Sunday, January 09, 2011

Twitter rant

Part of an email I wrote to Charles (slightly edited):

A lot of people follow others on Twitter without bothering to read the followee's account profile. Followers will just as quickly un-follow someone if they don't get followed in return. So if Big-boobed Betty starts following my tweets, and I don't show any interest in following hers after a week or so, Betty will take her big boobs elsewhere.

The desire for "mutual following" probably stems from a deeper, darker urge: the urge to pump one's "follower" stats up as high as possible. It's exactly the same dynamic that fuels activity on Facebook: a large number of friends or followers translates into ego-validation. One girl who started following me had just joined Twitter; in the course of a week, she leapfrogged my 20-some followers and had hundreds-- all thanks to mutual following. I admit I'm tempted to follow some of the lovelier specimens who occasionally attach themselves to my account, but when I visit their accounts, I normally see that they have nothing to say: they waste their 140 characters on links to special-interest news articles. It's rather sad.

I've tried to make my Twitter experience as entertaining as possible by attempting, alternately, to (1) see what sorts of poetry are possible; (2) see how much information I can cram into 140 characters; (3) see how much I can imply or evoke in 140 characters; (4) use the "reply" function to start bizarre, solipsistic dialogues with myself; (5) write parodic movie summaries; (6) see what happens when I write in different languages; and (7) slip in bits of wisdom learned from others. I'm obviously in the minority; most people on Twitter seem to think that "social networking" means "be a link whore; engage in mutual following." And that's it.



Jason said...

If someone follows me, I normally look at who they are following and if I recognize who else they are following or their tweets look interesting, I normally follow them back. This does lead to me unfollow a number of people for a variety of different reasons. The use of auto-direct messages means a quick unfollow. I also weed out those that link to pay to read articles or those that are clearly only trying to market a product. I have been thinking about unfollowing a number of people whose tweets I normally don't even read.I follow a large number of people and wonder if I am missing tweets that I would like to read.

P.S Even though I used it three times above, I still don't feel that comfortable using "unfollow" as a word.

Anonymous said...

I like how you explain this phenomenon of Twitter and how you challenge people to be creative indirectly. Having never tried it out myself, do you mind if I use part of this post in a discussion on social networking with my students?

Kevin Kim said...


I feel your pain. I still have trouble using the word "login" as an adjective (e.g., "your login ID"), and I refuse to use it as a verb. Instead, I prefer the old phrasal verb "log in"-- two separate words, as God intended. Another construction I balk at is "underway" as opposed to "under way." But I think history is against me: both "login" and "underway" are extremely common these days.


It would be an honor! My experience with Korean students-- and this info is now a few years out of date, so things may have changed-- is that they love social networking because they like the idea of connections acquired through chains of familiarity. In keeping with "frog in a well"/Hermit Kingdom mentality, they don't like strangers. Or more precisely: if a stranger were to appear, he'd need to be a friend of a friend.

So when I asked my students, in one course, to create blogs, they were leery: blogs can be accessed by anyone on the Net, a fact that made many of my students nervous.