Reflections on Twitter

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This post was inspired and begun by a reply I wrote to Abel’s blog entry discussing his recent issues with Twitter.  Abel uses Twitter in some ways that are the same as me (I too like the ability to DM friends I can’t afford / am not able to text) but also, partly because he uses a locked feed, partly because, as he said to me recently, he thinks we should always follow our friends, Abel experiences Twitter in different ways than I do. As ever, I find the differences far more fascinating than the things we have in common.

Here’s part of my reply

I like reading your reflections on Twitter, especially given our discussions [on Twitter itself] about it last week. One of the things it made most clear to me reading this and the comments that follow is that we all see Twitter in different ways, perhaps reflecting the power of the medium.

In contrast to you, for example, I don’t see Twitter as a way of keeping up with friends. I don’t keep track of who’s following me (I shut off those notifications) and likewise, don’t follow everyone I know / like. Partly, this is because I can’t — I can’t deal with a Twitter feed that’s larger than 70-100 people. But also, I only follow people I enjoy reading — life’s too short to read tweets that either annoy or bore me. By the same token, I also follow a number of people who don’t follow me. Some are famous, some are not. What they have in common is that I like reading them. One of the reasons I can’t quite imagine locking my Twitter feed is I don’t want to be aware of who’s following me and who’s not. Likewise I tend to follow people with unlocked feeds more than locked ones because of liking the ability to unfollow and re-follow without needing to ask permission.

Twitter for me is less about circles of friends or a version of IM / IRC and more about a series of windows — some of which look both ways, others that look only one. My own tweets reflect that. Sure there are days when what I’m doing is microblogging my misery, but, as is the case when I blog, I don’t expect replies. I’m just speaking to the universe. It’s nice when someone else is moved by it, but not necessary. To do otherwise would feel like I was performing and seeking approval, roles that don’t make me feel good about myself.

Just as a bit of background, Abel and I have had a discussion about locking versus not locking Twitter feeds.  There’s good privacy and even, as Lucy McLean points out, good legal reasons for locking one’s feed.  But locked feeds do change Twitter. Paul and I have been discussing this a lot lately.

Some of my problems with a locked Twitter feed are a technical ones.  If someone with an unlocked twitter feed makes a comment or reply mentioning me, I see that comment whether I follow them or not. But if their feed is locked, unless I’m following them I don’t see their comment, even if it’s directed at me.  This (obviously) makes it hard to get into discussions with people I’m not following.  Likewise, a locked feed means I have to ask to follow them before I can see what their Twitter feed looks like.  This is a problem for me in two respects.  First, I like to have an idea what someone’s Twitter style is like before I start following them.  Recently I had to unfollow someone, not because I don’t like them or because their tweets aren’t interesting but because they tweet at a rate of 100+ a day.  I can’t have that busy a feed.  At the same time, I also don’t follow (or unfollow and re-follow) based on what their icon looks like at any given time. If an icon is very explicit, I don’t follow. This isn’t because I’m a prude but because I read Twitter at work and have people coming up behind me all the time unawares.  I like being able to re-follow when I get home without having to ask permission over and over again.

Yet I also totally understand why someone would want to protect their feed. I’m not sure there’s a solution to this paradox but that’s not stopping me from blogging about it.

Final thoughts. I like Twitter a lot.  It’s by far my favorite social media — definitely like it better than Second Life, Google+ or Facebook.  I have a kink, vanilla and work Twitter accounts (the kink one is by far the most active).  I like Twitter because it can go one way — I can follow people who don’t follow me and people I don’t follow can follow me if they want to.  I love the hashtags, especially Shadowlane time when they give me a window to see someone else spanking weekend without having to know them and without their having to know me.  I love the 140 character limit that allows me to express something without worrying that it needs to be significant.

But I hate the idea that someone would follow me on Twitter out of obligation.  That I’m doing something that annoys them but they grit their teeth over and over out of friendship. If you’re out there and I’m doing that to you, unfollow me. I swear I won’t mind. And if your feed is unlocked, I probably won’t even ever know.

 

14 thoughts on “Reflections on Twitter

  1. poppy

    A wonderful way to see Twitter, this made me reflect on the pressures I have allowed myself to feel (there are some people I follow out of obligation but I find their tweets often disturbing) – thank you for writing this.

