Warning: This post probably goes against every feel-good, kumbaya, let’s welcome everything post I’ve ever written. But those were business and this is personal. It’s time to draw some lines.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time. I’m stopped from writing it because I know there are people who will take it wrong or think I’m being rude, exclusive, or just plain mean. However, I’m hoping most will take it in the spirit in which it’s intended – an explanation of why I don’t follow or Friend every person who asks.
It should go without saying…
I have different reasons for following who I want to on the various social networks, and there are different reasons for each social network.
When I first started on Twitter and to a lesser extent, Facebook, I did a mutual follow back to all who asked, but all that led to was a bunch of noise. Nowadays I take more care in selecting my friends and follows and choose people I’m truly interested in having a conversation with. I can’t think of any one person I follow because they share out a lot of links each day. However, I can name dozens of people who I follow because they share interesting links followed by a fascinating discussion.
Regardless of my reasons for following anyone, the truth is, I don’t have to follow anyone at all. And as harsh as it sounds, I don’t understand why it’s a personal affront to a person I barely know or never even heard of if I don’t want to Connect on LinkedIn or Friend on Facebook. In real life there are people who are friends, people who are acquaintances and people who we don’t know at all. I don’t go from house to house bringing everyone I don’t know into my network in the real world, so I’m not sure why I’m considered a snob if I do if I choose my friends the same way online.
I also use a lot of filters so if you follow me on Google+ or Facebook, you’re not going to see everything I post. My neighbors don’t need to see all my discussions with blogging and social media friends, and my family doesn’t necessarily need to share in neighborhood news. If I use filters it’s not because I’m choosing to exclude you, it’s because I’m doing my best to make you feel comfortable and not clog up your newsfeed with stuff that isn’t interesting to you.
By not following you, I’m not attacking or insulting you
I’m not sure when it became a personal insult not to want to follow people I don’t know from Adam, yet not a week goes by when a total stranger isn’t asking why I don’t follow back. In real life I’m always nice to people who I don’t click with, but I don’t invite them to follow me everywhere I go. And you know what? Neither do they.
As a community manager it’s my job to include everyone and treat everyone as an equal and as a friend, but that’s business. Professional communities and personal social networking are two entirely different animals. It’s like working at a large department store. You’re genuinely friendly and helpful to all the people you see every day at work, but do you want to interact with them on Facebook or Twitter every day? Not hardly.
I think too many people are afraid to draw lines because they don’t want to hurt feelings, or they feel they won’t be part of the “A-List” or “in crowd” if they don’t include certain names. This is silly. If someone doesn’t interest you, you should feel no obligation to spend time with them online or off.
I don’t have to follow you
I don’t have to follow you and I don’t have to be your Friend. I’m not a mean girl because I draw a line between my personal and professional interactions and I’m not a snob because I like to keep my private life private. Social networking isn’t a participation trophy. We don’t have to let everyone into our lives simply because they show up.
What are your thoughts on following? Do you follow everyone? Where do you draw the line?