Twitterranting: On Ego Pedestals and Auto Following

istock_pedastalIf you have something important to say, do you say it? Or do you discuss it? Who do you talk about it with?

These questions came to mind recently as I watched people on Twitter use the social media tool as some personal soapbox to talk out at the world.

Note that I said talk out, not talk with.

What’s Your Thing?

Granted, we all use social media in the ways that feel comfortable to us. I use Twitter as my local hangout. I talk to people because I want to get to know them better, or because I find them funny or interesting. I want to socialize and rub shoulders.

I want to chat, have some fun, and make friends. Almost every morning, I hop onto TweetDeck and open up the airwaves to socialize with whoever feels up to it at the time. That’s my thing, and that’s the way I enjoy using Twitter.

Of course, I also promote my business, demonstrate my expertise, and gain some notoriety, sure – but I don’t make a mission of self-promotion. Yet, so many others do.

I see many others use the social media tool as their egotistical pedestal. They tweet self-important words of wisdom. They don’t answer replies; they don’t discuss.

These people never seem to speak with others – but interestingly, they always seem to be talking. They listen to the sound of their own voice and love it.

Sorry, that’s just not for me.

Follow You, Follow Me?

Another perception I find irritating is that some Twitter users put strings on the ‘follow’ feature. They feel that if they follow you, you should automatically follow back as a courtesy.

I don’t get it. There are almost 1,000 people following me. If I followed them all, their voices and conversations would become nothing more to me than white noise, the tuned-out thunder of voices in a noisy bar.

Why would I want to start tuning people out?

I don’t. If I’m going to follow people, I want to be able to stay involved in their conversation and pay attention to what they say. I can’t feasibly manage the conversations of 1,000 people at once, so I have to make some choices.

“Why should I follow you if you won’t follow me, James?” That question was posed recently, and it’s… well, a little silly, if you ask me. Why should I justify following me? Follow if you like. Don’t if you can’t find your own reasons for doing so.

If you follow me just to get me to follow you back, then that isn’t about conversation. That’s about collecting names.

I’m there to talk with people who want to talk with me. The @menwithpens door is open any time, and I always do my best to reply and engage in conversation with anyone who taps me on the shoulder.

All it takes is a few exchanges over a few days before I start to look forward to more conversation.

“It’s a mixed message, James. If you follow, you’re showing you’re open to conversation.”

That’s ridiculous. I’m on social media, and I’m present and chattering away. It’s a given that I’m open to conversation, no? Maybe I can’t listen to 1,000 people and follow all the tweets, but I sure can have direct one-on-ones with plenty of people.

After all, I am the Comment King.

So here’s the thing:

If you just sit there and tweet your numbers or your oh-so-wise words of wisdom but never talk to people unless they talk to you, you’re gone. I have better things to do than watch you love the sound of your own voice.

If I reach out to you and @ your name [Edit: a few times] and you don’t respond [Edit: ever], I really see no point in continuing to follow you. You aren’t using Twitter to have conversations; you’re using it to talk out. You’re gone too. I see no reason to keep talking to someone who ignores me.

If you follow me and get bent out of shape because I don’t automatically follow back, then there’s not much I can do about that. It’s a YOU problem, not a ME problem, and I consider you introspect why you feel upset when you can’t control the actions of others. Also, I don’t like friendships that come with strings.

If you want me to justify why you should listen to me, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You either want to listen because you find it beneficial or entertaining, or you don’t. Besides, I don’t want people to listen to me. I want people to talk with. Big difference, folks.

Someone on Twitter told me, “You want conversation but you want it on your terms.” I had to think about that for a minute before deciding that she was right. I choose to use Twitter for my personal benefit. I have flexible terms, but I’m not there to please anyone but myself, really, and the day it stops being fun altogether, I’m out of there.

Your turn. Let’s open up the comment section. Think I’m wrong? Think I’m right? Share. How do you use Twitter? What do you do with it? What are your opinions, pet peeves, and views?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. I definitely agree with you on this, James. As far as I’m concerned, the popularity contests should stay in high school. Because that’s all this really is, right? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but why else would anyone demand following-reciprocation other than wanting to seem more popular with more followers?

    I don’t follow a lot of the people who add me these days. Not because I’m “shutting them out” or anything like that, but because like you said, I just can’t hold meaningful conversations with hundreds of people all tweeting at once. (Not that I’m *that* popular, but anyways…) Generally I’ll only follow someone if I either know them previously off of Twitter (like you guys) or if I find them absolutely incredibly fascinating at first glance (like you guys).

    BUT… just like you, I’m open to conversations with anyone. There’s nothing stopping the people I don’t follow from @sushiday-ing me, and several do. At times, I’ll discover that these people actually are more interesting than I first believed, and I’ll end up following them after all.

    Along the same reasoning, should I be insulted or upset if someone I follow doesn’t reciprocate? Pfft. No. *shrugs* If you think I’m interesting, go ahead and follow. Or don’t. Doesn’t make a huge difference to me. If I find you interesting, I’ll still strike up conversations with you even if you don’t follow me. Heck, Harry doesn’t follow me, but I still adore him as much (if not more) than ever. I’m not going to disown or unfollow him just because he doesn’t follow me. That would be beyond ridiculous.

    All it really comes down to is that each person should use Twitter (or other social media) as they see fit. No right or wrong way. BUT don’t throw a fit if others don’t use it the same way. Maybe you (not YOU James, but “you” in a general sense) follow every person who follows you, and maybe that works for you. Maybe you just use Twitter to post your thoughts or promote your business, with no interest in conversation. If that works for you, sure. But don’t expect the world to follow you back, especially if you aren’t providing real value to them. (Posting links back to your blog posts DO NOT count as providing value to people.)

    Ahem. That is all.

