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My therapist – Twitter

August 19, 2009

When I started on Twitter, in January 2008, I added many ‘friends’ I was already following in other social media, and some of my fellow freelancers from the Halton-Peel Communicators Association. My social media friends I had discovered from blogging on Elgg (now Eduspaces), a network aimed at academics studying education and learning. I browsed blogs in Elgg and found people to follow. I loved the social quality and having ‘friends’ online. Anyone who followed me, I followed back, ’cause that was the custom and the polite thing to do. And I tried to read all their blogs (and felt inadequate when I got behind). Despite knowing how to scan and skip when reading other blogs, I felt these people were my friends and I had a social responsibility.

When I joined Twitter in January 2008, I initially followed the same practice. It was actually a relief because I allowed myself to follow fewer blogs, and just keep up in micro-blogging. In the morning, I would go to Twitter and search back to the last post I’d read before going to bed the night before, then I dutifully read up to the current posts, if I had time. Every time I had a break, I went to Twitter (less fattening than a blueberry muffin) and tried to catch up.

It was onerous, especially as I kept following back the people who followed me. I began to compromise. I only read posts that had links. I chose favorites among those I was following and set them up in their own group, so I could follow the condensed version. I noticed that some of the people I chose to follow, didn’t follow me back. I commented in presentations on the asymmetrical structure of Twitter, as opposed to the reciprocal structure of Facebook. Yet every time I got the email announcing someone was following me, I clicked on the Twitter link but I began getting hesitant about following back.

I looked at their most recent tweets, and if they didn’t really interest me, or looked like pushy sales stuff, I began not to follow back. Some just looked like they were exploring, and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, but I couldn’t see the benefit from following them. So I didn’t. The ones I regarded as sales broadcasters I began to enjoy not following. I felt assertive. I felt like I had boundaries. (Yes, I read a lot of those self-help books ;-> ) I felt strong refusing them.

One day I clicked on the link of someone new following me and looked at the posts, and then looked closely at the avatar. Both were obscene. I’d noticed that there was a link labelled “Block”; I used it. I didn’t want to appear on “her” list of followers. (I’m not sure it was a female; these things can be faked.)

If this is obvious behavior to you, it wasn’t natural for me, an older, Canadian female. But Twitter led me step-by-step into deciding who I want to follow and who I want to totally block. It was gradual, and great. Outside of Twitter, I have begun to openly say “no” when I want to. I’m polite if they are and the context allows it. When someone recently asked to do a guest post on my blog, I looked at her work and was impressed, but realized I didn’t really know her, and I didn’t want to share. So I emailed my unwillingness. I did the same thing when a company asked to place something on my blog. I was complimented, but I didn’t want to include. it. Both people thanked me for my response. (I think many people just ignore them, but their approaches were polite, so I responded in kind.)

In this way, weird as it seems, Twitter has been like a therapist for me; I have learned I don’t have to follow back and I can block rude and pushy followers. And I like that!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Val Sanna permalink
    August 20, 2009 12:42 pm

    Nice post, Joan.

    I think it only makes sense to follow who you know and/or trust and I have no qualms about blocking obscene followers. There’s only so much time in the day and we still need to get work done 🙂

    • August 20, 2009 4:00 pm

      Hi Val,
      Yes – I expect my my work time to go up and my Twitter/web time to go down in September, but it’s fun now!

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