Dr. Adam Avitable knows all.

Twitter: Who should you follow?

Yesterday, I was reading the tweets of a friend who had found FriendOrFollow.com. She was hurt by discovering that some of the people she considered in her “circle” weren’t following her on Twitter, even though she was following them. Her response to this was to unfollow them and in a few cases, unsubscribe from their blogs as well.

This got me thinking. Should Twitter be focused on mutual masturbation? Should you follow every person who follows you? Should you be insulted by someone who doesn’t follow you back?

I say no. I think that you should have a different perspective when using Twitter, and here’s why:

  1. It may be accidental. I can think of three times in the last week where I discovered that I wasn’t actually following someone who I assumed I was. It may have been because Twitter glitched when I originally tried to follow them. It may have been because I go through occasionally and unfollow people who haven’t tweeted in more than 60 days, using Untweeps. Maybe I just meant to follow them back but forgot, due to real life getting in the way.
  2. Twitter is not a mutual admiration society. The goal of Twitter is to create a stream of conversation that is interesting to you. You should choose who has something interesting to say based on their content, not based on who they are. And different people use Twitter for different reasons. Some may use it for networking or marketing. Some may use it to keep track of a limited group of friends. Others might only want to follow celebrities.

  3. Twitter is one form of communication out of many. Chances are that if you follow someone on Twitter, you may also have communicated with them by email or read their blog or may be their friend on Facebook. If you have multiple avenues to communicate with someone, learn about their lives, and share elements of your own life with them, why do you need Twitter to do so? That’s like being upset if you send someone a letter and instead of writing you back, they call you and then come hang out at your house.
  4. Maybe you’re boring or annoying. If someone isn’t following you on Twitter, rather than blame them, maybe you should view this as inspiration to be more interesting. Maybe if your tweets consist of blog posts, blip.fm songs, TV recaps, and complaints about your cat, people don’t follow you because you’re just cluttering up their stream. Can you really blame them? Try being clever. Try tweeting something interesting. And if you don’t want to, that’s cool. Just don’t have the audacity to complain if someone doesn’t follow you!
  5. Unfollowing isn’t excommunication and it’s not a punishment. Unfollowing takes a second. It can be reversed just as quickly. And chances are if you are so perturbed by someone not following you that you unfollow them in retaliation, they won’t even notice. Or care. So how did you just benefit? It’s likely you originally followed that person because you liked what they had to say, and now you’re not getting that information anymore.

Instead of viewing Twitter as a way to boost your ego with followers, try seeing it as a way to get your message across, whatever that message may be. If your goal is to be interesting and attract followers based on content, good for you. If you just want to share the mundanities of your life, that’s good, too. Just don’t take it personally if people don’t find you interesting or if people choose not to read what you have to say.

Updated: This is not a venue to attack my friend – she was legitimately hurt. I am just addressing why I think if you take a different perspective, you can avoid these types of hurt feelings in the future.

Or, if you want more followers another way, just buy my Twitter shirt from Zazzle!

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160 Replies to “Twitter: Who should you follow?”

  1. thepsychobabble

    I refuse to check those sites, because I might accidentally get butt-hurt. And I always feel stupid later, when I’m done being butt-hurt.
    And I think I used up my monthly quota of the phrase “butt-hurt” now.
    Gah. I’m soooo unfollowing you!

  2. bluepaintred

    I follow a very small group of people, and I follow them becuase I like them, or they offer a service I use, like weather.com, or FML. Finding out that someone you thought you were “friends” with, cannot be bothered to follow me is a slap in the face. It might not be punishment for them that I unfollowed them, but hot damn, it felt good.

    • Miss Britt

      @bluepaintred, I’m just curious – did you contact them first?

      I wouldn’t do this with EVERYONE – but if it was someone I considered a friend, I would. Because like Adam said, maybe it wasn’t intentional.

      FOR EXAMPLE – I clicked on your twitter link and – WOAH! I wasn’t following you! And if someone had asked if I was, I would have said “yep”.