    *steps off the soapbox and steps aside for the next person*

  2. For me, at this moment in time, twitter has no appeal. My perception is that it is a tool looking for a use. Step aside from our intense technical ecosystem to the rest of the world where 2 billion people have yet to to make their first phone call.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with you James (and Allison). Whenever I get an email about a new follower I go to their Twitter page, check out their bio and more importantly their recent Tweets. If nothing strikes me as particularly interesting I won’t follow back.

    Recently I had one follower who, when I visited his/her Twitter page I got a message from Twitter about the account being blocked for suspicious activity 🙂

    I tweet my latest blog posts, I re-tweet what others have to say but I’m enough of an introvert in person, I have no desire to be the same on Twitter.

    Marc – Welsh Scribe´s last blog post…One Skill You Absolutely Must Have To Succeed As a Freelancer

  4. Well, I automatically follow back but then delete those that annoy me in the ways you mention above.

    But – you said “If I reach out to you and @ your name and you don’t respond, I really see no point in continuing to follow you.”

    That’s not necessarily fair and you’ve done exactly that yourself. You tweeted a question the other morning that needed clarification, I “@menwithpens” back to ask for that clarification, but you never replied. I assumed that you missed that at the time and that if you saw it later you assumed the moment had passed and didn’t bother responding. I certainly didn’t say “No point in following James”.

    On other things: a whole posse of self described right wing Christian conservatives started following me recently. As you can imagine, as a leftish dues paying ACLU liberal atheist, I find that somewhat amusing. In an effort to shake the trees a bit, I’ve been making very unfriendly remarks about the former U.S. President (it feels SOO good to say “former”!). Strangely, only a few of them have unfollowed, which either means they are far more liberal than they say in their bios or (as you suggest) they follow so many people that they can’t hear anything anyway.

    And honestly, I have the same problem. Although it’s only 189 Ipeople I follow as of this morning, it’s too many and some of them are far too noisy or are promoting junk I don’t care about. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but your post has made it definite: I’m going to start weeding out those folks.

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Programming Principles and Practice Using C++

  5. @ Tony – I should clarify that I meant when I @ people a few times over different days and get no response. Which I’ll go do now. One time is way too extreme. People get distracted, go to meetings, leave, go for lunch…

    (Yesterday I had to go bring my kiddo to school. Sorry about that.)

    @ Marc – There are a lot of people out there I haven’t discovered yet. They @ me, and I try to get into a little bit of back and forth to see what they’re like.

    A great @ example is @angie1234p, for example. Every freakin’ morning she’s there saying hi and chatting with me. We talk so much, I *forgot* to follow her, lol.

    @ Michael – To me, it’s a virtual water cooler. I need it because 1) If I left my home as you suggested, I wouldn’t be able to work and earn money and 2) Because I work from home, it helps break the isolation.

    Good to have you here, btw! Welcome!

    @ Allison –

    All it really comes down to is that each person should use Twitter (or other social media) as they see fit. No right or wrong way. BUT don’t throw a fit if others don’t use it the same way.

    Well if I can’t throw a fit, then I have to take this post down. And it was a good one, no? 😉

  6. James,

    I don’t Tweet (as you know). But one thing struck me here, that I do run into problems with: “They feel that if they follow you, you should automatically follow back as a courtesy.”

    That I see at the blog sometimes, too. Of course I always happily investigate new commenters’ blogs, to see who they are and what they’re all about, but I can’t subscribe to every one or even comment regularly at all those I am subscribed to. Sometimes that does seem to create friction, and once in a while folks do email little remarks.

    Either you want to talk with me because you find it beneficial and entertaining, or you don’t. That’s exactly the answer. Strings attached. Ick.



    Kelly´s last blog post…Inspiration Points: Reality Is Not on a TV Show

  7. I have to say that this pretty much sums up my opinions. I don’t even follow that many people nor have that many follow me. I don’t expect it. While Twitter is a social network, unless twitter was a full-time job, I don’t think anyone could be expected to follow hundreds of people (especially if they are active people). Last time I checked twitter following doesn’t pay well.

    Jeff Uurtamo´s last blog post…Maps may not be what you think they are.

  8. I definitely agree. I don’t have time to use Twitter on a consistent basis, but even now when I haven’t tweeted in several weeks, I’m getting people I never heard of following me. I have no idea why, and no intention of following them just from that alone. One of them follows over 1,000 people, so I don’t imagine she pays close attention.

    At one point I was getting tweets from someone saying things like, “It’s a beautiful morning and I intend to have a fabulous day!” This person was a life coach (isn’t eveyrone these days?). After a couple of weeks of these content-free tweets, I stopped following them.

    Dot´s last blog post…Welcome to Washington, Mr. President

  9. Graham Strong says:

    The Internet is supposed be the “great equalizer” when it comes to communication and socialization, but really, has anything changed? There are cliques and there are in-jokes, there are rude and self-involved people, there are supportive types and shoulders to lean on, there are people reaching out to talk with someone, anyone, and everyone.

    The only real difference is that in the cyber-world, it’s more likely to be the debate team leaders, the school newspaper writers and computer geeks who are the cool kids, not the quarterbacks and cheerleaders.

    So perhaps to come full circle, social media is a great equalizer, just not in the way we envisioned…


    Graham Strong´s last blog post…Where Web Designers (and Designees) Can Go For Inspiration

  10. 100% James, I totally agree. I have a policy on following that I think is super simple. If I know you, I follow you.

    If I know your name or even recognize your avatar, then sure, I’ll follow you. But if I’ve never heard of you before and I follow you just to follow you, then I feel I’m doing a disservice to those people I am following. Our minds only have so much space and there is a law of diminishing returns. I want to do my best job with what I choose to do, not struggle with what I’m “supposed” to do.

    On occasion, I’ll get an email from someone I know asking why I haven’t followed them. Easy, I say, because I didn’t know you were “bestrealtor91.”

