Why I Unfollowed You

‘Cause I may have.

I ran across this article yesterday and it was so timely. I’d just that morning unfollowed a lot, and I mean a lot, of people on Twitter. Not because I’m a bitch (well, not only because I’m a bitch,) but because I was getting lost in that social media site to the point that it was no longer “social.”

That article, Content is not KING. The social interaction should be the real focus is actually written for businesses. So how about us authors? We are the business. If the advice is for a business to severely tone down advertising itself on a social network in favor of engaging their followers, shouldn’t authors, people, be doing the same thing?

I think so. But even using the Twitter management programs like Tweetdeck, my stupid stream was moving so fast I had no idea who was saying what, no chance to respond. (Lots of times I’d go to hit “reply” only to find that I was replying to a different tweet because the one I wanted had moved out from under my cursor before I could click.)

So I unfollowed quite a lot of people. My criteria? Did I recognize their avatar and/or username. See, the point of social media is to be, well, social. The people I’ve interacted with, whose tweets I’ve retweeted, who’ve retweeted my tweets, whose tweets have made me laugh, or go “wow.” That’s the social aspect of it.

I paid no attention to the number of people who were following them, or whether or not they were following me. In fact, I removed those columns from the view on the utility I was using. The one and only criteria was whether or not I “knew” them. Either as someone I admired, enjoyed following, or as someone who had engaged with me.

Looking back over the data on those who are left, it’s an interesting mix. People with 20 followers and people with 20,000 (or, in a few cases, quite a bit more.) People who are following me and people who aren’t. People who were seriously top-heavy with the number of followers to the number following, or the other way around.

With a smaller number of people feeding into my stream, I can participate! I can make sure I’m following the ones I want to be following. I always check now if I chat with or retweet someone, to make sure I’m following them. Or if they’re participating in 5MinuteFiction. I’m checking #amwriting and #pubwrite for people I want to follow. I want to follow people I’m going to enjoy following, who I’m going to be “social” with.

I know the advice. Lots of places will tell you to follow back out of courtesy. Lots of other places will tell you to send those “thanks for following” DMs or commit the sort of #ff and #ww spam that drives me batty. But when I faithfully followed everyone, or even most of the people who followed me, I simply could not keep up with thousands of people feeding into my stream. The posts moved so fast I couldn’t read them. And half or more were just “buy my book!” or the like.

So am I doing it “wrong” by unfollowing the people I didn’t find value in following? Maybe. But I’m sure enjoying Twitter a heck of a lot more.

P.S. I’ve lost a lot of followers myself as a result of unfollowing. I expected that and I’m guessing it’s no real loss to me, since we weren’t interacting anyway. But I do hate that the authors I try to help promote will have that much smaller an audience I can help them reach. Well, them’s the breaks.

I’ve also gotten a few “why did you unfollow me?” @ replies since I did the purge. As this is the first interaction we’ve ever had, I’d think the reason would be self-evident. In any case, I can’t explain what a bad taste that leaves in my mouth.

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17 Responses to Why I Unfollowed You

  1. Jessica Olin says:

    I’ve never ascribed to the “oh, you followed me so I need to follow back” philosophy. I follow Sockington, who’s never said boo to me – but who makes me laugh. I don’t even follow everyone who follows and interacts with me. I spent a lot of time reducing my signal to noise ratio a couple of months ago, and I’ve been way happier online since. Besides, I always wondered how you kept up with all those people you were following. So, bravo my friend.
    Jessica Olin recently posted..There are Zombies in the Library! Or, Programming at a Small, Liberal Arts CollegeMy Profile

  2. I can’t agree more. I’m currently in the same boat; following way too many people, which is causing me to be entirely non-present.

    There’s no shortage of advice about how to follow people, and how to encourage or otherwise coerce people into following you, but there’s less talk about when and why to unfollow, to cut back. The fact of the matter is that the inherent mechanic of the social media system is, at its core, “I control only my stream.” Forget all the other advice. You control your stream and only your stream.

    I can’t follow 10,000 people, then spend my entire energy filtering, regardless of the functionality of whatever client I’m using, when following 200 with regular interaction yields so much more connectedness of relationships.

    It’s almost disturbing that so much of the advice out there neglects the skill of a certain thickness of skin; or, that so much of the advice out there is centered on a certain sense of ego or sensitivity or social-media-self-worth. The real skill should be in a clear sense of ‘no harm / no foul’ when anyone unfollows for whatever reason, or simply no reason at all.

    Should Nathan Lowell, for example, be concerned that I unfollowed him? Nope, I’m not on his radar, in the slightest. Am I less connected because I unfollow him? Nope, and the fact of the matter is that most of what he produces that interests me is on his blog, which I’m following via RSS. There’s a thousand such non-harmful reasons for the unfollow.