    Reply
  2. Abel

    The locking decision was relatively simple for me. Very many of my friends have locked accounts, and in turn only follow locked accounts – due to entirely understandable and very real privacy concerns. Locking my own account when I joined Twitter – and I was a late-ish adopter – was therefore the only way for me to use the site as a means to chat to many of those closest to me. And that’s my primary use for the site – to keep in touch with people I know, firstly in real life and then more broadly those I like in the scene who I’ve not met in person but who seem nice and who have interesting things to say.
    I do accept follower requests from anyone who knows me, who comments on our blog, who is known to me via other friends, who tweets regularly and relevantly themselves, who writes elsewhere – or who drops me an email saying hi via the contact details on Spanking Writers or Abel’s Spanking Stories. But I don’t crave large numbers of followers, so having the lock in place isn’t a problem in that regard.
    Where is does become an issue is, as you say, when some friends don’t follow me, but then include me in *their* tweets. I don’t care whether they do follow or not, but this feels like a very one way means of communication: I’m going to talk to you, but refuse to listen to what you have to say in response!
    Great post – thanks for sharing!

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  3. Pandora

    Very many of my friends have locked accounts, and in turn only follow locked accounts
    Is that true? As someone who has a public account, I can only assume that none of the friends in question are following me, which rules out most of the immediate people I’d guess you were referring to. I’m not saying you can’t possibly have an entire social circle I’m unaware of on Twitter – of course you can – but I’d assumed that your Twitter social circle overlaps with the people who interact on your blog, and enough of those follow me that I’m surprised by your statement.

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  4. Abel

    @Pandora – “Is that true?” Erm, yes: I wouldn’t say it otherwise – I’m not really in the habit of making things up!!
    You did made me look down the list of the people who I follow, lest I was going mad – and pretty much every single one of those I know in R/L have locked accounts. The only exceptions, by and large, are a few friends who do commercial spanking work, but even many of them tend to be locked.

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  5. Mija

    Not to speak for Pandora here but I think she was questioning not the “Very many of my friends have locked accounts” but the next part of your statement “and in turn only follow locked accounts.” I read that as meaning many people who follow you couldn’t / wouldn’t if your account wasn’t locked and they wouldn’t follow anyone whose account was unlocked.
    I was surprised by that comment myself as, looking at our follower lists, we have a significant overlap and my account has never been locked. I’ve yet to have anyone say “I only follow locked accounts” or have my follow requests to a locked feed refused because my feed was unlocked.

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  6. Mija

    I’m glad you liked the post — it’s interesting to read the different ways we use and see Twitter. As I said in my post, I think it speaks to the power of the medium.
    Not to quibble, but the problem I saw with your locked accounts wasn’t because you were included in someone else’s (Paul’s) tweet, but rather because he said some general remarks, once about suicide and once about Twitter, in his feed that you wanted to respond to, but, because your feed is locked, he was unable to see the comments you were directing at him and wouldn’t have known about them except that I pointed them out on my feed (as I follow you both I see your comments to him).
    This problem should be corrected by Twitter. Even if someone’s feed is locked, I think comments including someone else’s twitter ID should be visible to that person.

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  7. Abel

    It’s certainly been the case that I’ve wanted to reply to Paul on occasion regarding tweets in which he’s mentioned me, as part of broader conversations with others, but where the fact he doesn’t follow me (due to his principles regarding locked accounts) have meant that that would be pointless as he wouldn’t see the comments unless you’d pointed them out to him.
    As you say, there have been other tweets that have been in reply to my partner(s) that I’ve also wanted to respond to, where he’d written things critical of them or that could upset them – I don’t feel at all bad about being loyal to those closest to me…!

    Reply
  8. Abel

    Then I am less surprised – that wasn’t clear from the comment, which quoted both lines, and sorry if I therefore took it as an observation on both.
    Several people we know do still maintain blanket policies of only linking to those with locked accounts. Others are a little less black & white about it these days – but you’ll find that the vast majority of the group of friends of which we’re part in the UK do still lock their accounts.
    It may be that we’re all paranoid. TBH given history in the UK involving our friends, it’s probably better that we stick to the side of caution.

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  9. PaulAtNorthGare

    Abel:

    As you say, there have been other tweets that have been in reply to my partner(s) that I’ve also wanted to respond to, where he’d written things critical of them or that could upset them – I don’t feel at all bad about being loyal to those closest to me…!