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…The Best Writer on the Net

  11. I don’t follow everyone that follows me because my time is valuable and I simply don’t feel like trying to keep up with a lot of conversations that don’t interest me. If someone gets mad that I don’t follow back when they follow me, I could really care less. That doesn’t sound very nice – but in my mind, if someone is upset about something trivial like that, they’re probably not worth being a twitter friend. I don’t want any twitter drama.

    Cassie´s last blog post…Moving on up to a better host

  12. Hey, coolness, lots of people I haven’t seen in a while coming out to comment!

    @ Cassie – I find the conversations I can have so much more valuable than watching thousands of tweets roll by like white noise. And yeah! Time is just as valuable, eh?

    @ WriterDad – I laughed when I read that. People pick names that mean absolutely nothing to me, and then later on get all upset – but hey! If I can’t recognize you… do you blame me for not following?

    Another problem I have is that I get about 100 “so-and-so is following you” notifications in my email every day. I’ve fallen into the habit of deleting the notifications, which means some people I do know and would like to follow back slip through the cracks. I figure eventually, they’ll chat me up and I’ll catch them then!

    @ Graham – So you’re saying I should ditch the pom-poms, is that it?

    @ Dot – “…content-free tweets…” Oh yeah. I hear you.

    @ Jeff – Twitter *is* a job – or part of a job. When I took time off it to write the Unlimited Freelancer, some people were upset with me that I hadn’t maintained my presence there. They didn’t ask if I was busy or if something had happened – they said, “If you don’t use Twitter, then you’re not maintaining your responsibility to your readers.”


    @ Kelly – Yeah, the “I read your blog, you should read mine” is another one that gets me. I may LOVE the person to death, but maybe the content just isn’t personally interesting to me. Why the strings? Why the obligation? I don’t get it.

  13. “maybe the content just isn’t personally interesting to me”


    Does that mean you don’t read my Unix programming posts???

    Sheesh! if you had a football blog I’d read it even though I have no interest in sports.. I’m hurt! Crushed, in fact.

    Yeah, right. And by the way, I’m waiting for your PayPal on that bridge we talked about.. I’m a little surprised I don’t have that yet.

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Twitter Deaf

  14. @ Tony – I actually subscribed yesterday, if only because I noticed Brett Legree commenting on a post. I figured, hell, if he’s there, no way am I going to let him get a leg up on me!

    Now, what bridge was that again?

  15. @James: ” I actually subscribed yesterday”

    Later today I’m doing a post on a Perl script I wrote to hunt out and un-follow people with too many subscribers..

    You are going to be soooo bored.. 🙂

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Twitter Deaf

  16. Susan Johnston says:


    I’m still relatively new to Twitter, but I’m already seeing much of what you mention. Still, I like that I can go on Twitter and chat with a group of virtual coworkers when I want and totally ignore it when I don’t. I try to answer DMs and responses, but my paid writing projects have to come first.

    On another note, I actually like to see a mix of @responses and stand alone statements/proclamations. When someone’s entire feed is a series of responses and inside jokes, it makes it hard for someone like me to jump in, just like it would be hard to jump into a conversation in progress at a cocktail party. Those off-beat statements or questions give me something to respond to.

    I’m not offended if people don’t follow me, because I don’t follow all of my followers. Most of them, yes, but some seem so self-promotional that I don’t think they’d add much to the conversation. If they want to follow me, then rock on!


    Susan Johnston´s last blog post…I gave in and joined Twitter

  17. As you know James I’m not a big Twitter guy 😉

    But I have to say, if everyone used it like you I think Twitter would be a terrific place. I’ve often thought about how these people who follow hundreds of others really use Twitter.

    As I see it, you can only see X amount of posts on your landing page, then you have to click back to see other pages. If you’re following 100+ people, how many people really click back to read and reply ALL the messages? At some point it becomes impossible, right?

    @Tony – you are so funny. You always get the weirdest stats in things you do. Lots of Asians, lots of Christians, etc. And you’re like, “huh?” hehehe

    John Hoff´s last blog post…Understanding The Psychology Of Your Website Visitors

  18. Also in complete agreement. I encountered the same problem on journaling sites, the entryway for so many bloggers. Since the entries tend to be much more personal, people get offended even more easily. But if you have any “popularity” at all, there is just no way to read everyone who reads you!

    I always used a privacy option that hid my favorites list from everyone, but it sounds like that isn’t an option on Twitter. That’s one of the reasons I don’t Tweet – haven’t enough time in the day now, and I KNOW that would be a timesucker for me!

  19. @John Huff:

    Asian Christian Republican Football fans who use Windows and love it – why are they following me???

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Twitter Deaf

  20. Brett Legree says:


    I was happy to see you over at Tony’s place – it’s actually a lot of fun sometimes.

    (Yes Tony, more proof that I’m ‘certifiable’…)

    Hmm – when people follow me, I go check them out – if it seems interesting, I might follow.

    Tweetdeck has been handy too – I put the ‘People Brett Thinks are Cool’ in a group which makes it easy to keep up. And of course, if you @ me or DM me I’ll respond.

    Not that I’m shy about jumping in and chatting, mind you.

    Brett Legree´s last blog post…viking mondays? courage.

  21. I don’t always follow everyone back. Usually, I’ll go check out their profile, check the website if they have one and then decide if I want to follow or not. If I know that person is a regular here, I will follow back. Or if someone @’s me and starts up a conversation. I’ve even unfollowed a few people when it’s clear they’re just on there to toot their own horns.

    My TweetDeck is simple, All Friends, MwP Regulars and Big Dogs for the big bloggers that don’t usually respond to anything but are good to keep track of anyway.

  22. “Big Dogs for the big bloggers”

    I thought about leaving in people like ProBlogger, but I decided they have to go too.. everybody with more than 399 “friends” is going away in my first pass and we’ll see how it looks after that..

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Twitter Deaf

  23. “They tweet self-important words of wisdom. ”

    James, I love when people tweet thought provoking quotes (of other authors). Or, when on occasion, they convey their own quotes. There’s nothing pompous about that to me… it’s fun to read the insights of others. And I save quotes all the time for future reference.

