I don’t even pay attention to this column. This is like the Mississippi River. Tweets flow so fast, I can’t read ‘em all.
I was pointing to my “All Friends” column on Tweetdeck in front of a group of 50+/- twitter newbies who came to see my presentation at MassCUE on why they should be on Twitter.
Yeah, so guys like me will throw you in a column and not even pay attention to you.
What a fraud I am.
When I made the conscious decision to be transparent in my life and learning in July of 2009 (for which, I remain eternally grateful to Sheryl & Will) Twitter became my vehicle. At the time, I remember following the 100 or so folks that Will followed. I figured if they were good enough for Will, they were more than good enough for me. At first, I just watched and lurked, but over time I began to contribute. I tweeted links, blog posts and images. I began to connect with and follow others with similar interests. Eventually, I began to share bits and pieces of my personality and would interact with others in a more personal way. I was beginning to make new friends with people who I had never met.
In January of 2010 the power these twitter-borne relationships came into full focus when I attended my first Educon. I had the chance to meet some of those on twitter I viewed a “celebrities”. I chatted with Chris Lehmann, introduced myself to Alec Couros, and was scared as hell when I presented to an audience that included David Jakes. I can remember sitting in Mace’s late on a Saturday night having a long conversation with Dean Shareski about a variety of topics thinking “Holy s&*t I’m talking with Dean Shareski”. That same night, Paul Wood (whom I had just met, but had connected with already on Twitter) allowed me to use his iPhone charger case to replenish my battery.
To some degree, it was a coming out party. I had this burgeoning network of peers, colleagues and friends that I came to know as intimately as one could 140 characters at a time. The time I spent with others at Educon simply cemented our virtual connections.
This time was incredibly intoxicating for me. Not one to build a face to face network (I’m an introvert after all), twitter was giving me the ability to do something I didn’t feel comfortable doing in person – build a learning network full of incredible thinkers, writers, speakers, and educators. As I participated, more of my tweets were retweeted, favorited and commented on. My blog posts were soliciting comments and being shared in other spaces. I was being asked to guest blog for others and speak at events, both physical and virtual. I began to see myself with the same “celebrity” status that I first saw others having when I went to Educon. Of course, my perception vastly outpaced the reality.
Something had changed. Instead of seeing Twitter as a place to build relationships, I saw it as a place to collect more followers. I began to follow people so they would follow me. I started paying attention how many people were following me, not who was following me. I would purge those that I would follow, then refollow in hopes that they would eventually follow me. Worst of all, I neglected those relationships that meant so much to me when I first joined twitter. Twitter was less about connections, and more about additions.
Did I mention I was a fraud.
As I write this I have about 7,000 followers. If you all feel duped and unfollow me, I get it.
So, over the past several days I have begun my recommitment to relationship building by unfollowing all 5,000 of the people who I was following. (Yeah, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, I know.) I knew that John Pederson had unfollowed everyone in the past. He wrote about this for Powerful Learning Practice here. Recently, Pernille Ripp followed John’s lead and did the same. I decided to as well.
As I pressed unfollow 5,000 times, I realized that I didn’t know most of the folks that I was unfollowing. Actually, it was more than that, I had no clue who these folks were. They were complete strangers. I literally had no connection to them, which, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise. As I said earlier, I didn’t “pay any attention to them” how the hell would I actually know them. It did hurt to unfollow folks who brought great value to my life, but I knew if I was going to do it, I had to fully commit. To those of you I unfollowed, only to follow again shortly thereafter, I apologize for the you-have-a-new-follower email. For those I haven’t refollowed yet, be patient, I’m hoping to do it right this time. In the meantime, if you want to unfollow me, I get it. But, understand this…
As part of this recommitment, as I refollow past and follow new friends, I’m doing so with the intention of having a deeper relationship with you. We may be best friends, we may converse, we may share, or we may co present in the future. Or we may not. But, if I am following you, it is because I need you in my personal and professional life in some way. While it is always dangerous to list specific names (because this is only a small sample), allow me to do so in an effort to make my point:
- @shareski, I need to read your tweets to be reminded of the glorious nature of everyday events and the deep messiness that meaningful learning can be.
- @amollica, I need to keep learning about google from you – no one knows more.
- @jesslvalenti, I need to keep reading your tweets and blog posts to remind me of the passion I had earlier in my career.
- @joe_bower, I need you to remind me that standing up for the right thing is not always popular (because everybody is an expert on homework and grading.)
- @thenerdyteacher, I need to keep learning about Evernote from you and you and @tgwynn need to keep reminding me that you are best friends that met on twitter.
- @l_hilt, I need you to remind me how great it is to be with kids all day (even though your office is all too often home base for every 6th grade girl in your school).
- @snbeach, I need you to remind me how powerful being connected to other can be, both professionally and personally.
As of about 4:00 today, I was following zero people. None. Zilch. Nada.
I started over.
This time, I’ll do it right.