Following Isn’t a Lifelong Commitment

Ye ole Twitter ball and chain.

But a lot of people think it is.

Every now and then I take the time to cull through the people I follow and connect with on my social networks.  I look at Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others to see who I’m following and why.

Admittedly, I’m connected to too many people.  It’s part of my job and I can overextend.

My goal has never really been to compile a lot of followers (although if I’m honest I have gone through periods where I wanted more people following me.  Probably a feeling that most of us experience.  After all who doesn’t want recognition and popularity?  But I’ve learned not to worry about it).  My primary goal these days is to get value from my networks.

Let me use Twitter as an example.

Twitter can be tough.  I follow more than 1,800 people.  To help organize Twitter, I use TweetDeck to segment people into groups and categories: news, sports, social media, clients, media, book lovers, etc.  I have more than a dozen categories filled with people and brands.  I try to keep an eye on my main stream of tweets, but it’s easy for things to get lost there.

Every few months, I edit my lists – deleting some followers, adding others.  Heck, sometimes I scrap entire groups and lists because I’m no longer interested in the category.  This can sometimes lead to hurt feelings.  A blast from someone I used to follow angry with my decision.  An instant “unfollow” as revenge.

Let me clear: It isn’t personal.

Yet I understand why people take it that way.  I feel the same way when I realize that a colleague who I’m following isn’t following me back.  My reaction is: Really?

It hurts to be rejected – even if it’s not personal.

But we all need to learn not to worry about it.  You can drive yourself crazy with that stuff.  Social networks can feel like high school all over again as we all compete for followers and fans.  Hopefully, we’ll all mature with our usage of these channels and realize that audience size shouldn’t always be an end goal.

We all also need a dose of reality.  Circumstances – life – changes.  A connection with someone on a social network isn’t a permanent condition.  You don’t have to keep all your high school and college friends forever.  If you move to another job it is okay to disconnect with colleagues you no longer work with.  If you’re no longer interested in a TV show or a product – you can drop them.

Twitter isn’t and shouldn’t be a lifelong commitment.

What do you think?  Are we all too obsessed with follower numbers?  Do you get hurt when you’re “socially” dumped?  Or do you even bother to check anymore?


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2 Responses to “Following Isn’t a Lifelong Commitment”

  1. scintillatebrightly April 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I don’t have Twitter but I do have FB. And I used to be upset. Now I have so many “friends” on FB when one disappears I can’t tell who it is anyway, so I no longer bother to check.
    Recently, it was brought to my attention that one of my sisters and one of my friends apparently canceled their profiles. I have no idea why or when because I never noticed in the first place, and since I found out I haven’t bothered to ask. The funny thing is, that a year ago I would have been bombarding them with emails about how inconvenient they were making communication with the rest of the world.
    Now I couldn’t care less.

    I have a friend count of over 300 people (which is not a big count by many people’s standards) but its bigger than anything I can successfully manage. I routinely delete people I never expect to see again or no longer talk to. If I didn’t, I would have a friend count somewhere in the 600-800 range…and can you believe that number is still less than half the people I’m linked to? Craziness.

  2. Hi Scintillate Brightly:
    Scale certainly brings a diffferent perspective to social networks. Kind of like jellybeans. When you have hundreds you’re willing to share and spread them around. But when you only have two you get so much more protective of them. It is indeed getting crazy!

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