    I also enjoy when people tweet links to interesting articles.

    As far as the whole, “I followed you, now you must follow me in return,” I think it’s downright childish. If I follow someone and they don’t follow me: I don’t care at all.

    Does our life change at all if someone doesn’t follow us after we follow them? NO! And if it does, then maybe you got some self-introspection to do.

    It’s such a non-issue. And no one should take twitter seriously.

    Bamboo Forest – PunIntended´s last blog post…Clowns are Downright Creepy

  24. I recently joined Twitter. I figured it would be fun to talk to the 10-20 people I knew.

    But and within hours, I had 30-40 followers. And every day, I get a few more.

    Ummm…thanks. I guess. (??)

    But who ARE you people?

    As for people speaking “out”. Yeah, dont’ get me started.

    I especially like some of the Quote Masters. Who just throw quotes out there…one after another….all day. Every day. Without contributing anything original to the discussion.

    Sheesh…what do they have? A big Book of Bartlett’s Quotations on-hand?….that they spend the entire day transcribing on Twitter?

    (Oooh…LOOKIT ME…I’m so smart! I’ve copied down someone else’s words and/or song lyrics). And I’m the ONLY person who’s ever been able to do this! 😀

    (Before Kelly yells at me), I don’t mind quotes, if it includes some opporunity for dialogue and discussion.

    But if it’s just a monologue, I see NO VALUE in that kind of thing.

    Might as well quote the phone book, at that point. It’s just as interesting.

  25. @ James – Oh, bah. You know that’s not what I meant. 😛

  26. @ Tony – Some of the big bloggers (well, bigger than me, lol) are actually pretty forthcoming with their replies. Problogger is one of them, Chris Brogan another… At least, that’s my experience. Maybe not long conversations, but they’ll respond from time to time, which is often enough for me. I understand first-hand the pressures they have to face, so I’m glad they do look my way every now and then.

    @ Bamboo – I like quotes in certain cases. Copyblogger puts out some really good ones, from really important people. He makes you think. Others just mouth off in a pompous way and act self-important. Hate that, personally.

    @ Friar – Yeah. If it’s just a monologue, who cares. (Heh, Lucky Charms today, eh?)

    @ Allison – 😉

  27. Leo Dimilo says:

    I currently have roughly 100 people that I am following and frankly, I am having a hard time keeping up. I personally don’t see the point of grabbing thousands of people….you are right…the signal to noise ratio is just too high.

    I do click links though from time to time but I can’t quite understand how twitter could become this big marketing machine for the majority of us.

    Besides, isn’t it really meant to be social?

    Leo Dimilo´s last blog post…114 Things I Wished I Knew as an Internet Marketer When I First Started

  28. I agree that it doesn’t help to follow too many people, particularly if you don’t find their tweets useful, it can just be a distraction. Also, I have read a lot of conflicting articles lately on if it’s OK to promote yourself at all. It seems like if you don’t, no one will think about the services you offer, so maybe a few tweets here and there are appropriate. I definitely get turned off when people constantly write about not feeling well (if they have a headache or not), or if they complain a lot without being proactive.

  29. Friar,

    That’s it. Next Wednesday, I’m quoting the phone book.


    Kelly´s last blog post…Inspiration Points: Reality Is Not on a TV Show

  30. Urban Panther says:

    For what it’s worth here is my Twitter strategy:
    Log on maybe once/day to TweetDeck
    See what conversations are in view (I never scroll back)
    If something looks interesting, join in
    Repeat the next day

    If someone starts to follow me
    check out their profile
    do they say anything I find interesting? follow back
    if not, oh well

    Once every couple of weeks
    Unfollow people I never interacted with

    I used to put a link to my daily post, but my traffic was not increased at all. And the people that linked through from Twitter were already loyal readers.

    Do I click on links to other blogs? Rarely. Can barely keep up as it is.

    One person who is following me is following 8,763 others! Say what?!

    I treat Twitter like bumping into someone in the grocery store. Glad to see you and to interact with you, but we owe each other nothing!

    Urban Panther´s last blog post…Nasty old scale

  31. I also agree with you 100%

    I’m relatively new to Twitter and am still learning the ropes and finding my Twitter Voice. Sometimes I post goofy rants and other times I look for conversations which I can contribute or post links to stuff.

    I made the mistake of following people just because they followed me (only because I didn’t know better). Now when I click my Twitter homepage, I get a bunch of comments from people who are nice enough in their own respect, but that I don’t necessarily have things in common with.

    Now I’m wanting to cull my follow list but afraid of sending the wrong message to people who followed me because they like my blog.

  32. I have to admit, I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed using Twitter since I started using it more (after launching the blog). I thought I would, and do, use it for promoting my scribblings and posting what I think are useful links related to writing, my niche. However, I’ve actually found myself having conversations and, yer know, interacting with like-minded people. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

    However, I haven’t yet got a follow policy, other than checking the person’s bio and recent Tweetage to see if I think I’ll get on with them or find their posts interesting. Seems to make sense, so far.

    Iain Broome´s last blog post…Writing goals 1: Don’t expect the unexpected

  33. @ Iain – Heheh… yes, interacting with like-minded people can indeed be a pleasant experience!

    @ Blogger Dad – People will always discern messages from your actions, and they will always be different than the message you convey, simply because we each see the world through our own set of filters. Sucks, but welcome to life! 😉

    @ Urban – Yeah, bingo! For me it’s like a bar scene where we’re all enjoying the party and having conversations. Come bump my shoulder and chat me up if you like, but don’t expect me to follow you around the room just because you walked in the door.

    And who’s the idiot on stage with the mic, btw? Someone get him a drink to shut him up, eh?

    @ Carrie – I use promotional strategies, of course. I own a business, and I want people to notice me. It’s marketing.

