To Friend Or to Follow

Facebook Profile BarThe connective branches of the web are spreading out at an ever-increasing rate. Have you noticed how many of your old friends from high school and college are showing up in droves on Facebook? If you’re on Twitter, have you witnessed the literal flood of new registrations each day?

As more and more people jump into the social media space, regardless of their motive and catalyst for doing so (which we’ll address in a minute), you are going to be faced with the questions: should I accept that friend request and/or should I reciprocate following that person that just followed me on Twitter?

On Facebook, I have made very few exceptions to my general rule: I only accept and make friend requests to people that I am really friends with, online or otherwise (after 10+ working in the digital arena, I certainly have friends on Facebook that I’ve never met face-to-face). There are a very few exceptions to that rule – like, under 10 – which I made in either the interest of developing a friendship or widening a networking relationship with someone in or around my field.

With Facebook, there’s a simple reason for the wall. I use Facebook to share my personal information. I share pictures of my wife, my kids, and my closest friends. It’s my private space. Ha, it’s my space.

Twitter on the other hand, is a completely different beast for me. I find myself constantly squabbling with myself over whether or not I should be following everyone that follows me first. And so at the same time, I have to set my expectations on other people following me just because I followed them first.

Listen, I’m all for following people out of kindness and reciprocity. But the more users that fill up my Twitterstream with nonsense, the less I follow the stream. I originally fell in love with Twitter because of the amazing content that was steadily delivered to Tweetdeck.

I felt like I was getting smarter by spending lunch at my desk eating and reading Twitter. Now, as I follow more people, I don’t really feel the same way. I feel like I’m wearing waders and searching for post-rush gold.

So, what I’ve been doing as of late is checking out every single person’s Twitterstream that follows me, if only for 5-10 seconds. I look long enough to read the bio, check a handful of Tweets, and maybe 50% of the time I click on their URL to see what sort of stuff they write about (or design).

Twitter ProfileHere are the things I’m looking for:

  • Humor
  • Links
  • Information relative or useful to me
  • Retweets and @replies
  • Engaging gravatar (lets me know the person has a good idea what they’re doing)
  • People I recognize in their followers list

Here are the things I try to avoid:

  • Rudeness
  • Tweets about the sandwich you just ate
  • Pointless rambling
  • An entire list filled with only “New blog post: How to make your Mac look like D.A.R.Y.L.”
  • Following 1995 people, with only 32 people following back
  • Under 10 posts (unless they are totally brand new, and those 10 pass the criteria in the first list)

I would say that 75% of the people make the cut. I mean, really, the list of things that I’m trying to avoid are pretty basic. I just don’t want to fill up my Twitterstream with useless nonsense, and since I’m not trying to win any popularity contests or prepping for Magpie ad insertions, the size of my following is far less important to me than it’s quality.

I expect that someone has followed me because they enjoy what I’m adding to the larger conversation. If they aren’t and are just baiting me for reciprocation, I don’t mind if they unfollow. I still don’t think I’ve unfollowed someone once because they hadn’t followed me back, and I don’t plan on starting to do so anytime soon.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining (or starting) the conversation by leaving a comment below. Thank you kindly.

5 thoughts on “To Friend Or to Follow”

  1. I totally agree with you on the facebook issue. For the most part I only add people I’ve worked with, coached or gone to school with. I get a few friend requests a week from people I don’t know and it’s always made me feel wierd so I don’t ever add those people. The only exceptions are people whom I have shared past emails with. I do add everyone/anyone on myspace…simply because I dont care about myspace or update myspace. ButFacebook is more personal to me. It’s my personal address book of friends so to speak.

    For the most part my Twitter follow list is the same with the exception of a few respected people in the industry (whom I’d like to get a better insight into their personalities). But as far as my personal twitter stream goes, I strive to simply post up what I’m doing, what I’m listening to or simply what’s on my mind. I don’t use it as a self promotion tool about when I update my folio..or what I’ve just released or special words to the industry. It’s just not my style I guess. Seldom does it have anything to do with my job, any sage words of advice, or any insightful links about the interactive community. There’s plenty of others to do that.

    I also don’t link up my facebook status updates to my twitter account like some people do. My circle of friends is too ecclectic and diverse spanning too many different facets of my life. Only my interactive friends have any clue what I do so me spamming Facebook with design related tweets or links to the random music I’m listening too would be interpretted differently by the different groups I’m associated with.

  2. Sometimes I see certain friends that have 34 friends total and instantly I get this shot of self doubt like, “am I a friend hoarder?” The questioning of my motives is brief though because in the end there’s nothing wrong about keeping up with people. As impersonal as it can get I am genuinely interested in those I’m friends with and I like to see what people are doing with their lives.

    I used to get on Twitter quite a bit but I likewise find it hard to wade through the boring stuff people post like “just got to work” had “such and such pizza for lunch” or “watching the Simpsons”. Maybe it’s who I’m following but perhaps more likely it’s because I don’t have enough time. You make a good point about conversation, they are a lot more interesting than life logs. Are people missing that point? It seems like it is so early in the game, it’s been around for a while now but for many it’s a brand new concept, so I wonder if the disconnect is in the ease of posting. Maybe we should ask ourselves, “If I wouldn’t call up my buddies and say, ‘Hey guess what I’m watching the Simpsons’ then should I tweet it? I have to admit though that just today I posted “the Pixies are taking over my itunes” as if anyone cared right?

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