The unfollow Q&A

Since I’ve covered this topic in several sprawling posts here on my blog I wanted a single place to link to about why I unsubscribe from all feeds and unfollow nearly all Twitter accounts a few times a year. Here are some questions I’ve gotten about it.

Why go through all of the trouble? Doesn’t it take a lot of time to unfollow and then find and follow Twitter accounts or web sites?

Yes. It takes a lot of time to find and subscribe to great Twitter accounts or web sites. So I do not take the decision to ditch all of that effort very lightly. However, I believe the value I get out of Twitter and Feedly are much higher because I do this routine every few months or so.

From August 2012 in a post titled How to tear down the walls of your echo chamber:

Your interests, friends, environment, and location are all factors in determining what your experiences are, what you know, and what you don’t know. It can be limiting.

One of the many possible solutions to this issue that I posited in that post is: 

Periodically delete your RSS subscriptions. Once-and-awhile go through and delete the sites that deliver news and opinion pieces. If you read someone’s opinion long enough their opinions begin to form your own. Break out of that habit. Read the counter arguments. Or ditch them altogether.

This tip, and the others in that post have worked remarkably well for me so I keep it up.

Don’t people get upset when you unfollow them?

Yes, they do. Not everyone says something to me directly but when they immediately unfollow me or even go so far as to block me — I can tell they are taking it personally.

To those that get a little miffed at my unfollowing them a post by Helena Price on Medium that I linked to in February of this year sums it up well. She says that we shouldn’t feel as though we have to follow everyone we know online or off.

We’re among the first generations expected to maintain connections with every single person we’ve ever met, thanks to the Internet. The weight of our swollen social networks can be super stressful, let alone a distraction from knowing who you want to focus your time on.

My entire professional life has been spent with people that work online. I’ve met thousands of people during my career. In fact, I’ve given presentations in front of thousands and many of them end up saying hi or following me online (and then subsequently unfollowing me when they realize the bore that I am online). So I let go of the stress that Price points out in her post by doing this — as she called it — purge.

But don’t you lose followers?

Yes. Absolutely. In December 2014 I mentioned that I simply stopped caring about follower counts or subscriber numbers. So if I lose a few for doing this that’s fine with me. In fact, while Google Analytics tracks the hits to this page because it is powered by Barley I never, ever check it. I have no idea how many people read my blog. And I think I’m much happier not knowing. The same goes for Twitter (though that number seems to be more prominent on the service).

And let’s be honest, my follower count on Twitter is aggrandized. Not that I have a lot of followers. I don’t. But even so I know the number of followers I have is higher than it should be. Yes I’ve been around the web for 20 years and that plays into it. But the only reason my follower count is in the thousands is because my friend Gary put this piece up on LinkedIn once. That’s it. Look at my follower count on Instagram. That is more like the reality. I have never done anything to try to increase my follower counts on any service.

So winning a few followers or losing a few followers based on my habits online isn’t something I pay attention to at all.

Why not just stop using Twitter and Feedly?

This is a question I’m asking myself more and more frequently lately. I love RSS. It is my morning paper. So I do not know if I’ll ever be able to let that go.

Twitter, however, has been losing a lot of the value it once had for me. It went from being the Internet’s chatroom to becoming a place to find realtime news far better than cable television or news websites. One year ago I wrote:

The Twitter we fell in love with is actually gone already. It no longer exists at all. In fact, it is tough to even see the remnants of that Twitter at this point.

Also:

I’m pretty sure that Twitter still matters. Just look at #Ferguson or #MH370 or the like. The world needs Twitter. The Twitter of today — the truly global broadcasting tool that works everywhere and on just about any device — is so much more powerful than the public chatroom it was in November 2006 when I signed up. But I still miss that chatroom and probably always will. The Twitter of 2006-2010 isn’t coming back. It never will. It is something different now.

These words are more true today than they were a year ago. Twitter is truly valuable but in a much different way. Perhaps I should unfollow all accounts and just check Twitter’s trending topics a few times a day to see what is going on. Maybe I’ll try this next time I do my purge.

So, now you know why I unsubscribe and unfollow routinely.