    But at the same time, I’m careful. I don’t tweek links to my stuff every day. In fact, once every three days is more than enough, I think. There’s promotion, and then there’s carnival barkers.

    @ Leo – I think I’m around 100 these days too, and that’s only because of TweetDeck. On Twhirl I could only handle 45. I used to think it was yet another ADD thing of mine to deal with, but I’ve come to realize that no, it’s a pretty normal human thing not to be able to listen actively to 45 separate conversations (even for me!).

  34. Well, James, thanks to you, I’m down to following 46 people. I am no longer Twitter Deaf. I thank you – I would have done it myself eventually but you provided the impetus.

    Tony Lawrence´s last blog post…Destroying Twitter Friendships with

  35. @ Tony – Good. Now you better listen to me when I speak up.


  36. OR……

    I know this sounds far-fetched (but just hear me ou…t).

    An alternative is to just GET OFF Twitter, period!

    Use that free time to (I dunno…). Get a hobby, exercise, take the dog for a walk….etc.

    Learn to do without, like people did in the Dark Ages (pre -2006).

    My GOD….howEVER did people survive back then? 😉

    Friar´s last blog post…An Open Letter to Lucky Charms Cereal

  37. @ Friar – Well, my hopes is to build a business and *not* live in the Dark Ages, so… yeah. For some people, Twitter isn’t just a time waster 🙂

  38. *Deep Breath* Okay, I admit, I follow a lot of people. Here’s how I manage it.

    I check Twitter roughly 3x/day. I say hello, check out what others are linking to, and jump into conversations. I don’t even attempt to read all the tweets I’ve missed. I do check my replies and DMs, to make sure I haven’t missed anything directed to me.

    I see Twitter as a large cocktail party, and I join in where I can, and leave when I need to. I obviously can’t be involved in everyone’s conversations at once. But I can pick up bits of wisdom here and there.

    I follow almost everyone who follows me (sans spammers). Why? Because I love meeting new people. Also, because you never know who will be able to teach you what you need to learn.

    (Quotes are my kryptonite, I thoroughly enjoy them.)

    I try to tweet with a variety of different people each day, not just my normal chatters. (I also started using Tweetdeck, thanks to your great post about it.)

    Whew! I am so trying not to write a post about Twitter this year…

    ~Kimberlee (@kimferrell)

    Kimberlee Ferrell´s last blog post…Research Your Writing

  39. Well I agree with most people here. I got so annoyed with Twitter I deleted my entire account after I read about the phishing fiasco because I had people following me I didn’t have a clue about, my passwords didn’t work, or the tweeters had too many followers, or I just couldn’t keep up with them all. It’s just one less thing to worry about.

    Michelle Kafka´s last blog post…Happy New Year!

  40. Richard McLaughlin says:

    I auto follow anyone who follow me. I recently found about a dozen that followed me and then unfollowed 5 minutes later, before I even had time to make a mistake. It seems there are a lot of people that try to build up a big following, I suppose somehow this makes them feel important.


    Richard McLaughlin´s last blog post…Text of Obama’s inaugural speech

  41. James,

    “If you just sit there and tweet your numbers or your oh-so-wise words of wisdom but never talk to people unless they talk to you, you’re gone. I have better things to do than watch you love the sound of your own voice.”

    And there are a fair percentage that do nothing but – and please forgive the terminology – drive by tweets. Nothing in the time line, then BAM! then a whole lot more of nothing.

    Jiminy-freakin-criminy. It’s SOCIAL media!

    (Steps off his soapbox, scurries back into the bushes…)

    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…A guest post over at Mary Anne’s place

  42. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on the pressures of refollowing, but struggle to rustle up any support for the “discuss it, don’t say it” protest.

    Founded on the question “What are you doing?”, Twitter’s raison d’être was rooted not in the daily bustle of a hundred million digital telegrams, replies, and the jibber jabber of minutiae between total strangers, but in simple, one-sided announcements that required no reply: “Gone fishing.”

    Even the underlying software was first built not on the protocols which power an email-like two-way conversation — like SMTP — but as a glorified blogging engine where each tweet was essentially a blog post. (It’s why it scaled so horrifically when people started using it like CB radio.) Even from a technological perspective, it was designed as a mini soapbox; not as a chat room.

    The fact that what it’s becoming today is more akin to IRC is, perhaps, proof of how desperately our fellow technorati long to be connected with one another without having to risk pecking out more than 140 characters on their Blackberries whilst driving.

    More than that, though, it shows that many still don’t really understand what conversation means at all. Faced with the choice of a friendly one-on-one chat or shouting across a crowded room, too many opt for the latter; I’ll often direct message people who @ me because I don’t see what barking my reply across the faces of hundreds of followers adds to the ‘discussion’.

    CB radio once grew to around 40 channels in the US ranging from highway notices to scheduled shows and group chat rooms. After its decline, it emerged that many users had sold their equipment because there was simply too much noise.

    Only 5 years after the peak of its boom, CB radio’s biggest attraction — the ‘discussion’ — had become its executioner. I love Twitter, but can’t help thinking that it’s heading the same way.

    In its defence, at least you can turn the noisy birds off.

    Nick Cernis´s last blog post…Deliver Us From Workplace Woodchip

  43. @ Nick – Oh, ye of logic-bringer and reasonable arguments…

    When I discovered Twitter, I told many people that it was like a mini-chat room, and it reminded me heavily of good old Compuserve. It’s just… smaller. And faster. And way, way more crowded.

    @ Tumblemoose – Okay, buddy, I gotta ask… You mean me, right? I had a good laugh, because I tend to do that. I come on, and burst into the room and then start talking with everyone at once. I’m having a total blast.

    Then I notice that my avatar is suddenly the only one I see. Um… ooops. I think this happens because I @ about 10 people in a row in rapid fire. (Heh, drive-by tweets, too funny)

    However, in my defense, I tend to hang around for over an hour. So not really BAM in and WHOOSH gone. More like one intensive session?

