30 January 2011

To Follow, Or Not To Follow


It has been a while since the last update. I have been busy with my new classes, and they are proving to be time-consuming, but as Zakgirl suggested in her comment on the last post, the reasons why we do not always do things is not time, but energy.


Given energy, one can do more in less time, so "lack of time" may be a counterfeit excuse.


Truly, I have not had the energy to do much in the way of extended writing; rather, I have not had the enthusiasm to do much writing, for I have had plenty of energy.

I am glad they had not invented ADD when I was a kid. They probably would have tried to drug me up to keep me from running around so much and being disruptive when I was forced to sit still. Sitting in a chair all day is something I have never been able to do, ever.

Even now, between writing the above and this, I decided I wanted to sweep out the other room. My dog sheds a lot, and I had promised myself I would hit that room today; I suddenly remembered that, so I dashed off to handle it. Then, when I came back in, I saw that one of the people I follow on Twitter had put up a new poem on her blog, so I paused to read it and commented.

Then, And Now

This brings me to what I wanted to talk about in this post, for though I have not had the energy to do any extended writing, and I have not had the energy to search for and upload images, I have had the energy for Twitter. It is much newer to me than blogging, and for the moment, I like it better.


Though I have only been on Twitter a very short time, my whole method of operation has changed and changed again. My tastes have gone from one pole to another. I started off by following people who put up only funny stuff, but I soon grew sick of that. A friend of mine in the entertainment business once commented how comedians were—of all entertainers—the darkest, saddest, and most twisted. If you spend too much time with them, they start to creep you out. Living in Los Angeles for many years, making the rounds of the comedy clubs with my musician friends, and meeting these people in real life confirmed my friend's impression. You begin to drink in a world view that's always ridiculing themselves and others. It starts to get depressing after a while. I would get sued, probably, were I to tell some stories, so I won't, but I will say that when it comes to hidden, vicious competitiveness, comedians top the list.

I then started following people who blogged about blogging. It was the subject I was interested in, and I wanted to get up to speed. I learned that blogging is not a one to many form. It is an others to others form. It actually starts to break down when a blogger gets a lot of followers. The conversation between commenters ceases. A hundred people talking to one person rather than each other is weird. When the dialog between commenters ceases, that blog is dead to me, even though it may have become stratospherically popular. It is easy to tell whether this is the case. It is not by the number of comments that this is shown; it is shown because you can tell that the commenters are almost never reading the other comments.

Yet writing about writing, blogging about blogging, making movies about movies, in general doing art about art is so limited and limiting. Like all narcissism and narcissists, it is a frightful bore. It is not reflective of a world view that looks outward, in wonder.

So as I said, I first was following comedians until they started to depress me. Then, I followed bloggers until that became too narcissistic. It was only a few days into Twitter that I found that there were some remarkable poets using the medium—for which it is perfect.

I found the first ones by using what in Twitter (for those of you who do not know Twitter) is called a "hashtag." For example, say you know there are a group of people writing about a particular thing, say Egypt (hot topic, that!), you do a search that uses the "#" sign, like this: #egypt. Instantly, you will see the whole stream. Well, without having seen a single haiku, I thought, "Wow. This is a great medium for #haiku!"

I was utterly right. There were several artists who just blew me away. I started writing haiku (among other things), and then, when I had, so I thought demonstrated some understanding of the form, I followed them, and I told them I enjoyed their work. To my delight, some even followed me back.

Now this whole time I was getting followed by spammers as well. I did not know how that worked. I thought, "Oh, look, someone has followed me! I should follow them back."

I am sad to say that my gmail address, which had heretofore been a relatively spam free account, has been at last, polluted.

Then, one day, I saw that someone I had followed suddenly stopped following me! Why?

I had been tricked.

"Fool me once," as they say, "shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

I started looking more closely at what rules I would apply to followers.

Now, I know how to evaluate a "false follower," as I call them. When someone follows me, I have a look at their profile and their tweets. If I see a huge number of people followed and few followers, that is a red flag. If I see relatively equal numbers, but no original communication, that is a red flag. If I see the words synonymous with "internet marketer," that's not always a red flag, but it is a yellow flag. Some of those are not spammers, but you can tell because they say intelligent, interesting things, but when it is all about money, money, money, red flag.

In Twitter, it is actually possible to build a huge number of followers without having a damn thing to say. It is weird that way. I see there are plenty of people for whom that is important. I am not one of them. I would rather talk with ten friends than a thousand strangers, but the fact is, these people are not engaging in dialogs with anyone. I know. I read their tweets.

So the game, I guess, for these people is they follow you in the hope that you will follow them back. Then, they may or may not drop you. Each day, I go into my list to see who I have lost. Usually, these marketer types just go away after a few days. They are interested in making a buck off you. That's all. Disgusting.

