Why I Follow Who I Follow (on Twitter)
TL;DR: If I follow you on Twitter, I find what you say important for me to hear. If I don't follow you on Twitter, that means almost nothing, and you should not take that personally. For all you know, I may consider you one of my closest friends.
For all intents and purposes, I use Twitter incorrectly: I read every post, often scrutinizing the nuances involved and the ways in which this post might challenge one of my assumptions. Because of this method I might invest more of my time on Twitter considering a single idea than most people seem to spend on a single visit. Twitter is more than a social network: it has become a tool of my profession, and it remains a part of my daily work to invest in that network.
Currently, however, I am drowning under waves of rich debate.
Rich debate? On Twitter? Yes. It's there, if you're willing to follow the right people. Consider a conversation between Michael Jackson and Marco Rogers: Marco called Michael out publicly for posing a naïve question from a position of relative privilege, and the two struggled with the situation for the better part of a day. While I hope both men grew from the encounter, I know I did, and I'm sure other third parties did, too. (For posterity, here is the "offending" post and Marco's considered response.)
Unless I want to spend all of my time reading thoughts and conversations like these and no time contributing my own ideas, I need to be a little ruthless, culling my list of follows down dramatically. I've thought about going "write-only" (only posting, never reading), and I know that works for some, but the growth begotten by that nuance and debate remains important to me. As a result, I need to ensure I follow a group of people that, together:
- Challenge my assumptions
- Broaden my perspective
- Check my privilege
- Help my growth
- Brighten my day
- Empower my faith
- Improve my profession
These are co-dependent needs, and I hope to discover a group of people that can (whether they know this or not) meet these needs with me while reducing the cognitive burden of keeping up with all the nuance and debate Twitter users present on a daily basis.
Addendum: The "Do you know them?" Challenge
My wife once asked me that question, and I challenged myself to be able to answer "yes" by meeting everyone on my Twitter follows in the real world. While I still look forward to seeking out a few more people I've "met" through Twitter, I expect I'll wind up following far fewer people on that list, from celebrities like Wil Wheaton, Chris Kluwe, and Kenji Lopez-Alt to "normal folk" like Fabian Giesen, Caitie McCaffrey, and Kelly Sommers.
That said, far more unfollows will be people I do know and have already met, and that's hard.