    Great post! Without connected interaction, these services dilute to the point of uselessness.

  3. Joanne says:

    Like Jessica I haven’t ever done the automatic follow back or the retweeting of FFs, or the DMs to say thank you. I wasn’t aware I was supposed to (I mean wtf? this is the internet – don’t we make our own decisions about stuff like that? Or is that too 1997?). I will confess to unfollowing lots of people as soon as they start flooding my stream with RTs of FFs and wotnot. What’s the point?

    Social media is becoming cluttered with people who are not in it for the social at all. Like those bright pretty things who turn up to a party and have nothing to say, but just want to be there, when all the interesting stuff is happening in the kitchen with the kids who read books and stuff.

    Maybe one day soon we’ll need to find a new kitchen.
    Joanne recently posted..On Art and Money: does anyone have a spare million pounds?My Profile

  4. “Like those bright pretty things who turn up to a party and have nothing to say, but just want to be there, when all the interesting stuff is happening in the kitchen with the kids who read books and stuff.”

    LOL! I love that. It’s lovely to see that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..#5MinuteInterview with Brian Cortijo from When the Hero Comes HomeMy Profile

  5. asrai says:

    This is why Tweetdeck and search columns are so valuable on Twitter. I can follow 3,000 people, but narrow down what I pay most attention to a few hashtags.
    The other night my DH was trying to watch a (wrongly) blackout hockeygame and I opened a search colum to see if anyone else was having the issue (and there were). I do this when other shows are on as well.
    Even if I only followed 50 people I couldn’t keep up. But you can argue both sides. Personal preference.
    asrai recently posted..Perfect Mom Monday: Losing your coolMy Profile

  6. You make a good point, asrai. And I may never have come to this if I could always use Tweetdeck. But most of my time for twitter is during my lunch at work, or similar breaks. So I’m using twitter.com. :(
    Leah Petersen recently posted..Review of SYN:FIN by Jerry GentryMy Profile

  7. Jaimie says:

    “Why did you unfollow me?” ???????? Seriously?

  8. Jaimie,

    You’ve uncovered an ulterior motive for this post. ;) I want to make sure the people I like following didn’t get unfollowed by accident.
    Leah Petersen recently posted..I forgot your free book, I’m sorry.My Profile

  9. Jaimie says:

    Haha, no I wasn’t asking why you unfollowed me. I was mocking that people would ASK that. “Why did you unfollow me?” Especially via Twitter. I dunno, if someone unfollowed me and it really bothered me, I don’t think I’d call them out via Twitter. It’s bizarre. (Notice the quotation marks around the question….)

    And really, you never unfollowed me; I deleted my account.
    Jaimie recently posted..EnlightenMy Profile

  10. I don’t automatically follow people who follow me. I follow some who don’t follow me, and others follow me whom I don’t.

    I don’t use it mostly for social. It serves many functions for me. I don’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or read newspapers, so I use the internet for news. I get links to newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, etc. I wouldn’t have known about the protests on Wall Street that have been going on since Saturday otherwise, because of the media blackout.

    I also have a lot going on that isn’t writing-related. My most active twitter friends are other assistance-dog partners, and this is the easiest way for us to communicate. We do a lot of “this is what’s happening for me right now” tweets, which I wouldn’t be interested in from others. Of course, my blog automatically posts to Twitter, so there are a lot of Twitter posts from me that are basically blogspam. You could call that writing-related or not; depends what I’ve written about.

    I am also very involved in activism and social justice. I know the conventional wisdom is that writers shouldn’t tweet anything political or controversial. Well, since I write political essays and erotica, since I write disability rights and culture, since I am part of communities of people with chronic illness (who follow me) it hardly makes sense for me not to tweet about those topics, nor would I feel like me if I didn’t.

    I have been tweeting this week a fundraising auction for a friend who’s sick. I’m guessing a lot of my followers find those uninteresting. I know it’s tweetspam. Well, that’s fine, they don’t have to visit the auction. It’s over Saturday, and then I won’t tweet it anymore (till the next one). But it’s important to me, and others who do follow me and want to support this person who’s chronically ill might want to know about it.