    I think this is a bit misleading, Abel. There might be situations I’m not remembering, but the only two times I’m aware of – and, yes, the fact that I don’t see your tweets makes it hard to know for sure – when you replied directly to me because of something I’d posted, were:
    – A tweet about Joy Division, on the anniversary of Ian Curtis’s suicide, which (unknown to me) coincided with an issue in the family of someone close to you – whom I also wasn’t following at the time. My tweet wasn’t in reply to anyone, and didn’t concern the other issue at all.
    – The admittedly-snappy tweets several days ago in reply to Haron about Twitter private accounts.
    Other than that, I really don’t address tweets to you, other than incidentally if/when your name is included among a list of others in a conversation. And if you really do want me to see a reply, there are other ways of getting in touch. I’m not hard to get hold of.
    Regarding this:

    Where is does become an issue is, as you say, when some friends don’t follow me, but then include me in their tweets. I don’t care whether they do follow or not, but this feels like a very one way means of communication: I’m going to talk to you, but refuse to listen to what you have to say in response!

    As Mija alluded to, this does seem backward. The reason that non-followers can’t see your replies isn’t because of anything they’ve done – it’s because you chose to go private. It’s completely true that the system Twitter have set up doesn’t make sense – anyone you reply to should see the reply whether they follow you or not – and of course there are valid reasons to be private, but this is a choice you’ve made, and while the system remains like this it’s not the responsibility of someone you might want to talk to to make themselves available when it’s you that put the wall up.

    Reply
  10. Mija

    I’m glad you found it helpful and hope following because you want to rather than because you feel you have to makes Twitter more fun for you. (I like following you btw.)

    Reply
  11. Abel

    Not intending to mislead at all. I fully understand – as I said clearly at the time – that your jokey comment relating to suicide was one of those horrible coincidences, appearing at the precise time that someone who *does* follow you was in deep grief over that very issue.
    One of us chooses to lock our account. One chooses on principle not to read tweets from locked accounts (although you may want to check your following list, as there are some locked accounts there that you need to unfollow!). Yours would seem to be the more unconventional approach in our community, yet clearly we both have the absolute right to our approach – and unconventional does not always equal ‘wrong!. And I don’t for a moment expect reciprocity – in that I wouldn’t assume that people I’m interested in following are going to want to read my rambles.
    But I stick to the fundamental view that if you mention me in your tweets, it’s unfortunate that you’re not willing to read my replies. That’s one-way communication – talking without being willing to listen.
    Probably, to echo a lengthier debate on our blog the other day, it’s just easiest if I unfollow you. Saves the stress. But it’s a shame.

    Reply
  12. PaulAtNorthGare

    Abel:

    Not intending to mislead at all. I fully understand – as I said clearly at the time – that your jokey comment relating to suicide was one of those horrible coincidences…

    Thanks for that. Whether you meant it to be there or not, there was a strong implication in what you wrote (“…other tweets that have been in reply to my partner(s)…”) that what I wrote then was a reply to someone – it wasn’t – and not just an unrelated tweet.

    One of us chooses to lock our account. One chooses on principle not to read tweets from locked accounts (although you may want to check your following list, as there are some locked accounts there that you need to unfollow!).

    That’s actually not my principle. I don’t have a problem with the process of following people with private accounts. I have a problem with requesting permission to follow. If, for example, Twitter was set up such that I could follow someone with a private account without asking permission, so long as they were already following me (which would make a lot of sense), my objections would mostly vanish. What you see in my account are pretty much all people I began following when their accounts weren’t private, who’ve subsequently made them private. That’s fine – although if I unfollow them now, for whatever reason, I’m almost certainly not coming back, for the reasons described in my post.
    If you read the post again, you’ll see that the focus is the requesting, rather than the following per se.

    But I stick to the fundamental view that if you mention me in your tweets, it’s unfortunate that you’re not willing to read my replies. That’s one-way communication – talking without being willing to listen.

    If I’d ever specifically directed a reply towards you, or added you to a reply sent to someone else, I might agree with you, but I haven’t done either of those things. If you can find any, let me know.

    Probably, to echo a lengthier debate on our blog the other day, it’s just easiest if I unfollow you. Saves the stress. But it’s a shame.

    That’s entirely up to you, obviously. You can unfollow and follow me whenever you like, without needing my permission. You can even read without following, if you want.

    Reply
  13. Abel

    No point continuing the conversation – we obviously won’t agree, and I can’t be bothered with the hassle, when I’m actually trying to be constructive. I could debate pretty much everything you say above, but life’s too short.

    Reply
  14. Bridget

    I had a locked account back when I was trying to separate “Bridget” and “Bailey” ….and then I forgot all about it. I am not a prolific enough twitter user to notice much. However, first one of our friends told me he couldn’t follow me because I hadn’t approved him. Then,I went to approve him and discovered a LOT of people were hung up waiting for me to click a button. At this point, I don’t see any reason to hide myself. I’ve changed my settings. Whether or not anyone wants to see my tweets is a different matter.

    Reply

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