I am shocked! My friend just told me that I am a Twitter elitist! I have 79,400 Twitter followers. I only follow 58 accounts. Is he right?
The conversation arose this morning when I asked my friend John Nosta about his social media routines. John is an accomplished guy. He is a digital health expert who advises the Google Health Advisory Board. He is Faculty of Exponential Medicine at Singularity University. He is the founder of NostaLab, he writes for Forbes and Psychology Today and he regularly speaks all over the world. In addition to all of this he also serves as an advisor for the organization that I am the Pastor and CEO of - CoCreators. I take what he has to say seriously.
I was asking John about his social media habits trying to find out what works for him. In the midst of the conversation he asked, “How come you don’t follow people back on Twitter? It really makes you look like a Twitter elitist.” Wait, what did he just say?
Being a pastor who is seldom at a loss for words I was shocked as I stammered to have a reply. “Um… I guess I never really thought about it before? Is that a big deal?” I said. “You should follow people back,” he retorted, “it makes you look like you don’t want to engage with people.”
But, if I am being honest, I’m not sure how many people I want to follow either. Does this actually make me a Twitter Elitist? I mean how many people can a person actually keep up with? The theory of Dunbar’s Number suggests somewhere between 100-250 tops. So what is wrong with only following 58 people on Twitter? But again, I don’t want people to think that I don’t want to engage with them…
So I decided to do a little Twitter research. What do the top 20 Twitter accounts with the most followers do? How many people do they follow?
As of this post:
Followers: 106,896,220 Following: 216
Followers: 104,365,537 Following: 305,397
Followers: 101,961,256 Following: 619,333
Followers: 87,346,562 Following: 1,105
Followers: 83,398,449 Following: 0
Followers: 76,718,732 Following: 126,511
Followers: 76,248,874 Following: 35,578
Followers: 74,346,667 Following: 99
Followers: 70,731,586 Following: 1019
Followers: 64,358,169 Following: 287
– I ain’t sayin’ she a… because we all know she’s got assets.
Followers: 58,722,684 Following: 136
The next three are only a year apart in age, all have had number one albums, would be an epic karaoke battle and are less than a million Twitter followers apart.
Followers: 56,209,373 Following: 385,072
Followers: 55,289,369 Following: 144
Followers: 54,254,929 Following: 47
Followers: 54,166,274 Following: 121
Followers: 50,703,295 Following: 211
Followers: 50,335991 Following: 8,177
One can learn a lot from these stats. First, that pop singers own the Twitter-sphere. Second, that Twitter doesn’t inherently MySpace Tom everybody. Third, that if the songs didn’t give it away already, Taylor Swift is pretty jaded and that I can afford to buy her and all her current Twitter followers’ dinner (and now I also really want to be the one person she follows on Twitter)!
And the facts also show that - looky, looky John Nosta – the Twitter elitist verdict is still out on me! As a matter of fact, of the top twenty Twitter accounts only seven of them follow more than 8,000 other accounts. Of the other 13 accounts only four are following over 500 accounts. And the remaining nine only follow an average of 140 accounts. Given the percentage differential between these folks’ followers-to-following ratio and my own – I think that I am doing just fine.
I mean - I’m not sure that I want to follow 10,000+ people on Twitter. I like the idea of having a few people that I can really keep up with and maybe learn something from. And I do want to be somewhat prudent with what I choose to consume from the Internet. I want to follow people for good reasons.
Yet, on the other hand, maybe I could learn some things en masse by following a bunch of people on Twitter? Realistically, I don’t want people to think I don’t want to engage them. Well, unless you are a Nigerian Prince who wants to bequeath me millions of dollars. I mean unless you REALLY are a Nigerian Prince who wants to bequeath… you get the point.
What I am getting at is that – by simply engaging with social media – we are forced to make choices. And because we are forced to make choices, if we really do love people and want to show them love, then we need to genuinely struggle with what our technological actions mean for our relationships and us. We have to struggle with devising an ethic that seeks to care for others without forfeiting our God-given identity as well.
That isn’t always easy. Sometimes it means that we need to stretch ourselves. Most of the time it means we need to be more reflective.
And so, if I am guilty of anything, Mr. Nosta, it is that I haven’t been as reflective as I need to be on this issue. So as repentance and as a way to stretch myself and be less of a Twitter elitist – if that is what I’ve become - I am going to agree to add one person a day for the next year to my Twitter account as long as people give me suggestions.
So now the question is, who should I follow and why? Let me know in the comments or, heck, just tweet me @benekcj.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Is there really such a thing as a Twitter elitist and, if so, what are the determining criteria?
Q2. What responsibilities do you think that we have to “Do Unto Others” on social media and why?
Q3. What is one thing that you could do on a daily basis to better use social media for Good?