A new take on Twitter for 2019

Late in 2018, I deleted my Facebook photography page for good (for the umpteenth time I guess, and I’m at the verge of deleting my personal profile as well). Google will flick the switch on Google+ in April 2019*, I removed myself from Flickr and Instagram in 2018, August vanished into oblivion, tsu was just plain horrible, Ello never worked for me.

I joined it late, but Twitter is one of the few social media sites were I still maintain an active presence. I’m @alexskunz if you’re interested – I try to keep it “on topic” about photography, landscape, nature, plants, the environment, and things at the intersection of those.

Twitter is short, precise, fun, and people don’t seem to mind following external links to actually visit my website. Their algorithm can easily be deactivated and then the timeline is chronological (as it should be). I like the “in the moment” and real time aspect of it a lot too (our local National Weather Service office is fantastic on Twitter, for example).

Twitter also has a word filter, “Muted Words“, which keeps posts containing these words from appearing in one’s timeline, entirely. I mute words that appear in political posts: “Republicans”, “Democrats”, “Liberals”, “Conservatives”, “Trump”, “Pelosi”, and so on. I don’t need to see any of that on Twitter. Hiding such posts helps to keep me sane, and to stay away from (utterly hopeless) political discussions.

Allow me a brief excursion here, because it is the foundation of this article. And before that, a disclaimer: everyone can post whatever they want on Twitter. Who am I to tell other people what to post or not to post?

But this question must be allowed: why share all the political stuff with your Twitter followers? I tweeted about that a few days ago (here). If I have any Twitter followers from the other side of the political spectrum (I don’t know) then would I be able to sway their opinion and political leaning with some retweets and smug comments? I don’t think so. There’s a good article by Sean Blanda about this: The Other Side Is Not Dumb.

End of digression, back to topic.

I like Twitter. But, just like on any other social media site, people are playing “the game”: the pit-for-pat of following/unfollowing, liking/retweeting, and so on. I may be wrong but I think it’s actually more pronounced on Twitter than on any other social media site – at least when it comes to following/unfollowing (or #f4f aka “follow for follow” as it is expressed). People are obsessed with their numbers.

You can’t follow everyone back who follows you. It doesn’t make sense.

For 2019, I have decided that I won’t play this game anymore. Content matters to me. I look at the profile of everyone who starts following me because I am willing to reciprocate but there’s gotta be something interesting there. Twitter feeds that I personally don’t care much about include:

  • too much politics and/or largely off topic for what’s in the bio (“I am a landscape photographer” and then a ton of tweets that aren’t even remotely related to photography? Perhaps put “this is my personal Twitter account” instead?)
  • extreme oversharing (some people seem to spend their entire day on Twitter and I don’t want my feed to be dominated by a single person – I’m not following a lot of people)
  • 90% syndication from other social sites (only Flickr/Instagram links, YouTube “likes”, etc.)

If someone’s overall Twitter presence doesn’t deliver interesting content, or isn’t really improving my experience on the site, I’ll simply unfollow. It’s clean, simple, and honest.

I think we need to understand that whether we follow each other on social media or not does NOT define our actual friendships – especially not on Twitter, where everything is out in public anyway. Twitter is a broadcast and we probably show more of ourselves than we normally would in everyday interactions with people. Our online personas can and will differ from who we are in real-life when we interact with friends. And we think we’re all easy to deal with, but that may not actually be true… 😉 (I’m only looking at myself here).

Being connected online can be an extension of a real-world, real-life friendship – but it doesn’t have to be. Some friendships don’t go “all the way” – in real-life, more often than not, there are only certain intersections were we connect with some people. Online, you may see sides of a person’s interests that simply aren’t all that interesting. Or at least not all the time. 🙂 I am NOT following many “real-life friends” on Twitter, and it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on our friendship – perhaps it’s the contrary, even.

A part of me wishes (quite likely in vain) that we’d return to more honesty on social media in general, instead of a) playing this game and then b) take unfollowing as a personal offense that must be reciprocated immediately.

I fondly remember the early days of Google+ – everything was new, everyone was new, and everyone generously shared other’s posts, and genuinely had an interest in finding and following new and interesting people. No one had the goal to amass followers, it didn’t matter whom you followed, or not – everyone was interested in genuine interactions and building new relationships (and those happened through conversations, not mere “follows” and “likes”).

There’s another reason why I may unfollow someone though – and that’s limiting my photographic intake. I need to look at less photography from others – in order to find out more about what my photography actually is (I’m influenced by what I see far too easily. That’s material for a different blog post though.)

