Monday, October 13, 2014

Following the Crowd (Or Not) -- Musings

**This didn't start out to be a rant, although in retrospect it does kind of sound that way.  Think of it more as thinking out loud, pondering the possibilities, if you will.**

I've been thinking about "followers" lately, especially on Twitter.  This has mainly come about because I seem to get one message a week offering to "sell" me followers.  I tried to get a picture of the last one just now, but it has mysteriously disappeared since last night.

I've long since come to terms with the fact that I am basically talking to myself on there, throwing my thoughts out into the universe and seeing what happens.  I refuse to participate in the "follows for follows" shenanigans, or to accept the many offers to buy followers.  It still amazes me when people favorite or re-tweet anything that I post.  I'm always a bit shocked anyone noticed it in the vastness of Twitter.

I really only have three qualifications for choosing the people that I follow:

1) They are people that I actually know, in real life.

2) Someone randomly followed me, and when I looked at their profile and recent tweets they seemed interesting.  I'll follow them back.  Many times I don't as they appear to be crappy spam accounts, posting the same ads over and over.

3) I also follow people whose work I admire, whether they be actors, musicians, writers, scientists, journalists, comedians -- it doesn't matter.  They have done something which I liked or admired, and I follow them to see what they've got going on.  Also, it would seem that the odds are pretty good that whatever they share -- be it a news story, a discovery, a new band -- it might be something that I would enjoy also.  Or maybe not.

Twitter is also unique in the immediacy with which you can interact with people.  I don't care who you are -- if someone you admire, be they a "celebrity" or not, responds to you in some way, you are going to have a bit of a fan-girl moment.  I'm not saying you will have a public freak-out, maybe more of a quiet "Holy shit!" moment.  Warms the cockles of your heart a bit.

The thing I truly do not understand is the "Follow Me!" phenomenon.  You've seen it at some point.  The seemingly endless parade of people begging others to "follow" them -- especially when it is to someone with thousands (or even millions) of people following them.  What are they hoping will happen?  Am I missing some secret part of Twitter where you score "cool points" by having someone with a lot of followers that follows you?

I'm trying to think of a plausible scenario where such an event might naturally happen...

Okay, let's assume that your favorite actor/musician/fill-in-a-celebrity here is stuck in an airport waiting forever for a delayed flight -- or maybe he/she is on an insanely long flight in the middle of the night, bored out of his/her mind, unable to sleep, and has nothing better to do than lurk on Twitter.

He (or she) sees all of the people begging to be followed.  In a benevolent, sleep-deprived mood they decide to check out some of these people and maybe follow them, knowing that a galactic shit-storm may be unleashed, inundating them with even more requests to "FOLLOW ME!!"

What does the "follow me" crowd imagine will happen at that point?  Are they just delighted to have scored a famous follower, thereby earning popularity in their little niche of the Twitterverse?  Do they think said person will be overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of their tweets and they will become best buddies?  Do they secretly (or not so secretly, in some cases) hope that said famous-type will suddenly realize that they have, in fact, found their soul mate, their missing piece, their one true love who has been cruelly kept from them all these years by fate and distance?  I mean, I suppose it could happen.  I'm not out to crush anyone's dreams here.  Who knows?  Maybe it has already happened -- I didn't actually do any research on this.  I'm just saying the odds of that happening are not in your favor.

Think about it.  Look at what you actually post on Twitter.

Based on my own account?  Probably not.  I post a lot of random crap.  I work in a public library, so some of it might be amusing to other library folk, but probably not to someone who travels the world playing concerts or shooting movies.  (Unless they are well and truly bored, and find the minutiae of life on a much smaller scale to be utterly fascinating.) My extensive foreign travels consist of several trips to Canada, our lovely neighbor to the North.  The only obvious connection the two of us would have would be that we are both human beings with Twitter accounts.  We've not got a lot of common ground to start from.  Just as I have no idea how filming a movie works, or how to deal with paparazzi in your face, they probably don't have that much experience dealing with a library patron passed out at a table and drooling puddles atop it. ( Is he just sleeping? Drunk? Dead? That's the fun game you get to play!)

For my part, I'd rather get "followers" by earning them.  We are either friends in real life, or they have seen what I have put out into the Twitterverse and they actually liked it.  I'm not going to beg, plead, or buy followers.  Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, or totally uncool because I don't want the cache of having thousands of followers in an instant.

And if for some reason I actually ever end up being followed by someone I admire (probably a lapse in judgement on their part), that's cool.  It's also cool if that never happens.  I am who I am, with 80-odd followers or thousands.  

I hope people realize they are greater than the number of "followers" they have.

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