    @ Richard – Yeah, that’s bloody sneaky, eh? “Look! I followed you!” Then they unfollow. The person gets a follow notification that makes him or her feel good and never knows he/she’s been ditched.

    @ Michelle – Woot! You go! Question is… do you miss it? 😉

    @ Kimberlee – Sounds like you’re working the strategy, there!

  44. Nick,

    … proof of how desperately our fellow technorati long to be connected with one another without having to risk pecking out more than 140 characters on their Blackberries whilst driving.

    Effing brilliant. We are pack animals, each in our own way.

    You know, maybe that’s one of the reasons it doesn’t appeal to me. Business-wise I can’t put the time in to be of real value to others, and friend-wise, I like risk and intimacy.

    You always get me thinking!



    Kelly´s last blog post…Why You Should Create a Tribal Language

  45. (On a side note, it’s illegal to operate a cellphone, PDA or whatever while driving in Canada. Huge fines.)

  46. Brett Legree says:


    I believe hands-free is okay though (since it’s no different from talking to a passenger) – but for sure, texting or holding a phone to your head – you’re going to get it from the coppers.

    Brett Legree´s last blog post…viking mondays? courage.

  47. @James — that’s exactly what I thought when I started using it. I still prefer IRC to Twitter on the whole; rooms have a general topic of interest and a purpose that’s understood and agreed upon by the occupants. (Usually!)

    (It’s illegal in the UK to use a mobile while driving too. I still see people doing it every day, though, and I’m sure to tut as loudly as possible, which is about as proactive as we get in Britain.)

    @Kelly — you’re right. It’s tough to find a place where it fits comfortably into your life, both on the business and personal side. I think Michael fitzGerald above is absolutely right when he implies that it’s a lonely solution looking for its perfect problem. Until it’s found, it’s fun to keep looking, though.

    For me, the citizen journalism element, the trends feature, and the ability to post mobile photos/video are the most interesting areas, and I think these are the ones that the service will need to build on and monetise to survive. (I learned about the Hudson plane crash on Twitter before it hit the major networks.) I can forsee an Alltop-like “” with Tweets organised by car brand and sponsored by major manufacturers/blogs/magazines; it would be a great way to tap into live, honest collective opinion.

    The conversations will continue, of course, but the way we use the huge wealth of information which Twitter offers has to grow beyond the watercooler level in my opinion.

    Nick Cernis´s last blog post…Deliver Us From Workplace Woodchip

  48. @ Brett – For now, yes, hands-free is legal. However, I believe that they’re currently discussing banning use in a moving car completely.

    Also, kudos to Ontario for the new “no smoking with kids in the car” law!

  49. @ Nick – Why are we not all moving back to a hyped-up IRC then? Hm. You know what? We should. Start a MenwithPens chat room somewhere and get talking about it.

  50. Brett Legree says:


    They probably should do that – because when you try to dial, you’re taking your attention off the road – so it’s just as bad as it was without the hands-free.

    I am totally all for banning it, believe me, because I’ve seen a few “near-misses” when people are not paying attention.

    Yes! That was a good thing about the smoking for sure, not just for the health but again for the distraction factor (ever see someone trying to light a cigarette while trying to merge onto a 4-lane highway in a snowstorm? I have and it’s scary…)

    There’s one thing I really like about my car actually, silly as it sounds – the steering wheel. Because it isn’t covered with buttons and doodads like most cars.

    It’s a *steering wheel* – for steering. That’s it. And I rarely play the radio because I like the sound of my engine heh heh

    Brett Legree´s last blog post…viking mondays? courage.

  51. I’m new to twitter and the first thing I did was look up all the peoples blogs that I drop by and some of the rss feeds I follow. I figured it was a cool way to learn more from the people that had gotten me to the point I’m at and discover new resources and mentors that I didn’t know about.

    All was good in the hood. Then like a few others mentioned, the noise washed out the people I really wanted to keep track of and I didn’t know what to do. Was it rude not to follow everyone? I was new. What was the etiquette?

    I’m glad I ran into your post James. Straight from the hip. Looking forward to reading more around here.

    Raymond Burton´s last blog post…Law Of Attraction Carnival

  52. @James: I’d certainly be up for starting an IRC channel. The downside is that the technical barriers to entry for running, managing, and even joining an IRC channel are much higher than with Twitter/GTalk etc, hence their use mostly amongst programmers and gamers.

    There are some great alternatives that you can run on your own server, though, like (demo: )

    Nick Cernis´s last blog post…Deliver Us From Workplace Woodchip

  53. I think people who talk out don’t get the main principle behind social media – it’s social, ie interactive.

    That being said, there are some Twitter accounts that aren’t meant to be a conversation – like the tips that Unclutterer sends out (of course I can’t find the Twitter account for it at the moment), but everyone who follows that account knows what it’s for.

    As long as you’re clear with your intentions (like Noami not allowing blog comments anymore) then I’ll support you as you do it.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post…What’s the Big Picture? Don’t lose yourself in details

  54. James,

    Silly dear, this is your MWP chatroom. That’s what makes this place so brilliant. Speaking as someone who did chat from the early 90s—who cares what the architecture is behind it, or what you name it? It all happens here, daily.

    A rose by any other name…


    Kelly´s last blog post…Why You Should Create a Tribal Language

  55. I believe the UK government is also investigating banning the use of mobile phones while driving. Last I heard they were investigating the legalities of gaining access to your phone records if you’re pulled over for whatever reason.

    I wish I could find the report as it also mentioned some MP’s wanting to ban the radio…

    Marc – Welsh Scribe´s last blog post…One Skill You Absolutely Must Have To Succeed As a Freelancer

  56. Actually, James I was NOT referring to you. You’ve conversed with every tweet I ever sent ya and it’s obvious to me even when I’m lurking that you are chattin’ it up and having fun.

