On (Un)following on Twitter

musings through the fog

I've been wondering what Twitter is to me. While my favorited tweets reflect of my headspace, and encapsulate my strengths and flaws, my entire Twitter stream is the pool from which these highs and lows materialize—an idea-filled microcosm of my world, where my current interests lie. I've been thinking about the process of unfollowing, especially after reading Mat Honan's piece on Wired about unfollowing everyone. For me, the unfollowing process is active and ongoing, and while I've unfollowed people for various reasons, it's less about the account being unfollowed and more about me. My interests change from week to week, so I follow and unfollow to keep up with my mind, to keep the flow rushing and constant and healthy, to prevent debris buildups and mental cobwebs.

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Earlier this summer, I noticed a a smattering of #TBEX in my stream, the hashtag for a travel blogging conference. I'm not a travel blogger, but in 2008, I'd created my Twitter account and my blog as platforms to complement my job at a travel website. In the beginning, I followed and networked with travel writers and travelers by default, but over the past four years, I've diverged from this path and discovered other interests and topics I enjoy writing about. It has made sense to unfollow publications and bloggers that no longer offer ideas and information that are relevant to me.

I still have friends and contacts from the online travel sphere and today find myself on the periphery of this world, yet wade in other currents that interest me, like technology and nonfiction, within my Twitter stream. I see how my Twitter feed is constantly evolving, not stagnant. It feels natural to follow and unfollow; to cull and prune; to find a balance, on any given day, between information and entertainment, hope and despair, and significance and irrelevance.

And I notice occasionally that when I unfollow someone, they immediately and automatically unfollow me in return (and sometimes on other networks, too). I find this kind of reciprocal following and unfollowing meaningless, but I understand people use Twitter, and other social media, in different ways.

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I have my reasons for following each account on my list. I follow a handful of bloggers because I regularly read them; a group of people for interesting ideas on all things digital; a bunch of folks for general news, art and design, and pop culture; book handles of bigger publications like the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books; and then a sprinkling of accounts who add the necessary color, humor, and "padding" to my feed.

I've thought about what kind of irrelevance to keep in my stream. I don't enjoy reading complaints and the daily minutiae of a person's day, yet I don't mind the wickedly inappropriate trolling tweets of assholes. I hate when "LOL" or "LMAO" appear in my stream, but am completely fine with other abbreviations.

A systematic randomness, I suppose.

And I don't follow my closest friends. Not because I don't like them, but because I don't use Twitter to communicate with them. I also may love someone's photography so will follow them on Instagram, but that doesn't mean I will follow them on Twitter. (Can't I be drawn to just one facet of a person?)

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But ultimately, do I have to explain this process?

So, I'm curious: do you actively follow and unfollow people on Twitter, too?