Okay, maybe that’s a bit much to hope for. But Dr. Ellen Brandt has noticed some encouraging trends:
Equal numbers of Followers and Following: More and more often, we see users whose Follower-Following ratios are just about dead-even, meaning they are shunning the concept of following Celebrities or Big Media pundits and choosing to connect more naturally and equally with potential friends the way they do on Linked In and Facebook. There are now some applications that allow you to see if any Followers have recently dropped you, in which case you can easily drop them, too.
I’ve tried one such application, and haven’t been able to get it to work. That said, I’m among those folks with about the same number of followers and following. (Dr. Brandt, last I looked, was literally dead-even, so she manifestly practices what she preaches.) I do follow a handful of celebrities. Then again, I tend to define “celebrity” as “anyone more famous than I am,” which makes for a pretty broad spectrum. And I of course follow Diablo Cody, who is a pretty broad, but that’s neither here nor there.
Reluctance to Retweet — Or Blindly Recommend — Pieces of Information On Somebody’s Say So: As a lifelong member of the Media, I find it absolutely appalling that anyone should agree to Retweet a link to an article, blog, or any other kind of commentary without first reading it themselves and agreeing it is worth recommending. I don’t want people to Retweet my articles and blogs unless they like them and believe they might be informative and enjoyable to others. And I would not consider Retweeting other people’s work I didn’t like and find interesting. Thankfully, more Twitter users are beginning to agree.
I tend to practice the same rule for retweets that I do for long expropriations of other people’s blog material (such as this): when possible, add value. If you had a good one-liner, I may RT it as is, but if there’s room (light editing is a consideration), I’ll tack on something of my own. And I won’t RT a link unless I’ve actually looked at it.
Refusal to Follow Someone Without Making the Choice Oneself: It may be profound heresy to say so, but I think Twitter’s popular Follow Fridays are essentially silly. It’s bad enough that Twitter’s one- or two-sentence profile bios tell you next-to-nothing about candidates you might want to connect with. But at least they tell you something. (Buffy the Cat’s says she’s a astrophysicist who plays the clarinet and reads Proust.) More Twitterers are passing on the chance to add folks to their Following roster because that fella with the beard in Pensacola — how the heck did he get into my network? — says they should.
I’ve picked up a handful of followers on Follow Friday, I think — at least, there are some people out there who have willingly promoted my name — and I appreciate the gesture. But I have the same sort of ambivalence about #followfriday that I have about blog awards and such: I’d almost rather be one person’s absolute favorite than be widely acknowledged as, um, acceptable. But maybe that’s just me.
The 160-character bios, though (and why not 140?), are indeed fairly (read “extremely”) limited.
Shunning the Concept That the More Followers You Have, the Better Off You Are: Not only is Twitter ineffective when viewed as a popularity contest, but networks patched together randomly can easily harm their amassers. Take a look at virtually any politician’s Followers list on Twitter, and you’ll find crowds of Ladies of the Night, Tooth Whitener salesmen, Stock Tip purveyors, and Trump Network groupies. Opposing politicians could have a field day publicizing these lists, if it weren’t for the fact that theirs are probably just as bad.
Indeed. I’ve purged my own list several times. Fortunately, I’m far enough below the radar that I attract relatively few skanks, soi-disant social-media experts, and skanks. (There are a lot of skanks.)
Dr. Brandt, incidentally, deserves kudos for this delightful post title: I Don’t Like What You Wrote. You Should Be Poisoned, Garrotted, Stabbed With Stiletto Heels, Thrown Off A Tall Building, and Have Vultures Eat Your Liver. Some of us can only aspire to incurring that level of wrath.