how to lose followers and alienate tweeple

note: my twitter sabbatical will continue through the end of the year. i’m barely going to have the brain power to tie my shoes, let alone have conversations online, until the holiday season is over.

i unfollowed 751 people this week.

no, seriously.

one of the reasons i decided on my twitter sabbatical was because the overwhelming amount of information available to me. it was an embarrassment of riches — smart people talking about books (and stuff) ALL THE TIME. what could be better, right?

….. yeah. not so much.

turns out that when you are me, and you have that much information coming at you, you freak the hell out. WHICH LINK DO I CLICK FIRST? WHICH OF THESE 200 PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS VERY INTERESTING TOPIC SHOULD I RETWEET? WHICH OF THE 8,529 BOOKS RECOMMENDED TO ME THIS WEEK SHOULD I READ FIRST?

there are people on twitter, smart, savvy, interesting people, who know how to handle this kind of thing. they have lists, and techniques, and stuff! i know, because they told me so! but it turns out, even when i fiddle with lists (and LORD have i done that) it’s still too much. i want to look at all of it, all the time.

so, once i felt like i had some perspective, (i.e. i hadn’t been on twitter in a month, give-or-take) i started looking back over the list of folks i was following. THERE WERE 1151 OF THEM! and i didn’t even recognize MORE THAN half of them. WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE? i grant you, i have no doubt that i had good reasons to follow them and that those reasons remain valid. but it occurred to me that if, in the time that i have been following, i haven’t engaged with them in a way that allowed me to look at their avatar and say “oh, they like this!” or “hey, that’s that person who told me about that” then it probably didn’t matter one way or the other how interesting they were — we just didn’t have anything to say to each other. it happens. no blame, no fault, just plain old DAMN THE INTERNETZ ARE A BIG PLACE!

i used an automated thingummy to clear out a bunch of folks that i was following but  weren’t following me back and/or were inactive (no hard feelings, y’all!); that was probably about 500 right there. (TERRIFYING, yes, i know.) then i started pruning by hand. if i couldn’t do what i mentioned above, remember one salient detail about an account, i unfollowed.

in case it’s not already abundantly clear (WHICH IT SHOULD BE), this is about me, not you, twitter. i’m not going to apologize for unfollowing whoever i unfollowed, but i’m also not saying that you are not interesting and/or worthy of following. just that, you know, we never talked! and if i’m going to use twitter at all effectively ever again, it’s got to be about quality conversations, not me attempting to cram as much information into my brain via my eyeballs until either the monitor or my brain shorts out (and fyi? the monitor wins every time).

i also unfollowed all the publishers and bookstores that i was following and put them on a list, respectively. why? because i want to know what they’re up to, but i don’t need to be following them to do that. that is the beauty of lists! i can still see your feed, but not be overwhelmed with your info (which is often advertising, btw, which is totally fine and necessary BUT STILL) in my regular hey-these-are-people-i-actually-kinda-know timeline. also, most of the folks who run these accounts have personal accounts that i am already following, so it seems redundant to be following both. and i mean, really. if, say, AAKnopf needs to get in touch, i’m pretty sure they can get my email from yrstrulyREL. they don’t need to DM me. so that took out a nice chunk of accounts as well.

the fact that i am still following 400 people/feeds (AND THAT I CAN TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT ALL OF THEM) astonishes me. i thought that final number would be MUCH much smaller.

i’m tempted to set a cap, going forward, but i think that’s probably unnecessary. maybe i will just take a month off every year; maybe i will pay better attention; maybe i will have fewer conversations; and probably there will be some revenge unfollowing, but that’s cool. i feel like i’ve got a better handle on what, for me, the whole point of twitter is — to create and cultivate relationships that feed my brain. and 400 of you should be MORE THAN ENOUGH to accomplish that.

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how to lose followers and alienate tweeple

13 thoughts on “how to lose followers and alienate tweeple

  1. Great post Jenn. I’ve found I can’t follow anymore than 200 odd people without getting totally overloaded or having so much that I miss all the interesting tweets overnight, twitter and timezones is another headache all together. I have tried lists too but never get around to actually checking in on those feeds.
    I like your follow rule: if I never engage with that person, don’t get any useful info consistently and don’t know who they are then I shouldn’t be following.

  2. You summed up a lot of my issues with Twitter – I only follow 300 people and I have a hard time keeping up. It’s totally not you at all, it’s just the way it is! But I’m doing what you’re doing, only following people I actually talk to, and it’s working out. Hopefully you won’t lose followers – I consider it an honor to be followed back by someone, so it really shouldn’t offend people. Rock on.

  3. I just started twitter and can understand your dilemma! I am trying to only friend people who I blog with (so far I think I”m at 50?) but I can see how easy it is to find all of these new people. Plus the amount of information I’m already getting at 50?! Whew.

  4. Anne DeCourcey says:

    I hear you. So many tweets, so many books, so many emails, so much Facebook. And then there’s other stuff: TV, dinners out, family, yoga. You know, life.

    Good for you for cleaning up the twlutter!

    Anne
    book rep in Boston 🙂

  5. I have the same issues with twitter. I have to understand that it is NOT a media outlet, in the traditional sense: it doesn’t coherently source or filter information. It stretches my attention to keep up; at 500 follows I’ve already started to lose track of people I like; and what I do value is the interaction with a fairly small percentage of followers. And yet I am weak, don’t like ignoring follow requests and stupidly want big numbers.

  6. rliebmann@randomhouse.com says:

    You have wonderfully inspired me to unfollow a bunch of people. But I’m not going to be nearly so thoughtful as you. Am just going to make decisions based on physical appearance. And perhaps also dance-floor skills.

  7. You have exactly explained why I cannot get into Twitter – who in their right mind could follow over a thousand people…or for that matter 200 people. It is overwhelming and not terribly personal. I’ve tried many times to log into my Twitter account and join in the conversation – but often I find myself lost, confused, overwhelmed with the chatter. It is just too much for my poor brain. I admire anyone who can do it and find it enjoyable…but that probably is never going to be me! I’ve actually considered closing my Twitter account more than once…we’ll see.

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