There was an interesting social commentary over at socialmediarockstar.com the other day calling out social media users have a lot of people following them, but don't follow-back. There are a few reasons for this complaint, but I think the main one is that the author is frustrated with anyone who expects people to listen to what they have to say without taking the time to listen to what other people have to say.
This commentary, is specifically about Twitter seeing as it's a social networking tool that's supposed to be about interaction and thought transfer rather than a mere one-way street. So a user who has a lot of people reading his tweets without reading anyone else’s tweets or replies is somewhat contrary to some of the cultural experiences within the twitter community.
For those of you who don’t use twitter, basically, the whole thing comes down to this: a lot of folks- especially early adopters- use twitter to hone their ideas and get feedback rather than just telling the world “what I am doing right now.” The community has formed around the theory that the mutual exchange of information causes positive growth and change. Put simply- when individuals converse about thoughts and ideas we’re all better for it.
And I think that to some degree, it’s true.
So, when twitter users encounter another user who likes to talk more than the listen and reply (or worse, won’t follow-back to honor their readers), it makes them upset that their perfect little world of mutual information sharing and connection doesn’t actually exist.
Personally, I think that complaining about it is pretty juvenile.
I mean, if someone doesn’t want to participate- so what?
The person who loses out the most in the equation is the one who isn’t getting feedback and response from their ideas. So if a lot of people read what you write and you don’t care to know what they think of it- it really shouldn’t matter to the rest of us.
So, that’s why I wonder if twitter users like the author of this article are really mad about the principle or if they secretly want to be “in the club” and when a user doesn’t follow them it make them feel like they’re back in middle school- wishing they, too, could be a part of the big sleepover that the select “coolest” kids are attending.
From my own perspective, follow-backs are an ideal that should only be implemented when it’s mutually beneficial for both users. If I like what someone is saying, then I can choose to follow them, but if the person doesn’t know me or doesn’t think that I have anything useful to offer to them in return- I don’t see why they should feel obligated to follow-back merely because I chose to follow them in the first place.
I mean, if this idea is taken to an extreme, then:
1. When a company or organization randomly decides to follows me, I’m obligated to follow-back, even if their tweets are merely attempts at viral (or not-so-viral) marketing campaigns.
2. When a “friend-collector” begins following me, I’m obligated to follow-back, even if they don’t care what I have to say and are only trying to boost their follow stats or get me to read their ideas without interacting on mine.
Those are both ridiculous extremes, but they should illustrate the point. Follow-backs that aren’t mutually beneficial shouldn’t be implemented. It’s that simple.
So, in an ideal world where everyone is mutually engaged in discourse and conversation, I’d agree with the author’s sentiment, entirely. And those who make an attempt at mutuality are welcome to participate with Twitter in this manner. But unfortunately, not all of us live there. And be that as it may, there are plenty of people who I don’t really care to engage with, and I’m not going to add them simply because they’re following me.
Here’s my own little algorithm for who I follow:
A) Know You
B) Like your ideas
I follow you or follow-back if you began following me.
But if I
A) Don’t know you
B) Don’t like or care about your ideas
I do not follow you or follow-back- no matter how many times you call me a snob. You see, from my perspective, it’s not being a snob to follow people you know and care about and to avoid those you don’t- It’s simply time well spent. After all, I don't have time to follow everyone. It's not humanly possible. So I engage with those I care about and I let the rest engage with someone else!
Nathan Key likes to think about faith and philosophy and talk about it with others. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. He doesn't always refer to himself in the third person.