    • Avitable

      @bluepaintred, I’m not discounting how you felt about it at all – you were obviously legitimately hurt. But hopefully you can understand how some people might have neglected to follow you even if they considered themselves a friend.

    • Hilly

      @bluepaintred, I have to second what Britt said here. I got a long email from someone who was really upset that I wasn’t following her. I mean, wow, this girl was trying to find all of the reasons that I could have been ticked off at her and turned herself inside out. The only reason that I was NOT following her? I meant to delete the person “underneath” her when I went through my list but hit her name instead because I was in a hurry.

  3. melissa

    ugh. totally.
    i just ignore it all. i pay attention to who engages in conversation with me rather than who is following me vs. who i’m following. it’s so ridiculous to place such emphasis on something so…trivial.

  4. Julie @ Angry Julie Monday

    Here I go again…agreeing with you!!

    Dammit you just started following me this week! About time!

    I’ve gotten butt hurt a little when I find out someone is not following me. But then again, I see some fabulous people following me.

    My friend said something to me about marriage and relationships, I’m applying this to Twitter too. When you are in a relationship, someone has to love the other person more, put more effort into the relationship, otherwise it won’t work. Just like blog reading, I read some people’s blogs, but they don’t read mine. Some people read my rants, I don’t read theirs. Is that a bad thing, no? Different strokes for different folks.

    Now I’m fucking rambling…this is what happens when my caffeine wears off.

  5. Overflowing Brain (Katie)

    I love this post. I’m only really bothered when people I know well unfollow me, or as has been the trend lately, people unfollow me and then send me an email to tell me why (REALLY? This I do not understand).

    I think that part of the point of twitter is to enjoy the conversation and if you’re not, then you should change your stream. There’s enough people out there to fill in the gaps.

    • Avitable

      @Tracy Lynn, it’s funny, because everyone always says that something is like junior high, but at some point, it’s worthwhile to recognize that even adults can get hurt finding out when friends aren’t really their friends. Or don’t appear to be their friends.

      • Tracy Lynn

        @Avitable, I guess I just think that not all of my friends want to follow me on twitter. I mean, I can’t see using that as a barometer of how someone feels about me.

        It’s like the blog. Many of my friends don’t read my blog. They don’t need to. They know me, and I tell them the stuff I write there. The fact that they don’t read really doesn’t matter to me.

        It could also be that I am socially retarded.

  6. Janna

    For me, Twitter is just a fun way to broadcast occasional bursts of meaningless nonsense. I don’t usually use it as a serious way to keep in touch. Therefore I don’t really take the whole “following” thing very seriously either.
    I definitely don’t use it as a gauge of whether or not someone is a friend.

    • Avitable

      @Janna, I had a period where I got overwhelmed with Twitter. I was sick of missing important information that people were sending through it. I’ve gotten over that and now just enjoy it during the short periods that I’m on there.

  7. Del

    Tracy Lynn, Yes…people really do.

    I admit I think twitter can be something to do. Addicting, no. I dont think playing on a computer is addictive. Thats an insult to real addicts, go ask one. You remembre that movie half baked with the part with Bob Sagat: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=3914279.

    However it does suck people in, who use twitter as their only means of talking and meeting people who are really different. Think about it, if you live in a small town, you can really open your eyes up to some new things. Some people use it as a means to screen who they want to know?

    Whatever, follow @delthedad and visit my blog http://www.delthedad.com if you want an honest opinion of some of the shit that is really going on in the blogospshere. Twitter is a way to find out something new. I like to read through and see what people are thinking and saying…


  8. Karen Sugarpants

    Omg you guys think about this way too hard.
    The only thing I’ve done on Twitter that I had to concentrate longer than a minute in, was to follow the entire list of “make me laugh” people that @goonsquadsarah posted. Just cuz I like to laugh. I doubt they will all follow me back and I don’t care. They are there to make me laugh, dammit. 🙂
    I hate when my buds get their feelings hurt but Twitter? C’mon, it’s just Twitter.