    I’m more referring to the bombers that drop a single tweet and then never respond back.

    And might I say, “Wow!” This is quite the discussion going on!


    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…A guest post over at Mary Anne’s place

  57. @Kelly

    Truly, we are all ONE big social networking community here. I can just FEEL the love!


    ‘scuse me, I’m just getting emotional over here. 😀

    (But you make a good point…this comment page isn’t really that different from Twitter..and it’s more personal).

    Friar´s last blog post…An Open Letter to Lucky Charms Cereal

  58. Friar,

    And the chat is directed. Every couple of days, MWP start folks off in a direction…

    … and the commenters do what they want.

    There are some blogs that sparkle like this, but not many. When you find one, you hang on to it. IMO starting something else, somewhere else, would only siphon off the good juices that flow right here.



    Kelly´s last blog post…Why You Should Create a Tribal Language

  59. What always boggles me about our comment section is:

    We never (or very rarely) get those “good post!” cheapos you see on SO many other sites.

    We get brand new people come in to comment, and other commentators will talk and discuss with them. Very welcoming.

    Our comment section has never had one comment moderated or removed. Ever. (We did hand out one warning once).

    We have real people talking and chatting away about all sorts of things, and that’s fine, and they like it. (I think?)

    We have grown adults come here to play, tease, chat, laugh, share very personal stories and all sorts of stuff just because they feel comfortable.

    I see very few other sites out there that have this natural harmony going on.

  60. ‘Zactly.

    Kelly´s last blog post…Why You Should Create a Tribal Language

  61. Brett Legree says:

    What James just said was very true.

    Whenever it has gone that way here, or on my blog (or Kelly’s blog, or Amy’s blog, or wherever) – those are the days you know that all is good.

    When you can disappear for a few hours, then come back and the conversation has carried on without you and gone where no blog has gone before, you know it is a good thing.

    Brett Legree´s last blog post…viking mondays? courage.

  62. @Brett: Men with Pens – The Final Frontier! Live long and prosper.

  63. Good post!

    😀 😀 😀 😀

    Friar´s last blog post…An Open Letter to Lucky Charms Cereal

  64. Tried Twitter. Seems like a waste of time. I read where some people “tweet” 50 times a day (e.g., Guy Kawasaki — formerly of Apple). Nobody — and I mean nobody — is that interesting.

    Jim Koscs´s last blog post…The Truth About (“Bland”) Cars

  65. If you don’t want to get the new follower confirmation emails, you can turn them off at -> Settings -> Notices. You can also turn off Direct Message emails, which I did when I started getting all those annoying auto-DMs.

    “You want conversation but you want it on your terms.”

    I think this says it all. I can’t be sure of the context–was she criticizing you for not following her back? Anyway, this statement is absolutely right. We want conversation on our terms. Isn’t it our right to decide how we want to use Twitter?

    If someone just wants to use it to keep tabs on a few people, they might want to receive only a few tweets a day. If they follow me and I tweet 20 times one day, pushing all the tweets off their front page, should they get angry? No, they should just unfollow me. I’m using Twitter in a different way from them, and sorry if I’m not doing what they want, but I’m not going to change just to accommodate one follower (or even many followers).

    If Tim Ferriss doesn’t want to follow anyone back, fine. If Gary Vaynerchuk doesn’t want to check DMs, fine. If Steve Pavlina just wants to tweet his words of wisdom without conversing, fine. They can do what they want, and I can decide if I want to remain a follower (and in these cases, the answer is yes).

    BTW, regarding not responding. When I first signed up on Twitter, I didn’t really use it, and I didn’t take the time to figure it out. I didn’t notice there was a “replies” tab, so there was a good chance I’d miss any tweets that were directed at me. That’s not a problem for me anymore, especially since I use TweetDeck, but consider that someone might be accidentally ignoring you just because they’re a newbie and didn’t see your tweets.

    Hunter Nuttall´s last blog post…hnuttall: @FireByDragon So if she becomes a lawyer again, is that called going into relapse? Oh, and I guess I’ve heard of a recovering chocoholic.

  66. Honestly, James. Twitter is so far the best social media that not only bring the differences to my daily life, but I have learned many useful things from it as well!

    By the way, it’s my twittering time again, catch you later.

  67. James,

    I miss Twitter just a little and will perhaps one day re-sign up, but not for awhile and will be more careful next time.

  68. James,

    This was a really helpful post. I just got twitter and have been struggling with how it even works. As far as my experience with social networking sites go, I was surprised that twitter was so simple. I don’t see as much conversation as I did “soap-boxing”. I followed as many interesting people as I could, thinking it would make the conversation more interesting. However, the white noise (as you put it) is excruciating. I’m glad you put my thoughts into words. I think you are right… following too many people is not the point of twitter. In fact, I have been noticing that the people who I enjoy following most tend to have around 20-40 people that they follow. They are the ones who are having true conversations. I think I am going to start following less people…

  69. I never bought into the whole empty inflation of numbers by following aimlessly. Personally I look highly on the twitter accounts that have large numbers of followers while only following a fraction of them.

    I’ve been followed, and then unfollowed by my fair share of EBay moms, and “MAKE MONEY NOW” entrepreneurs, but I’ve never felt any obligation or benefit to following them back. I follow people who provide valuable conversation. I like looking at my feed and knowing who everyone is, and seeing that conversation tends to follow certain themes (Web Design in my case).

    I agree to a point with your comment on conversations that fall on deaf ears. I realize that many of the larger twitter accounts I follow have far to many shout-outs to respond regularly to. I’m not offended by a lack of response, but I do get excited when a big twitter celebrity finally responds. The simple things in life!

    Great article!

    Zach Dunn´s last blog post…The Real Problem With Design Contests

  70. Wow, You touched a nerve here, James. I wrote a blog post recently called 5 Things Middle Schoolers Can Teach Us About Authentic Marketing. One being that they are “in the moment” and constantly connected to their peers.

