You don’t have to be a great scholar of human nature to notice that a person’s choice of companions has a profound impact on their destiny. Wise King Solomon wrote “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20, New International Version). The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” (I Corinthian 15:33, New International Version)
When Twitter was launched, it had a relatively humble vision, at least in public. One idea of Twitter was that it might be nice to know little things (and by “little things,” I mean “things that can be expressed in 140 characters or less”) about people you liked, and to share little things about yourself to people who liked you. It would be like having your friends with you even they weren’t in the same room with you. Leisa Reichelt coined the phrase “ambient intimacy” to describe this phenomenon. The mockers said “Nobody cares what you had for breakfast, dude!” But if I like you, I might be willing, even happy, to invest three seconds in what you had for breakfast.
“Whatever is real cannot be threatened.
Whatever is not both mobile and social does not exist.” – Me, in 2010
As Twitter became the Next Big Thing, it became a marketplace of influence. If you aren’t actively making the case at Twitter for your business or your religion or your political ideology, you’re leaving influence on the table. So having more followers became more important, and being followed by the people one considered influential became more important.
I mention this to mention that I have had a number of different strategies for choosing who to follow on Twitter. Sometimes I followed people for no other reason than that they followed me, or retweeted me. Sometimes I used a random-walk strategy, seeing who else the people who followed me were following. Sometimes I followed the cool kids, the people with the most followers, related to a given topic. The most recent strategy I’ve used is to follow people who a) follow me, and b) have something in common with the me I advertise in my Twitter bio; Christians, political conservatives, people in the autism community.
I assess my Twitter follow strategy as something that reinforces the definition of myself in my Twitter bio. If someone wants to do that, I’ve just shown them a successful strategy to adopt. On the other hand, if you are questing for the mystery of your life (like I am), you may wish to consider being a little more flexible.
I assess my Twitter follow strategy as relatively uncritical, because I’m using someone’s Twitter bio as an overly important piece of information. It should be noted that when someone follows you on Twitter, what you see is their Twitter bio. Therefore, a person’s Twitter bio is their best hope to get someone they follow, to follow them. It doesn’t say anything regarding the consistency of the person’s actual Twitter flow with their Twitter bio. I believe it would be better if I looked at the last few tweets of someone to see if their tweets match their bio, if their tweets represent a flow I would like to influence me. I therefore assess myself as inadequately thoughtful as to who I want to influence me.
I am currently pondering what my new follow strategy will be, and how rigorously I will follow it. I might just take my own suggestions. Wouldn’t that be something?
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