Equilibrium in the Twitterverse

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.


  1. sya »

    6 September 2009 · 10:43 am

    My numbers aren’t equal because I follow some big name bloggers who probably will never follow me back. Then again, they were already on my blogroll before I joined Twitter.

    As for the last link, I have a rule of thumb about interacting with PhDs I personally do not know. Never, never, NEVER say “obviously” anything to them, even if it is obvious. They don’t like being told they’re idiots for overlooking something simple, because gosh darn it, they have a PhD. It’s like questioning an insecure macho guy’s masculinity and poking him with a stick at the same time.

  2. Lynn »

    6 September 2009 · 11:06 am

    I follow 12 people and have 20 followers but most of the followers are people who are following about a hundred or more other people and whose interests are so different from mine they couldn’t possibly be following because they are actually intersested in me. So if you leave out those people, whom I don’t consider to be legitimate followers, I have only about half as many followers as people I follow.

  3. McGehee »

    6 September 2009 · 11:13 am

    I accepted a follow request from someone seemingly legit (her tweets, like mine, are protected) whose name I didn’t recognize, but dropped her when she failed to accept my follow request in turn.

    If I bare my tweets to someone, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they reciprocate.

  4. CGHill »

    6 September 2009 · 11:54 am

    Once in a while, I check in with FriendOrFollow, which goes out, fetches the numbers, and does the subtraction. At the moment, I follow 67 people who don’t follow me; only two of them actually know me in real life. Meanwhile, 93 people follow me whom I don’t follow back. This leaves 120 reciprocal arrangements.

    I’m still trying to get a handle on how many I can actually, well, handle. I’m thinking maybe 250 is the outer limit; then again, I once thought 150 was the outer limit, and I’m several dozen beyond that.

  5. unimpressed »

    6 September 2009 · 12:30 pm

    And no one will ever need more than 640k of RAM, right? :)

  6. CGHill »

    6 September 2009 · 12:42 pm

    TweetDeck runs in about 80k. (Yes, I just checked.)

    Side note: My first PC (as distinguished from the Commodore boxes I started with) had an amazing 1664k of RAM, thanks to an Intel “Above Board” liberally salted with 256-byte RAM chips.

  7. Donna B. »

    6 September 2009 · 11:57 pm

    Twitter and Facebook have simply confirmed my suspicion that I’m a tad anti-social and incompatible with most networks.

  8. fillyjonk »

    7 September 2009 · 8:18 am

    Counting “followers” is kind of pointless when five of them turn out to be that damned Shelly Ryan.

    In terms of “real” people, I’m about even. (I need to go through and purge the fake followers that have attached to me the past couple days).

    It’s actually good for my notions of “popularity” to have to scrape off the spam-followers; I used to bemoan the fact that I had comparatively few friends (or few blog-commenters) but I’m coming around to the viewpoint that it’s preferable to have a few people with some degree of loyalty than a large number of folks whom you wouldn’t recognize if you and they were at the same party…

  9. CGHill »

    7 September 2009 · 11:55 am

    I’ve had only three Shelly Ryans and one Fake Shelly Ryan, in the manner of Fake Steve Jobs. (She was hilarious in a foul-mouthed sort of way.)

    I continue to scrape off obvious smut vendors and such; also, anyone whose every utterance is “via API” is automatically suspect.

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