Crossing the Twitter line that shouldn't be there

Published January 21, 2011

Twitter is a strange beast, isn’t it? Everyone uses it differently. For some, it is a means of promoting their work. For others, it is a place to follow comedians and laugh at jokes. Some use it as a replacement RSS feed, following those streams that are simple “new blog post” updates. Others use it as a way of keeping in touch with the family. A handful of people follow only celebrities. Some follow and don’t type, others type and don’t follow.

The rich tapestry of Twitter helps to make it what it is. If everyone used it the same way, it would be a most boring place.

Personally, I use Twitter as a place to post 140-character snippiets about my life, keep track of interesting links, share things I like, and see what other people are sharing in return. I try and keep the number of people I follow down to about 100, and it changes all the time, depending on what is happening.

Whilst Strictly was on, I followed lots of dancers, but now it’s over, they’re all gone. During the F1 season, I follow a lot more fans, drivers and teams, but for now it is whittled down to just a couple. When it’s time for Wimbledon, I’ll likely follow everyone I can who is tweeting about the tennis, but as at this moment, it’s just a couple of racquet-related accounts.

My tastes are always changing, and my Twitter universe is a fickle one.

A day or so ago, I had my first tweet from someone upset that I had unfollowed them. It came as a complete surprise to me, because I didn’t realise people followed their “follower” lists to such a degree. I have no idea who is following me, and I tend to think it is none of my business. My tweets are out there in public, they can be accessed individually, in a stream, with an RSS client or via the medium of searches and lists. To me, the number of traditional followers is somewhat irrelevant. I’m not sure I’ve ever even looked at the list of people that follow me, and although I do still get the emails, I rarely read them. I should really change that setting.

So it was a shock to me that anyone would be upset that I’d unfollowed them. Firstly that they’d notice, and secondly that they would take it to heart. How can you when it is such a fickle thing? When everyone uses it in such vastly separate ways? After a bit of discussion about it over on Sidepodcast, we established at least three completely different systems that people used to enjoy the content, and manage their followers.

In the end, Amy came up with the ultimate advice, putting it better than I ever could:

never never never take twitter personally

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