to following will never be one to one. I’ll never follow you because you threaten to unfollow me if I don’t.
    I don’t think I have ever blocked anyone, as my feed is public I haven’t yet had need for this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how trivial and frivolous I think this stuff is, someone somewhere will insist on making it very very very serious.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My take is this:

    if you’re marketing, I block you.
    if you’re just adding loads of random people, I block you.
    if you have something interesting to say, I follow you.
    if other people I follow also follow you, I might follow you (this helps with conversation completeness).
    if I know you IRL or from another online community, I follow you.
    If you tweet too much, I unfollow you.
    If you weren’t as interesting a tweeter as a blogger or podcaster, I unfollow you.

    Two other things:

    I try to keep followers and followees roughly in a 1:1 ratio
    I got followed by some random Portuguese music festival’s account yesterday, so I blocked them.

  5. My rule for Twitter is pretty similar to yours. There’s a core of people who I’ve met in real life or who I’ve had interesting conversations with via their or my blog. If someone adds me, I’ll add them back – but if they don’t post much interesting stuff, I’ll probably remove them at some point, unless they’re so low-traffic I just don’t notice them.

  6. infov0re says:

    I thought I had about 50 accounts I followed, but it turned out it’s more like 100. However, a few things:
    there’s a difference between following and following and receiving updates. So whilst I follow about 110 people, if I turn the mobile functionality on (SMS), I tend to get SMSs from about 30-40 users who are all either close friends, or friends who live where I do (London) that I might want to serendipitously go for beer with.
    That said, the web and API-based interfaces like twitteriffic tend to give you everything, no option to have just people you want updates from.
    I’ve only unsubscribed from a handful of people, mainly due to their prolific volume. Everybody uses Twitter differently; some people who are a bit over-prolific are interesting enough to make it worth keeping them in my list; others aren’t.
    What this does all lead to is the idea that you use Twitter in an increasingly similar way to your friends. If you’re in a high-traffic core group, you see high traffic as the norm; if you’re in a localised core group, you see news from outside your area as noise; if you’re in a group that tends to focus on one theme, you see it as normal to bang on about topic X on Twitter all the time. All the time, your “core group” of friends will only strengthen these values, rather than dissipate them.
    And so, as your network grows, you either overlap in behaviour with other users, or slowly drift apart from them. The more friends you have, the more homogenic your twittering style becomes. Does that have any familiarity for anyone?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Totally agree
    Totally agree. If I followed everyone I’d be inundated and most probably would get around to reading all the tweets anyway!
    Far better to follow a reasonable number of people you share common interests with, get updates to your mobile for close friends and track your twitter ID — although tracking isn’t working for me at the moment so the odd search for my name at from time to time will have to suffice for now.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Benjamin (WOWNDADI)
    Wow! Deep Twitter thoughts. I think this confirms that twitter is so many different things to different people. I’m still trying to figure out what the place for it in my life it. Persistent, public chat is a quizzical new media. I wonder what we will make of it in 5 years time. (note to self: really need to sort my openid too)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great to see a UK perspective on Twitter use.
    Mike Butcher

  10. Anonymous says:

    Followers, friends, twits and twerps
    I’ll always follow back someone who follows me (I’ll usually ask them why they chose to follow me…)
    If my interests don’t align with theirs, I’ll unfollow them in a week or two.
    If they’re very high volume but still interesting, I’ll take an RSS of their line and bung it into my netvibes page, and unfollow them.
    Mostly, I’ll choose to follow someone because I’ve seen an @reply that interested me.
    @psd had a nice post
    which defined people who had loads of @ replies as twerps; I also tend to unfollow folk who just dump blog updates.
    I use Twitterkarma a lot to see if folk are following me who I don’t follow, and like most interested folk, I use a terraminds RSS feed to see if my name’s used by someone I don’t follow.
    I only take SMS updates from those I work with or know IRL (other than twitter, it doesn’t mean in person!)
    It certainly doesn’t bother me when I get unfollowed, and I hope that other types don’t worry if I unfollow them…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. If I choose to grace you with the opportunity to follow me, you should bow to my awesome tweetness!!
    Okay fine, you’re right. I think at following 90 or so fellow twitts-ville users I’m at about capacity and not quite sure how I would handle much more.

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