On the other hand, I have been taking special pleasure in finding new people to follow, and I have become very picky about that. It is delightful to find some new voice. I usually find them because someone I like "retweets" them. That, in Twitter parlance, is when someone re-broadcasts a particular message. It is beautiful democracy at it's finest. I check those people out. I look at their profile. I read enough to get a sense. I never just look at a few tweets. Everyone can have bad days, and everyone is entitled to a little self promotion, but when I see a steady stream of sincere communication combined with some definite skill with words, I follow them. I was not, at first, engaging individuals very much because I felt shy, and I did not know the acceptable conventions for doing so, but I soon found that when I followed someone for the good reasons I had, it was wise and courteous to let them know

I also actively began searching out poetry. Twitter is the perfect medium for one line quips, but it is also the perfect medium for poetry. The 140 character limit forces one to choose one's words well, and there are many people who are masters of this. Given the time pressures of my life, I found it was easy to drink in little bits of art and wisdom in little sips,

Now, I follow mainly poets and the sprinkling of short, shorts and philosophers. My own kind of bird, you see. I too follow someone in the hope that they will follow me back, but I pick people to follow because I like to see what they have to say. I give them a lot of time, but sooner or later, if they don't follow me back, I drop them too.

I get it.

It's a social cue. I like what you have to say, but you do not like what I have to say. I understand. I am the same way. We each have our path through the cosmos, so then, au revoir.

I guess I think well enough of myself to think that if I follow someone, and they do not follow me back, then there is little point in following that person. I am not a passive type who just sits in the audience listening, watching, or cheering. I actually do not understand that aspect of the human experience, even though my own eyes show me it is the norm.

But don't take that the wrong way. There are a few people I follow who have not followed me back. When I see we follow some of the same people and are followed by some of the same people, and we write about similar things, it is really just a matter of time. There is no crazy rush. We just have not quite met yet, but we will. Managing a busy Twitter account is not easy.


Speaking of which, finally, I learned how to manage my stream. I started using Tweetdeck instead of the web interface at twitter.com because it enabled me to filter things in and out, so I can watch my "favorite channels" so to speak. Then too, every so often, there will be one of my friends who, well, just hogs the conversation. They are still my friend, but I need to tune the dial sometimes. Just like in real life, when I am in a quiet mood, I don't like to be shouted at. This software has an elegant interface. It enables me to easily take control. I have a series of columns which are organized from busiest to quietest from left to right. It's great. It is missing follower management tools, but it's still fairly beta, so I expect the developers know about that need and will get to that.

Last, there are some few whom I really do wish to hear what they have to say, and I really do not understand why they ignore me, for I cannot see that I have given offense in any way, but they will not, just will NOT follow me in return. For these, I keep a private list. It enables me to hear their voice without following them publicly any more.

I have my pride.

<joke>Of course, since I've been doing Twitter for all of two and half weeks, I am totally an expert.</joke> What would be really interesting to hear is what others do to mange their stream. I would be fascinated to find out how others evaluate followers. I would love to understand the criteria other people use when they are deciding to follow someone.


StephanieC said...

Twitter still baffles me. I always have marketers follow me for a short period, but my number is usually dropping, not gaining.

I find it overwhelming to be honest. Too much information all at once. I am hesitant to follow more people - I just stopped following some ridiculous celeb accounts.

I don't know... everyone says Twitter is great for a blogger, but I've yet to be impressed.

Sometimes it's nice to just put something out there that's on my mind. Even if no one cares.

Seriously?... Reeeally??... Seriously?


Richard G. Crockett said...

Hey Stephanie,

Yeah. I know the feeling. It's a pretty steep learning curve. I notice that the experienced users regularly send each other a little love, just to show that when you throw something out there, it is being heard,

For me, it started to make sense when I figured out which kind of bird I was, and started listening to the songs I recognized. There is some beautiful music to be had.

Thanks, as always, for your straight from the heart comments.

Tom G. said...

It seems like people are using Twitter in a lot of different ways, still really discovering what the medium can do, and can't do.

I wish I could say I use it for something meaningful like poetry, but instead I just use it for little jokes and comments with about 20 people who I know via blogging. It's like passing notes in homeroom.

Richard G. Crockett said...

Hi Tom,

Yes, I see that it is very different for different people. In addition to watching the micro-art stream, I have been getting my news from Twitter. This is not the news that Rubert Murdoch's minions (et. al.) think will give them ratings, but news that is important to my socially conscious friends.

It's a revolution.

Kara Hoag said...

I am one of those people who only uses it for tweeting about my blog mainly. Why? Because I still have no clue how to use the damn thing!

Richard G. Crockett said...

Hi Kara,

I did not see this comment until just now. I had email notifications turned off for while, but I turned them back on. Thanks for having a look. I am finding Twitter to be a fantastic way to find new people. There are a lot of good writers who use it!

Jay said...

Hi Richard,

I know nothing about Twitter. I did, however, recognise the camera. My brother and I played with a similar broken one. My vintage would be one or two generations prior to yours. My father actually had used the one that we played with. You said, " I remember my dad with a camera. I remember what the scene looked like from the other direction." I can relate to that. Keep up with the poetry.

Richard G. Crockett said...

Hi Jay,

Somehow I missed this comment yesterday. Thanks for reading. I'm not sure where I snarfed the photo of the Brownie, but as I looked at later, I saw that it was different than mine. Mine had no latch, so I think it may have been as old as yours.

And Twitter is whole set of cultures unto themselves. It is the last refuge of the masked personae. One learns. Even since I wrote this post, I've uncovered many further layers.

And also, I am enjoying the poetry.

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