One of the things I’ve always found rather fascinating with social networking is how it seems to have moved from a simple format of interacting with people into a cyber-popularity contest.
It’s all about how many followers you have…and the quality of who *you* are following. (Hmm. This person is following 40 people…but is being followed by 9000! They must be popular!)
Quality, of course, being the operative term. (And rather subjective, at that.) And there are so many choices, aren’t there? So many places to make connections that it often feels like a whirlpool of words and thoughts and opinions. Impossible to keep track of on a regular basis, never mind the people who continually change their user names or avatars or website titles.
The other night, I got a new follower or two on my Tumblr. No big deal, and I didn’t think much of it. Less than 24 hours later, one of them unfollowed me…because I hadn’t followed her back.
I see this on Twitter and Facebook as well. It’s sort of the silent cyber version of giving someone the finger.
Yay for passive aggressiveness.
And followers come and go all the time so it’s not like I had any personal investment in the person. I have no idea who they are. (And to be frank – I keep the tumblr to fangirl about art and dragon age and other geek stuff. Which is great, until you follow about 200 people and they’re all reblogging the same thing, over and over. I’ve got limits as to how much I want cluttering up my dashboard. Interact with me and I’m all yours, but if you’re just collecting followers? Meh.)
I mean, I guess you sort of have to look at why you follow who you follow…and why you decide to unfollow them.
For me, there’s a number of reasons – I’ve got my various inner and outer circles of friends and colleagues from my numerous interests – writing, gaming, certain hottie violin players, etc. But since I primarily took to social networking to help with finding a writing career, I followed a lot of publishers and agents, editors, authors and other aspiring writers. It made sense – I wanted to find out more about the industry, get informed about publishing trends, hang with other like-minded folks.
When I wanted to think about collaborating on the graphic novel project, I began following like-minded artists. Observing how they worked. Their styles. That sort of thing. (Sounds a bit calculating, I suppose, but I didn’t want to waste people’s time. I appreciate art for art all the time, but if I’m looking for something specific, then laying down at least the groundwork for compatibility is just good sense. Same thing most writers do when they’re looking for an agent. It’s all about accessibility.)
And sure, we all want to be followed by the superstars, but there’s no obligation for them to follow back. And superstar is a loaded term. You’ve got the big celebrities out there…but then you’ve got the niche ones too – popular within certain circles. “Tumblr famous” as they say. Sometimes social networking just feels like an illusion – it can close gaps and give you opportunities to interact with people you could never get close to otherwise, but it’s a false closeness. Unless the other person actively interacts with you in return, it’s a bit like verbal masturbation – you’re just spewing your thoughts at people in hopes they might give you a cigarette when you’re done. You’re definitely not getting breakfast the next morning, though.
But when it comes down to it, there’s no obligation for *anyone* to follow anyone else. Some people reciprocate every follow. Some don’t. Personal choice.
And even so – people change. Needs change. If someone starts spamming me, I’ll unfollow. (And for me, that’s about it – I’m a pretty lazy person, so I won’t unfollow unless you really piss me off about something. Otherwise I’m content to jabber at whoever will listen about whatever, and return the favor. This is probably the same reason I have over 50,000 message in my inbox. That’s not an exaggeration.)
We all have different tolerances and requirements in those we interact with, particularly on the outer rim. It all just depends on what you’re looking for.