    When I read those “rules” about what writers should do, I think, “Are we supposed to be one-dimensional people? Are we not supposed to care about what’s happening in the world?” Some of the best and most famous writers are those who have written about the political corruption in their country. Playwrights who become presidents. Poets who are national heroes for telling the truth of the people. I think it’s sad that American writers are told to present such a paper-thin dimension of ourselves.
    Sharon Wachsler recently posted..Disabled Writers Need Not SubmitMy Profile

  11. Susi Borath says:

    I actually did this a few months ago (before I deleted my account), for the same reasons. I used the same criteria–”have I interacted with you at any point?” I lost over 100 followers in the twenty-four hours after I started unfollowing people. I also started getting #FF and #WW from people I had just unfollowed, who had never mentioned me once before.
    Ultimately, I deleted that account. I had an account that I had for following celebrities and news sources. I let #pubwrite know what that account was, followed a handful of people, and I have been much happier without massive lists. I primarily use Twitter from my phone, and it is a much happier experience.
    I still come across new people every now and then, and follow them when I do, but I have gotten over the whole numbers game. :-)
    Susi Borath recently posted..Wow. I Cannot Believe I Just Did That!My Profile

  12. Jaimie,

    My first thought was that it was a joke, but then I realized I hadn’t seen a tweet from you in a while so I rushed over to Twitter to make sure I hadn’t unfollowed by accident. ;)
    Leah Petersen recently posted..#5MinuteFiction Week 69 WINNER!My Profile

  13. I’ve been thinking about this very subject quite a bit lately. I get a few follows a week on Twitter and now that Google+ is in open beta they’re starting to flow there too. I don’t mind when anyone follows me and I’ll check them out and follow them back if they look interesting, but I don’t just stab the Follow button blindly and I don’t thank anyone for following me. I figure, they’re following me because they either like what I have to say or they’re looking to increase their Klout score. Either way, to me social media is for engagement, not to just get bigger numbers. I can turn a lot of things into a game but my tweets/day count isn’t one of them. I’m not doing anyone any favors if I’m not sharing quality stuff.

    What confounds me is the people that turn social media into a game of Pokemon. There’s no “winning” if you have the most followers. I first noticed this on Facebook a couple years ago and now I’m seeing it everywhere, people acting like their Friends Lists and Followers are like some kind of score. Hell, that’s practically the entire point of Klout, how many times people reference you, friend you, and retweet you across all the major social networks.

    I don’t know what my Klout score is and, quite frankly, I don’t really care. I can see people using it as an indicator of how well-publicized they are, and I do want to engage with people over my stories and ideas, but social media isn’t useful to me if I’m drowning in information overload. I don’t know how Robert Scoble does it.
    Steve Bornstein recently posted..steve_bornstein: RT @luketadams: How do right wingers who believe that government is incompetent, have complete faith that the same government never exec …My Profile

  14. Yup… you just can’t follow very many people AND actually engage with them. Well, maybe if you are independently wealthy and don’t have to earn a living. But that would exclude most writers.

    Anyway, I think the “follow back as a courtesy” guideline is really dumb. Having more followers who do not read you is completely worthless (not “social” media – in fact, not even broadcasting, if no one reads!).

    But I DO follow back if, after checking the profile, the person seems to be, well, actually a person – and that we have at least something in common (writing, photography, running, caring for the environment…). That still doesn’t mean I READ their tweets (sad, I know – but really, I cannot read the tweets of the 600+ people I follow every day).

    But what I HAVE done is create a locked list (as in private, no one can see who is on it) of the people who I do read. I read every single tweet of those people. Currently there are about 70 on it – and reading all of them is STILL a very time-consuming task. For my main list of people I follow, I just check in kind of randomly… so I do see some of what they tweet, but definitely not every single tweet.

    This strategy really works well for me.

    Cheers, Jackie (@jwindh)

  15. Ruby says:

    It’s interesting, This is also my question why some of my followers unfollowed me =(
    Ruby recently posted..How To Conceive QuicklyMy Profile

  16. Leah,
    Well said. I believe we’re both on the same page! Thanks for leaving this link on my blog. I fear I’d have missed it otherwise. I use my TweetDeck lists to keep my categories of people straight. I have some people on lists, but don’t follow them and follow others who aren’t on lists. My reasoning is entirely irrational, but it works for me and lets me keep up (more or less) with my followers.

    My favorite Twitter followers will check in from time-to-time with a “what are you working on?” if I’ve been silent for very long (which is rare, but has been known to happen ). I love that. I’ve done the same to those I notice are unusually quiet. But I will generally unfollow those who haven’t tweeted in 3 to 6 months. It’s a way to keep things more manageable.

    I don’t know how those with over 20,000 followers do it. I follow some who are personal and involved. I know they must automate much of their feed, but am impressed by those who can do it without making it seem animated.

    Keep up the good work! (Still following you!)
    @MuseInks

  17. Abby says:

    It’s cool to have a hundreds or even thousands of followers, and it made me think why? And why I have no that much of followers… Think! think! and think!
    Abby recently posted..Quickest Way To Get PregnantMy Profile

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