  9. CP

    Oh Lord. I remember having this same stupid conversations four years ago. People were getting all butt hurt because they were commenting on blogs but not getting comments in return. blah blah blah. Same old bullshit, new technology.

    Wake me up when people have evolved a bit more.

  10. TJ

    I could maybe get behind the unfollowing people who don’t follow you if the person who originally tweeted how hurt they were followed back everyone who followed them. But according to friendorfollow.com, there are 66 people that she does not follow back.

    Therefore, I discard the whole thing as self-centered butthurt-ery. You can’t whine about not being followed back when there are 60+ people you don’t deem worthy to follow back.

    The whole unfollowing people who don’t follow you back just screams “HOW DARE YOU NOT BE INTERESTED IN MY EVERY WORD.”

    I’m not even interested in my OWN every word.

    • Avitable

      @TJ, there is a huge difference between following people you consider a friend and following back every person who follows you, especially if some of them are commercial accounts or people you don’t know at all. I follow less than a third of the people who follow me. And if I see that someone has unfollowed me, I’ll reassess whether or not what they have to say is really that interesting to me.

      • TJ

        @Avitable, I totally get that – I don’t follow everyone who follows me, either. I was saying that unless you DO follow everyone who follows you (and by you, I mean the general you, and initially meant the original person who have tweeted to inspire this post), I don’t really feel that you have a leg to stand on in regards to making vocal and public complaints about who does and doesn’t follow you.

        Basically, a lot of words to say that I think people look pretty foolish when they make a stink about someone not following them on Twitter, and that I follow what I find interesting, regardless of follow backs.

        (Also? To be kind of a bitch? My friends DO follow me. So, you know, maybe when someone finds themself in such a butthurt situation, they have overestimated how many “friends” they have.)

  11. Cri

    You’re right, you’re right!
    I’ve come to terms with it.
    I’m a boring Internet person. Now in real life? I am a charming delight.
    But the Internet Cristy? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    I’m with Karen, I follow people who make me laugh and liven up my sad isolated arse.

  12. Karie

    Following people is about who has great conversation….you aren’t on Twitter to become a Trump power earner of MLM. Get the hell outta here…no thanks! I know people don’t follow me back always because I have no filter, I offend easily from my verbal diarrhea. I mean who really cares who follows who?

  13. Keith Wilcox

    Totally agree with you. I have my blog update automatically to my twitter account. I follow blogs via google reader and I never even log onto my twitter account. As a matter of principal I’ll try to follow people who follow me (but sometimes I forget) but I never even log onto twitter so it makes no difference except from a numbers standpoint. Maybe twitter is a good way to find blogs and interesting content. But, if it is, I haven’t figured out to best use it. Until I do, i’ll just continue to post remotely. When I get twitter follower I first see if they have a blog. If they do, and I find it interesting, I’ll just follow that directly.

      • Keith Wilcox

        @Avitable, And that’s what I’m saying. I don’t really care who follows me on twitter. I use feedreader as well, which is where I have your blog listed. Everybody I’ve found that’s worth following, I’ve found in comment sections of other blogs or by just poking around. Having a twitter stream that is nothing but blogposts is useful for people who use twitter to find blogs and contacts (because I do reply to people who ask questions). For people who use it for witty banter and real time goings on, like yourself, it isn’t useful at all. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the most out of twitter for the past 5 months. I just haven’t gotten there yet 🙂 I’ll go watch that video now. Thanks.

  14. Ashleigh

    I follow people that I’m interested in, so I don’t think it’s fair to complain if someone isn’t following me. I’d probably be upset if my best friend or someone important unfollowed me, but then again it’s just Twitter. I still talk to those people other places so it’s not a life altering issue if I get unfollowed.
    I don’t follow everyone that follows me back.
    Or I follow people like my parents who get upset if I’m not following them, so I just stick them into a category on Tweetdeck and hide them.

