Paying a social media penance

Father, please forgive me for I have sinned. Yesterday, I un-followed 2,000 people on Twitter.


Blueprint of promiscuity

Today, I’ve responded to a barrage of emails and calls asking “what did I do wrong to warrant being un-followed?”

I’m a bit shaken. Seems I committed a cardinal social media sin: the un-follow. There was no malice, no snub, behind any of it. No one did anything wrong. But it seems I did.

I wonder if perhaps we’ve invested a bit too much in the value of a follow.

Like many, the structure of my social media strategy was based on a blueprint of promiscuity. I followed anyone who followed me. Everyone became a friend. A fan. I was a collector. The more I collected, the more important I felt.

The architects of social media understand this. The best play upon our desire to be loved, wanted, heralded and noticed. They slake our thirst for more. It can be gratifying, this quest.

But there’s a price to pay. My bill arrived today.

Above the din

The cacophony of ambient airport chatter, announcements, rambunctious kids and obnoxious louts on cellphones denies our desire for peace and tranquility.

The workplace is worse. Incoming email. Pings from LinkedIn and Facebook. Blog comments. All of them vie for our attention while Tweekdeck churns. Mentions compel us to respond. DM’s require whittled down answers. New followers beckon us to return the favor. At any given moment, hundreds of new stimuli – collages of random thoughts and conversations – enter our airspace.

We can’t ignore it. We’re intrigued. Beckoned. We have become marksmen peering through a telescopic lens in search of ephemeral signals warranting a response, opening an opportunity. We see conversations unfold that we’re not involved in or invited to. And we want in.

We compound this mania by signing up for services that alert us when followers un-follow, when we receive a signal that tells us we’re not worthy and we become…

Glenn Close

Until today, I had no idea you could keep track of who un-follows you. Within minutes of clearing out my list to better manage the streams I really need to pay attention to (clients and newsmakers) an influx of emails ensued wondering why I had done something so terrible.

This is unsettling.

As we pass through the night on social media, random connections, momentary trysts and tweet exchanges carry more meaning than I thought. I find that fascinating, and a little worrisome.

I know we are often sized up by our apparent social equity. Who among us hasn’t referenced LinkedIn and made a swift determination about someone based on their connections?

But are we taking this too far? Do followers matter?

Coincidentally, not twelve hours after I made my life a little simpler on Twitter, I can across this piece on ReadWriteWeb which said, in part:

“Recently we found out that a high number of followers, which most people use to judge the popularity of an account, doesn’t actually really mean anything.”

But, yet, it does. Because I irked a lot of people.

Paying a social media penance

Social media can skew our sense of friendship and harm the art of conversation. Listening. Contribution. We program bots to increase our numbers but neglect to program ourselves to have something to say. And then we take it personally if someone chooses not to follow streams that serve no purpose and offer no benefit.

Social media engagement is in many ways more difficult to mediate than real world interaction. If I sat next to you all day and hung on your every word, followed you across town after work and planted myself outside your bedroom window and monitored your activities, you’d call 911. But if I choose to disengage on Twitter because your stream doesn’t pertain to me, somehow, that is perceived as a sin. That’s weird.

I still love and respect you. If you need me for anything, I’m a TM, phone call or email away. I’ll make some lists so I can keep track of certain discussions. Otherwise, I’m just trying to simplify my world. And not get gaga over things that aren’t important. Like following 2,000 people for no reason.

For that, I’ll be saying my Hail Marys tonight, praying for forgiveness.