Stream from Foot Bridge
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gord Bell

If you are like me, you have many different social streams of information that you pay attention to.

These streams usually contain information from people that you have subscribed to in some way, whether you call it friending, following or something else.

When we interact via platforms that have some sort of relationship system, where people can add you to the list of people they want to pay attention to, you can add them to your list and we are notified when people add us to their list, there is a personal dynamic.

This is because we all like to have people pay attention to us. When we say, “hey, I want to pay attention to you,” and that person then tells us, “awesome, I want to pay attention to you, too!,” it makes us feel good.

Through these platforms, we are building a community of people that cares about what we have to say. Because many want to grow this community, there is this pressure of reciprocation. After all, if we don’t follow them back, they might unfollow us! I understand the reasoning.

Personally, my approach is that I have the right to defend my stream. If I see bad things going down on my stream and you are the one causing those bad things, depending on our relationship, I may remove you from my stream. I am trying to get the best experience possible out of my use of the platform. Life is too short for me to expose myself to stuff that weakens me.

At the end of the day, I am not sure I want people to subscribe to me if they do so simply because they want me to subscribe back. Is that genuine interest? Sometimes. But, that sort of thing is why we have people with 20,000 followers who actually have less “influence” (whatever that means to you) than some people with 2,000 followers.

On Twitter, I love when I am followed by someone who has a lot of followers, but only follows a much smaller handful of people because there is a better chance that they are actually interested in what I have to say and interested in me. When someone with 10,000 followers, that follows 10,000 people, follows me, there is a good chance they don’t care all that much (and it is reasonably possible that I was followed because I said or did something that triggered their autofollowing script).

Now, some would make the point that this is what lists are for. I can follow 10,000 people, but add the 30 people I really want to pay attention to, to a private list. Then I can ignore everyone else. I can understand the value, I just don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be a ghost follower/supporter of someone I don’t care for.

And it’s not because I am some purist. Subscribe to who you want and that’s the point. You have the right to defend your stream and don’t let anyone tell you different.¬†Your choice is how you defend it. There’s not some forced reciprocity. You force it on yourself.