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.