    One commenter on my post said that twitter is the adult equivalent, the “middle school for grownups.” I thought, “Yeah, that’s true.”

    I haven’t totally figured twitter out yet, but I have mixed feelings. I see an awful lot of egos and shameless bragging (“I just reached 4,000 followers!). And what’s up with the advice that we should all follow the “thought leaders”? What the hell is a “thought leader,” anyway? And who decides that they are the only people with something to say?

    I am selective in who I choose to follow and it doesn’t particularly bother me if that person doesn’t follow me back. (As with James: I’m a writer,. he’s a damn good writer, and I get something from his tweets, when he’s not talking about bacon). : )

    I am using lost of social media tools: facebook, LinkeIn, biznik, etc. And twitter is just another tool. I’ll see if it’s worth the time as I get into it more.

    Thanks, James, for another thought-provoking post.

  71. Wow, so many comments going on, and such well thought-out ones too!

    @ Judy – Exactly. Why on earth do I want to listen to someone give me a “daily tweet reminder” or tell me about how many followers he or she has?

    And I’m sorry about the bacon. It was so good, I just had to mention it.

    @ Zach – Funnily enough, I’m often called out by “big” twitter “pros” because of my high follower, low followee numbers. They tell me I’m not being open to others and showing my willingness to share.

    My gut thought every time is, “You don’t know me at all.”

    @ Chris – This summer, I was Twitter. Period. Always there, always chatting, always having a blast. Then I worked on Unlimited Freelancer, and had to cut Twitter for a few months.

    When I came back, the conversations were gone. The link whoring and retweeting is nuts. No one is talking anymore. It’s all gone stale.

    So I hop in and do my usual thing. “Playtime, folks!” And I rattle around for about an hour, shaking up the place and having fun. I make Twitter for me what I want it to be. What else can we do, eh?

    That said… others do the same. For some people, it IS a place to drop links and do stuff I wouldn’t do. It’s hard to say, “That’s not right”, because the truth is, it’s right if it’s right for them.

    Still doesn’t mean I have to like it 😉

    @ Michelle – Well, I’ll probably still be there, so you can @ me then and we’ll chat 🙂

    @ Wilson – I was-… Oops, dammit, he’s gone. Okay, have fun!

    @ Hunter –< blockquote>“You want conversation but you want it on your terms.”

    I think this says it all. We want conversation on our terms. Isn’t it our right to decide how we want to use Twitter?

    ‘Tis. ‘Tis indeed, my friend. So I recognize that my post is a little bit hypocritical in that I’m telling people my terms, and suggesting they should have the same.

    I can try, though, can’t I?

    @ Jim – Damn. I thought I was that interesting. Oh well…

    Cheers, everyone!

  72. As a lurker, I am — as ever — a bit behind the conversation curve but hopefully all you marvelous tweeps opted to have followup comments e-mailed!? ~_^ Speaking of being a lurker, uh, Harry.. do regular readers, not just commenters, count as “MwP Regulars?” ^_^

    Given that Twitter is a means of keeping other perspectives, tho’ts & ideas available as we go thru our daily routines & that you get what you give — as w/anything — interaction styles will vary from person to person but should mirror however we interact in person. No more, no less: Do you periodically mention what you’re working on in person? Of course! Do you sometimes repeat what others have said in conversations? Surely! If links, quotations & retweets are part of an on-going conversational approach, you’re good.

    James forgot to mention that another instance of quotes being well-tweeted/worth reading is when they include one’s own tho’ts; thus, my quotationaries — quotations w/commentary. ~_~ The same holds true for retweets, of course. Now & again, a retweet takes up all 140 characters but I make sure they’re interesting enough to be shared if so. I also like to give props where props are due so will sacrifice my commentary in order to include the original tweeters username.

    It’s simply not a conversation unless you’re responding to @s & DMs at the very least. Bottom line, if it’s not a conversation, you’re missing out. Thanx for speaking up, King James (NOT to be confused w/ANY version of the Bible; well, maybe the freelancer’s bible.)!

    *shameless plug warning* HA!

    Dorian aka coffeesister |_|)´s last blog post…Happy Damn Holidays!

  73. Well, I’m obviously a little late on this conversation, but I’ll add my 2 cents into the mix anyway.

    I originally started following everyone, and that quickly became one big mess. I’ve recently started culling that list. While it has upset some causing them to unfollow, I’ve decided it isn’t worth the headache.

    I’ve found the best way to set up my Tweetdeck is to have an ‘inner circle’ that pulls out those people I truly enjoy tweeting with. The rest sit in the ‘all friends list.’ These people are ones that I might enjoy listening to (Problogger or Copyblogger for example), but don’t generally tweet with. When I notice someone in my ‘all friends’ list who doesn’t interest me, I unfollow. I essentially treat it like my television — I watch what I want, when I want regardless of what others think.

    I generally say hello to new followers and try to engage them in conversation. If they aren’t interested in conversation, or don’t carry a conversation well, I don’t bother to investigate or follow them back.

    However, I have Tweetdeck set up to search for specific keywords. This allows me to keep up on certain subjects. No commitment. (On a side note, I complained about my accounting program in one tweet. I had three online accounting PR people follow me within the hour. You can usually tell who uses this same technique 🙂 )

    While I may have teased you about your little rant the other day, you are very right James. I followed you for the same reason I come here. Fun, informative, and entertaining. (Just don’t let that go to your head hoser 😉 )

    I’m tired of reading how you should/shouldn’t use Twitter that state specific instructions and rules for its use.

    It’s ‘your’ Twitter. Use it how you wish, tweet what you like, and as frequently as you wish. If you’re interested in what I have to say, follow. If not, no big deal. The solution is only a click away.

    Angie Haggstrom

    Angie Haggstrom´s last blog post…The Great Debate — How Much Should A Writer Charge?


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