Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I like you. I really like you... Maybe.

There's been lots of discussion over the past few days about "fake following." including a dynamic debate sparked by Gwen Bell. If you haven't heard about this new development, Tech Crunch sums it up
"Users often expect to have their “Follows” reciprocated by their peers, and a failure to do so can lead to bruised egos. But indiscriminate following comes with a price too, as it ultimately leads to an unmanageable amount of noise (and stories you might not care about). Fake Following manages to skirt the issue with a digital white lie."
"Digital white lie?" Oh my. Is that the future? Aside from turning social networks into playground politics, Fake Following creates a disingenuous relationship that negates several valuable features inherent to online social networks. Ahem, soapbox, please...

1. Loss of credibility

When I find a voice online that I truly admire, I'll dig around their blog roll and check out the people they are following. Often, I'll find a new perspective worth keeping an eye on. I trust the people I follow to lead me to other interesting people, based on their curatorial preferences. If you follow everybody, I can't trust that you are leading me toward like-minded people.

2. False sense of self-importance

If you have 3,000 followers, you are likely pretty interesting. If you are only following 30 people, maybe you could be a little arrogant. But that doesn't mean you're not still a pimp and people want to hear what you have to say. If you are following 3,000 people and only 3 are following you back, it should probably tell you something. Truth is you might not be offering valuable content. Maybe you tweet about your lunch or you are a spammer offering free coupons for porn. If I follow you, I am encouraging you to continue posting crap. No offense, just tough love.

3. Nobody is listening

"Is that the social part of social media/networking?" The Simian Downtown Time Analyst suggests that Fake Feed creates a distance from readers. If you are pretending to listen to me, I might expect your response. I hope that you will contribute to the conversation. Inviting me to a party and ignoring me all night isn't cool. Especially if I could have made better plans. So, don't patronize by offering an insincere relationship. Skip the small talk, I'd rather be engaged.

Don't get me wrong, I value the idea of managing content. Tweet Deck is a great way to create groups and streamline your consumption. It allows you to group the people you are following and only review one group's posts at a time. So, you can just look at the "professional" tweets. Or "mommy" tweets, or "people I knew in high school, who sometimes say funny things" tweets, depending on how much time you have, or what you are hoping to find.

Granted, I am not inundated with follower requests. I am a very quiet voice with one pinkie toe in the water. But, if I choose not to follow you, don't take it personally. I am probably just washing my hair. If it is meant to be, I'm sure I will find you and kick myself for not sensing our compatibility sooner. And when I follow you, you'll know it means I like you. Really.


jeskaNOLA said...

Great post. I totally agree. Fake following is tempting, because there are some people who just post too much, but they're either a real life friend or connected in some other, somewhat important way.

I've adopted a similar "tough love" stance (and wonder what people think when they get 5 emails saying I'm following them, b/c I can't make up my mind). Really good to know about Tweet Deck. I wanted to check it out anwyay, but based on your post it sounds like it'll solve all my problems. Thanks so much for the info!

Yours Truly said...

Glad to help. And I love the schizophrenic "Follow you" "Follow you not" perspective!