    • Avitable

      @muskrat, I notice if I lose a lot of followers, but I never have any idea who they are and just assume that they’re spammers whose accounts were closed. I know some people who keep really close track of it, though. I don’t get that.

  15. Lynda

    I have a very small Twitter circle. My followers/following are both under 100 people. For me, Twitter can be used for many things. I have a certain set of following that I don’t except to reply back, like SyFy or Sims3. Part of Twitter that I like for me, is the communication between certain people, because we are mutally following each other. I know that TweetDeck allows people to see tweets directed at them, even if they aren’t following. I am not sure if my tweets go through to these people on TweetDeck since I protect my tweets. I also know that I am following some people who don’t follow me back, and sometimes when I want to say something, the conversation feels one-sided. I have deleted some people also when I want to communicate with them, but it feels one-sided, because what’s the point if they can’t hear you. Especially when they ask people’s opinions on things all the time. It isn’t like they are going to know I deleted them, and it isn’t that I am deleting them out of malice, just that I’m not what I want from the communication.

    I also can understand the may be accidental. I signed up for Twitter when it was new and hot, but only really started using it this year. I know a few people probably dropped me when I wasn’t active. Some people may not want to ask to see my protected feed. Some people may not realize it because they have 1000 followers/following, and they can’t keep track of it all. Some people probably just don’t like me that well. But I’m not going to tell people, “Hey. You aren’t following me! What the fuck, man!?”

    The big follow me button kind of cracks me up too, since elfenkate pointed it out.

  16. Robin

    To me, it’s not that serious.

    My twitter following/followed stream is very small (less than 100 people), and to be honest I prefer it that way. I can honestly say I have met 85% of the people on my twitter list, and out of those 85%, I am friends with (or want to get to know and be friends with) the majority of them – it makes it more intimate and more real.

    At the end of the day, I need human interaction. 🙂

  17. Nobody™

    Tweeting about what you are currently watching on TV is a great way to get me to unfollow you. If I gave a shit about what’s on TV, I’d be watching TV. I don’t mind an occasional post about that, but the play by play of TV shows is annoying as hell.

  18. Grant

    I’m sure that Twitter is an advanced Taliban terrorist tool which will one day be used to send a hypnotic code to all users to command them to screw their pets and then commit suicide. I’m staying away from that.

    And get rid of the Follow me thingy – it’s annoying.

  19. Badass Geek

    I don’t understand the big to-do about not being followed on Twitter. There are a few people I follow (yourself included) who don’t follow me back, but that’s okay with me. It’s easy to miss people when you’ve got a larger following, and Twitter doesn’t always e-mail you every time you get a new follower.

    Big effing deal. It’s not the end of the world. I agree with everything you said.

  20. Miss Britt

    *I* don’t get worked up over people not following me on Twitter. I don’t even know who is following me and who isn’t. Honestly, I’m amazed any time ANYONE follows me, and kind of feel the need to apologize to them in advance.

    BUT – if it was someone I was close to, I’d rather they ask me then assume I didn’t follow them on purpose, simply because I *don’t* keep track of it well at all.

  21. Hilly

    On any given day, I lose and gain 10 followers. I don’t know who they are nor do I care. Well I mean, when new people follow me and I actually GET the notification (because that doesn’t always happen), I check them out and see if I would enjoy reading their tweets as well.

    However, people are coming and going from my stream faster than hookers at a knife fight and if I took each of the “goings” personally? Yeah, I’d be a mess.

    I’ve had people that I thought were truly good friends unfollow me before then follow me back a few days later. I’m assuming that it was a mistake or that I was being drunk and annoying for a few days. Either way, Twitter is not the end-all, be-all of friendship. At least not for me.

  22. Blondefabulous

    I have noticed that people who are bloggers sometimes do not have the same name for Failbook or Twitter. Then I’ll get a follow request or friend request and I have no freakin clue who the person is. If I’m in a hurry, I don’t automatically hit the follow button and then I’ll forget it all together!

