Recently a couple of people told me they were thinking about unfollowing all of their social network friends and starting over. I’m not sure I understand the thinking behind this. Sometimes it’s done as a “grand gesture” to convey to the world that the quality of social network relationships matters more than the quantity. Sometimes it’s done to simplify one’s online life and eliminate the noise of too many followers. And sometimes it’s done merely to attract attention to one’s self, making it an ironic gesture. (”Having a lot of people follow my Twitter updates isn’t important, so I will do something that attracts a lot of attention, thereby driving more people to be interested in me, to prove that I don’t care how many people are interested in me.”)
Many Twitter users with a large number of followers (and similarly, Facebook users with a large number of friends) have either unfollowed in equally large numbers, or considered it.
One of the first people I recall doing this was Loic LeMeur, CEO of Seesmic. Jason Calacanis also did it. According to the tech news blog, they both unfollowed everyone but “kept” all their followers. I am not sure what that means, since you don’t directly choose or control who follows you. I suppose if you were really serious about recouping your privacy you could block all your unwanted followers, but that’s really inconsiderate and pointless as well.
Shockingly, I have been unfollowed and rarely do I give a rat’s ass. Loic was following me (and vice versa) when he unfollowed everyone. I don’t think I was following Jason Calacanis.
I will say there are a couple people who have unfollowed me on Twitter but have kept me as a friend on Facebook and even added me elsewhere, which is momentarily puzzling but does not affect my self worth.
Mass unfollowing as a gesture is like suicide. If you’re contemplating it just because you want to impress a bunch of people, don’t bother. No one will notice. (Even Loic and Jason had to announce to the world they were doing a mass unfollowing to insure they were noticed.)
Here’s why. Let’s say you unfollow 5000 people on Twitter. It’s not like there are 5000 people in an auditorium who came only to hear you, who are now gasping in amazement and stunned by your maneuver. That 5000 is made up of individuals, many of whom will be oblivious to the fact you unfollowed them and some of whom will be pleased. There is no 5000-person impact. CNN will not report it.
If on the other hand you feel the quality of your social network relationships has deteriorated, then maybe you do want to unfollow a bunch of people. Just keep it to yourself. Anyone who boasts they are going to ignore a bunch of people, essentially snubbing them, doesn’t have very good manners.