Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment

Luis Suarez, E L U S A, Sept 23, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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Regular readers know that I don't follow people on Twitter - I can't follow everybody (it would be just noise) and I don't want to create a special subset of privileged connections (well, I do, but I don't want to advertise to the world who's on it and who's not). So I follow topics and hashtags on Twitter, which I can do privately. Luis Suarez has recently undertaken an 'unfollow' experiment of his own and this is his report. He writes: "Imagine if Twitter decided get rid of that vanity metric, so that we would focus more on the conversations themselves, i.e. on topics, hashtags, events, etc., etc., do you think you would still be making use of Twitter and enjoy the overall experience as much as you are doing nowadays? Or maybe not much really. That’s exactly what I wanted to try out."

The result? It was emotional for a while, then back to normal. And, he writes, "it’s transformed entirely the way not only I see Twitter as my own personal learning network, but also how I use it on a regular basis and, although I can’t tell for others, it’s helped me find a new way of making it more personal, more conversational, more topic driven (while still keeping in touch with people), in short, overall more engaging and much less stressful altogether." This has been my experience too. I don't stress at all about Twitter followers. Finally, "Interestingly enough, plenty of people view Following as a personal touch, as a ‘connection’, even if they have never exchanged a single tweet with you! How weird is that? Seriously. When did it happen we all became just numbers in a counter?!?! Really sorry, but that’s not what, to me, makes up for a ‘connection’, if we have never exchanged a single tweet! Conversations are the new connections, I am afraid."

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