Up until last week, Chris Brogan was following more than 131,000 people on Twitter. That meant more than 200 unsolicited spam tweets sent directly to him each day, and a feeling that he was so overwhelmed with information that the tweets that were getting through were all but useless.
Fed up, Brogan, a communications consultant and speaker on social media, used a program to unfollow everyone on his Twitter feed at once. He sent warnings that he would be doing so and, since then, he has started adding people slowly. But the reaction, as chronicled on his blog, was somewhat surprising. Brogan said he had no intentions of upsetting people but he quickly learned that people tie emotional value to being followed.
“I still received dozens of emails and several dozen messages on Twitter (and one really long and angry rant on Google+ that was surprising in the depth of what else she didn’t like about me, this person who believed it would be great to judge her perception of my life in 360 degrees),” he wrote. “So, people don’t read. They react first.”
Such social media restraining orders are fairly common among ex-lovers, and more than a few people have “un-friended” the guy from high school we haven’t spoken to in 15 years who now sends us unsolicited investment opportunities on Facebook. But Brogan’s experiment was unusual in its scope and thoroughness.
Some people used the comment of Brogan’s blog to question why he was following 131,000 people in the first place, while others, somewhat unsurprisingly, used it to send spam posts about software people could purchase to clean up their own social media overflow.
“What good is a huge following if most of them aren’t actively engaging with you and more importantly with each other, this is social media, people, we aren’t collecting baseball cards here,” Jean Parks asked.
But most of the debate took place on Twitter, with many people who Tweeted the post showing empathy for Brogan.
“Read this article to see how not to respond when someone unfollows you. Please!” Angela James told her own Twitter followers.
Brogan cataloged the responses he got, ranging from immediate vows to unfollow him to assumptions that because they hadn’t seen anything from him lately, he must have decided to unfollow them. Few people made mention of the multiple tweets he sent out explaining he was simply doing it to manage a spam problem.
Brogan said he has found some added value as he repopulates his Twitter feed.
“I’m slowly following people back…I’ve met tens of thousands of people over the last handful of years, so it’s going to take a while to reconnect everyone,” he wrote. “Along the way, I’m enjoying actually seeing people’s streams for the first time in a while.”