Now I know that some people monitor closely who unfollows them (I stopped doing that, and I’m back to hiding all numbers, using Ben Grosser’s Twitter Demetricator plugin) – and will reciprocate more or less immediately: once I unfollow them, they unfollow me. I’m actually happy to see when this happens, and I welcome it – it’s a moment of truth and honesty. In that moment, I’m glad that I was the one who made the first step to break this silly cycle.

I do wish that those people look at my timeline one last time before they click “Unfollow” and in a moment of honesty decide what I was to them: an interesting person to follow, or just a number in their own follower count. If it was the latter, I’m glad that they unfollowed me. If it was for any other reason, it would be something to talk about – and most likely, that should not happen online.

And last not least, here’s the photo of the little Mountain Bluebird that I lured you with. 😉

Mountain Bluebird at Barnett Ranch, Ramona, San Diego County, California.
Mountain Bluebird at Barnett Ranch, Ramona, San Diego County, California.

*) hard to believe that they ran a site that started with so much promise and with such a positive momentum into the ground, but I guess that’s what you get when you never listen to what users actually want, and only go by “measurable” metrics instead.

9 thoughts on “A new take on Twitter for 2019

  1. Interesting, I also got on board with Google+ in the beginning and it improved, there were some good discussion groups, but over the past year it’s become a cesspit from all sides on political debate stupidity. Also most of the discussion forums are no longer monitored by the Admins and the spammers and porn degenerates have taken over. As far as Facebook, back in December of 2014, I announced I would delete all friends because I was tired on the constant political nonsense posting from both sides and so on January 2015 I deleted almost 600 so-called friends. Then came back and allowed some, have around 50, but have to continually monitor and delete bad apples and constantlt delete numerous requests of nonsense profiles of scantily clad young girls wishing to be my friend. I have no idea what that’s about. But many of the friends I mute following their timelines because they are obsessed with politics. Nobody seems to have a normal life anymore.

    In May 2013, my wife and I watch a CNN Europe interview with Salman Rushdie and he said this:

    “We live in an age of identity politics in which people have been encouraged to define themselves by what makes them angry. You know, I mean, I would say that the more healthy definition of the self is to define it in terms of the things you value and care about and love, you know.”
    “But now, we seem to be—or many of us—seem to be defining ourselves by what we hate. You know, and that rage, as you say, becomes a badge of identity—becomes a kind of selfhood.”
    “Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we’re asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?”

    Doesn’t get anymore accurate than that.

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    1. Thank you – Salman Rushdie is spot on, indeed.

      I mostly connected to other photographers on Google+ and thankfully, many of them didn’t get too political there. Unlike Twitter! After the 2016 election, EVERYONE got political – some only for a while thankfully, and I can understand it. But indeed, some have never stopped, and it would appear that they have taken this on as their new identity. The current US administration does provide a new outrage every day, of course… 😛

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  2. Congrats on taking those steps, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the benefits ☺️. For what it’s worth, I also don’t get the reciprocal following/liking/whatever game. For one, I generally don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like to, and I definitely won’t be “liking” anything unless I’ve at least read it through. Which means my interaction with other people’s work is sporadic at best, so it doesn’t work well with those who expect immediate recognition. It gives me relief to know I’m not the only one. I wonder how such a simple act of independence suddenly feels so revolutionary.

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    1. I wouldn’t say revolutionary 🙂 but I know what you mean. I think it has to do with what kind of behavioral patterns we let creep in over time – recognizing them and saying no felt like a relief to me. I’m glad you do feel the same way.

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  3. I’m with you on this. At least more or less. My Facebook and Instagram accounts were deleted almost a year ago. I don’t miss them a bit. And I’m also disappointed about the demise of Google+. I joined very early on and I thought it was an engaging community. We even organized multi-day photo trips to such fine locations as Death Valley. And now it’ll be dead soon. However, I’ve decided to stay and post new pictures until the bitter end.

    I will continue posting regularly on Flickr. But it’s mostly a dump and run type of activity. I recently also re-joined Ello. We’ll see how it goes.

    I’m also on Twitter but I mostly use it as as an information portal for local (i.e. Bay Area) matters (events, news, local art, …). No world news, politics, and alike. I do post my pictures there, but that’s about it.

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    1. Haha, I had to laugh about “dump and run” on Flickr. 😉

      I’m using a (private) Twitter list for the local stuff – that way, I don’t have to follow these accounts, and my main time line isn’t clogged by those (thanks for the follow – I finally remembered to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed!).

      I’m staying on G+ for as long as it is around too, but most of what I share is syndicated from my site(s) and now overlaps more and more with Twitter.

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