Remember when twitter was new, and people were busy making up those cute words that twitterers just adored using? Tweeple and tweets? Just add “tw” before a word and you were one of the cool kids on twitter. Thankfully, that idiocy died, as did such other nonsense as #FollowFriday.
To the extent twitter had a place in social media, it was as an extremely limited medium for communication that allowed people to share tiny bits of thought or information as a substitute for lengthier and more burdensome efforts such as telephone calls, emails, and anything involving actual thought. It was fun and easy, and that was enough.
But now, the king of the Thought Leaders has decided that it’s not enough. My pal Kevin O’Keefe writes that now that he has more than 17,000 followers, and growing daily, the carefree, twit-if-you-feel-like-it, Halcyon days are behind him. Like the landed gentry, like a peer of the realm, like the fabulously rich, he has duties:
I am not saying this to impress you. Walking from the ferry into the office this morning it dawned on me that I have an obligation to serve these folks.
Or what? They get their money back? Nobody makes anybody follow anybody. I used to follow Kevin way back when, but I don’t anymore. He twits too much, and the annoying new twit chime distracts me from my work. And since most of his twits are to other people’s posts that don’t interest me, it wasn’t worth it. But I didn’t blame Kevin for being a lousy twitterer. He twitted what he chose to twit, and I unfollowed because I chose to unfollow. No biggie.
Serving my followers also means being there to engage them when they engage me. I get questions, comments, and critique in response to my Tweets. If I were not there listening and responding in a real and authentic fashion, I’d feel a bit like a fraud.
Wait a sec. Now we’re heading into turbulent waters, uncharted waters, where it’s not enough that he “feels” some sort of duty not to twit really bad crap (which, in my view, is his absolute right as a twitterer and human being), but now there are rules of engagement?
Maybe Kevin is suggesting these are special rules just for him, so that the rest of us can ignore his rules completely. Maybe he’s suggesting these are rules for Thought Leaders, who (if I understand it correctly) are the social media equivalent of balding middle-aged physicians driving Porsche 911 Turbo Carreras in bumper-to-bumper traffic hoping that someone they know will see them. But whatever he’s suggesting, the idea that a twitterer has some duty to other twitterers is just, well, nuts.
Like most other people on twitter, I get twits from people I don’t know, people I do know who twit after the consumption of mind altering substances, spamming bots and people who have some unique capacity to write something pithy, informative, amusing or brilliant in 140 characters. Sometimes I respond. Sometimes I don’t, whether because I don’t know the person, care about the twit or have anything to add. Sometimes, someone will twit at me (all it takes is the @ and my name to twit at me) with something utterly incomprehensible or stupid.
And I’m supposed to respond? Why? Am I now under the control of any twitterer who can manage to tap out my name, obliged (oops, twobliged) to acknowledge their existence and validate their twit?
Kevin argues that this should be done to be “authentic.”
If I were not there listening and responding in a real and authentic fashion, I’d feel a bit like a fraud.
Authentic means to be real, and real people don’t answer every shout from the maddening crowd. Real people don’t have to respond to anyone who twits at them. Real people do whatever they want to do, whether it’s engage in a chat on twitter or ignore some blithering idiot who twits something foolish. Authentic is to engage when you have something to say, and ignore when you don’t. That’s real.
As twitter has developed over the years, and I hated the idea when it first came out, people have sought to impose rules, twitterquette if you will, on how others should twit. There was the followback rule, that if someone followed you then courtesy demanded you follow them back. That was utterly ridiculous, and people quickly figured out that they would follow people they wanted to follow. The fact that someone, especially someone they didn’t know, would follow them was totally irrelevant to whose twits they wanted to see.
Then there have been the new twitterers, who were often identified by their absurdly self-promotional twitter bios that made them a joke to more seasoned twitterers, who would get all bent out of shape when they twitted at someone without getting a twit in return. And if they did get a twit in return, it usually made their head explode, as they thought twitter requires others to only twit nice things at them and instead somebody on twitter was calling them mean names. “You are an evil, horrible twitter person, who should die,” twitted the n00b following three thousand people and having 4 followers themselves.
Then there are the twitterers who get blind-sided that the rules of engagement they dreamed up in their heads aren’t universally respected by the rest of the twitterverse. One person I twitted with got very angry with me, calling me a very mean name, because her twits ended up in a post here. “They were private twits to me,” she told me, except they were public twits to anyone who wanted to see them. She thought I violated her twitter privacy by using her public twit, because, well, that’s what she decided. New people to twitter don’t get the idea that twits are about as public as they come, and some get very angry that social media doesn’t work the way they think it should. Not my fault.
If it’s all about collecting twitter followers to pretend you’re more popular than you are, then you’re suffering from delusions. Having 100,000 phony followers is being a fraud. Having three followers you care about is far more meaningful. The numbers are crap, and they carry no obligation despite what Kevin says. Have you ever looked at your followers? Do you really think there are that many “world renown lawyers” or girls named Britney who hang on your every twit?
If Kevin is right about being authentic, then he’s wrong about there being an obligation. You can’t have both. Do what you want. Don’t do what you don’t want. But stop creating these expectations for the untwitted masses that they are being treated poorly because they didn’t get a virtual tummy rub on twitter.
Nobody owes anybody anything on twitter, or anywhere else on social media. You like someone, then follow ’em. You change your mind, then unfollow ’em. Their feelings are hurt? They’ll get over it, and if not, then so what. Seriously, so what? The world of social media disappears when you turn your iToy off, and then the rules of the real world kick in. Now that’s what real is about.