    It’s the blonde I tell ya…….

  23. Capricorn Cringe

    I don’t have a lot of time for Twitter. Mostly because my phone is pain in the ass and I don’t use my laptop a lot. So I would have to sit here and stare at the screen and wait for someone to say something interesting, which you do all the time so please don’t unfollow me!

  24. drzibbs

    I follow lccal people, people that follow my blog or blogs I read and interesting people. And people that correspond to me on Twitter. If any of them get boring though, I unfollow. ( @Dr Zibbs )

    As for my other Twitter account @FatherKelly , I only follow celebs.

  25. tena

    This was all a ploy to get ME to follow you, right? I mean, I know you don’t know who the fuck I am, but still… I know who you are and JUST realized I wasn’t following you today! So- mission accomplished.

  26. Jen_Ann_W

    I am more than willing to admit that my Tweets – shit, my blog too for that matter – are really not all that entertaining. So I get unduly excited when I notice someone new following me, but I totally don’t blame them for unfollowing, or not following in the first place. Now if someone I was following up and blocked my ass? Then I might get a little upset, because I’m picky about who I follow.
    What’s getting to me right now is watching my blog hit numbers go through the roof, but no one comments. So annoying.

    • Avitable

      @Jen_Ann_W, if someone blocked me, I’d be upset by that, too. And I’m with you on the no comments issue. My comments have decreased significantly in the last 6-9 months with the advent of Twitter. That’s why I hate when people use Twitter to comment on my blog. That’s what comments are for.

  27. Jay

    You never really know how people are going to react to different things online. Not being followed back on Twitter might not seem like a big deal to me, but to others it is. I understand that. But I thought we were already past the “they don’t follow me back” stuff and had moved on to the “I can’t believe they put me on their ‘everybody else’ or ‘others’ list instead of ‘People I Love’ list!”

    • Avitable

      @Jay, yeah, the list issue is another ball of wax. I have figured out that I’m more willing to follow someone back if I’m on a list of theirs, though. And you would be amazed at the people who were offended that they were randomly assigned to either “fuck” or “kill” on my lists. Sigh.

  28. Faiqa

    This is an excellent and very useful post. I thought I was lost for a minute, there.

    As far as followers, etc… I have a no idea who unfollows me because I don’t trouble myself with morons. I mean, really, who would NOT want to hang on every word I type. Morons, that’s who.

    But, seriously? The only thing I’m weird about is the ratio of people I follow to the people who follow me. I need there to be a significant number between the two, the higher of which being the number of people following me. Because I’m a LEADER, people.

  29. Maria

    I probably look like an asshole because I follow a fraction of the people that follow me. I don’t get email alerts when someone follows me so I damn sure don’t care when they unfollow. I don’t follow 1/2 the people who’s blogs I read. Twitter’s really just not that damn serious.

    A lot of people that are good people or have good blogs are fucking boring as shit on Twitter. Doesn’t mean I don’t like you or value you, just means you aren’t that interesting and I don’t care what you had for dinner or that you updated your blog. Or that you were in a horrible car accident and lost your left leg.

  30. Zoeyjane

    My biggest challenge when it comes to Twitter is not having the attention span for something like Tweetdeck, but finding that just using it on the web when I’m following 600+ people makes me lose shit. Then I get caught up in these cycles of just seeing who’s replied to me and that’s like, twitter masturbation. So, I do the 60-day cut out, too, and if someone’s not legitimately engaging or entertaining/educating me, they might get the boot. Then I feel bad for it. Social Media sucks balls.

  31. Elisa

    No offense to your friend, but I find that a bit childish. I don’t get offended when people don’t follow me back – I don’t follow all my followers either. I do find it annoying, however, when I direct message someone and they don’t reply – that’s just rude.

    If someone doesn’t follow you, then your tweets simply don’t fit in with what they are looking to get out of Twitter. No biggie. I am also friends with people who don’t read my blog regularly, and I am not offended by that either. We keep in touch otherwise.

  32. Aunt Becky

    I want the “@mommywantsvodka I noticed that @blowjobbritney is not following you anymore” bot. But that’s just me, you know?

    I’m not on Twitter very much. Also, I require that shirt. But mainly because you’re kinda my idol. Can we be BFF? Have I asked you that? Also, I might be high on cough medicine.

  33. Y

    I have a friend listed on my “friends” list who doesn’t follow me back.

    It doesn’t hurt my feelings in the least. When I came to NYC, he came all the way from Brooklyn at 10pm to see me. That’s what matters to me.

    Besides, I am annoying and pointless on twitter. I’m lucky ANYONE follows me, really.

  34. ali

    People who don’t follow me on twitter are missing out all of my insightful nuggets. Or maybe they are better off.
    um, either way, I have no idea who is following me and who isn’t. Honestly, who has time to keep track of that??? I can barely make the time to put on deodorant every day.

  35. Kat

    Um, wow, so so much thought and emotion has gone into this, into Twitter?
    For reals?

    The answer, no, I don’t follow every single person who is following me, and I’m sure that there are people who I follow who don’t follow me back.
    Does it bother me?
    It’s just Twitter, not my real life circle of friends.

  36. Ren

    I went to a similar site recently and noticed that a couple of people with whom I occasionally had Twitter conversation were not actually following me. I wondered if there was an etiquette for notifying someone that they aren’t following you, but it might be intentional, so I didn’t pursue that. Instead, I decided to make a small effort to reply-to/mention them more often to see if they’d notice that they weren’t following me. Nothing overboard, mind you, just a little more than I had been. So far, it has had a 50% success rate, which Is good as far as I’m concerned.

  37. Tiaras & Tantrums

    I TRIED to follow everyone back once . . . but frankly, I can’t keep up with the tweets. Am I doing something wrong? Perhaps my brain doesn’t operate on a good level with twitter? Any clues on how to follow more tweets? Every time I try to up my followers, I am just overwhelmed. So please, how does one follow 700+ people let alone 1500+?

    • Avitable

      @Tiaras & Tantrums, have you tried using Tweetdeck? You can split the people you follow into groups – obviously some people are more important than others. I used to feel the same way you did and had to adopt the attitude that I just can’t see everyone’s tweets, nor should I try. If I’m online, I can see what people are saying, but other than that, I’m not going to try to keep up.

  38. Elizabeth Kaylene

    Completely agreed. I don’t even pay attention to the numbers anymore, though I have to admit when this whole shebang started, I did pay attention. Now I just focus on the conversations — and man, am I enjoying them a lot more!

    All that out of the way… That tee shirt is fucking awesome!

  39. sizzle

    At least 4 times a week I think about deleting my Twitter account and just having Twitter be for the people I have met or have conversations with. But then I think that that’s not the point of Twitter. It’s more expansive than that. I do think people (sometimes myself included!) take the follow/unfollow thing way too hard. If you don’t really @ each other ever then is there really a need to follow them? I don’t know. And yes, some people just blather on about things that have no interest to me so I unfollow. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person, it’s just that isn’t the medium I want to communicate with them.

  40. perpstu

    I love my Twitter. I follow dozens of people who don’t follow me and I have several who follow me that I am not going to follow back for various reasons. Whatever. I like the ease of bopping in and out of conversations without having to be constantly present for the whole thing.

  41. Sheila (Charm School Reject)

    I think that her feelings were totally legitimate.

    Personally, yeah, I’ve had my feelings hurt because of twitter.

    And yeah, I realize that of all the lame assed statements I make, this is probably the lamest. Because really, it’s “just” Twitter, right?

    Aaaannndd I wrote this really long comment but I don’t want to tell your people even more about how my crazy assed brain works.

    So. Yeah.

    I’m just shutting up now.

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