Should Social Media be Reciprocal?

social media panic

I’ve got to start this post with a confession: I unfollowed you on Twitter.

Honestly? It’s not you, it’s me.

You were chatting on about reality TV every single week and MAN, I hate reality TV. Hate it.

And then you started sharing those pretty things you pin on Pinterest. I can’t craft. I can’t cook. I don’t care about interior design.

I love that you blog, and your blog makes you happy, but it’s about fashion. My wardrobe is 90% Gap, 5% Marks and Sparks and 5% souvenir t-shirts from gigs and holidays. I don’t do fashion.

So while I continue to acknowledge you’re a fabulous friend and all-round tip-top person, I choose not to follow you on Twitter. Cos we like different stuff, basically.

Also, possibly I just forgot to follow you. I always mean to spend time adding people on Twitter. But then life happens, emails land, the dog gets sick… it can’t just be me, can it?

Of course, it works both ways – if you don’t like dog photos, you probably don’t want to follow me on Instagram. You don’t even have to read my blog. Although, you know, you should feel totally welcome too, obvs.

Lately, though, I’m wondering if my approach to Twitter is out of step. I tend to follow people because they Tweet stuff I’m interested in, or because I’m very good friends with them in real life.

Plenty of people I follow don’t follow me back, and that’s okay – just because I think @stuheritage is hilarious doesn’t mean he has to think the same about me. Just because I love seeing the random hilarious GIFS from @emotionalpedant doesn’t mean she has any interest in the life of a single Mum with a 10yo daughter and a job in social media.

But I know other people consider it a matter of etiquette – if you don’t follow me, I can’t follow you.

Actually, I unfollowed someone recently on Twitter. Nothing personal, it was just about interests not aligning. That person immediately unfollowed me back. For good measure they unfollowed me on Instagram and unfriended me on Facebook.

Obviously, that’s fine, and I am 100% not being critical of that approach if it works for you, but what this sort of thing says to me is that you’re only following me so I’ll follow you. You’re interested in numbers, not conversations. If I’m not following you, you won’t follow me. Not because I’m less interesting, or I’ve been rude, or I’ve offended you by some political statement or other. But simply because I’m no longer adding to your numbers.

Honestly? Doesn’t sound much fun to me.

What it also says is that too many people use those ridiculous tools that alert you whenever someone unfollows you. STOP IT. STOP IT NOW. I can’t think of a more effective way to give your self-esteem a good kick in the face on a regular basis. Just because you CAN know doesn’t mean it’s smart to actually know.

I looked one up this week and saw that two people I know pretty well had unfollowed me on Twitter. And even though – hello? – it’s Twitter, and not actually real life, I properly had a moment of feeling sad, and wondering what I’d done. Then I metaphorically slapped myself around the face, told myself to stop being such a self-involved dick about the whole thing, and moved on. I Tweet some proper nonsense, and if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.

I follow and unfollow on Twitter with abandon – I don’t like to follow TOO many people because I don’t get onto Twitter much during the day, and if I follow more than about 1,000 people I find my timeline moves too fast. But if I see a funny Tweet or RT, I’ll follow that person. If someone is an obvious “I live Tweet Reality TV” then I might unfollow because – frankly – not my thing. I might refollow after the season finishes.

I have a similar approach to Instagram – I follow a LOT of people and I only really unfollow if someone is one of those people who uploads all their photos in one go at the end of the day (like Twitter, it’s easy for your feed to get overwhelmed that way, and miss other stuff). I also have a horrible habit at the moment of following people who I think are bloggers only to find out 2 photos in that they’re actually selling slimming wraps and it’s all inspo quotes and photos of people’s midriffs. No, thanks.

If someone reads my blog, I’lll tend to read their blog, too – but I’ll only be a regular reader if the blog works for me. I have really good friends whose blogs I don’t read regularly – one friend blogs about clean eating (sorry, but no) and another blogs about crafts (the world is better with me not crafting in it). Another good friend blogs about hiking. Me, hiking? As if.

I love my friends dearly but sometimes I have nothing of value to add to their comment pages. And I hope they’re okay with that. But maybe I’m misjudging the etiquette here.

I’d love to know what you think – should social media be reciprocal, or are you a bit more of a social media butterfly? Do you use tools to track who follows back and who doesn’t?

 (pic credit: Shutterstock)


30 thoughts on “Should Social Media be Reciprocal?”

  1. I totally agree about the unfollowing thing. I do that on Facebook – I don’t unfriend unless they’ve shown themselves to be total douchebags or something, but I don’t need my feed to be full of reality TV either (loathe!). I do crafts though so obvs I have a lot of that… but I understand not everyone feels the same way. That’s why I’ll tend to post that stuff in groups I frequent. I have a poor neglected blog but I wouldn’t use software to tell me who’s unfollowed. It’s like getting a thumbs down on YouTube – you’re like “who did that? Why don’t they like it? Am I paranoid??” Haha.

  2. Yeah, no one likes a self-involved dick.
    Also, I’ve seen a DISTINCT lack of comments recently. What, you’re not into beauty, bedding and babygrows either?
    Pfffft. *unfollows*

  3. Social absolutely shouldn’t be reciprocal, and I have no expectations that it is. I follow people I want to hear about, I friend people on Facebook I want to keep in touch with. Social media doesn’t equate to real life, and it’s sad that people wrap themselves up and upset themselves over it. It’s also worth remembering that everyone has different expectations on social…

  4. I think it’s a tricky one. I have been tweeting since 2009, and also am trying to keep following about 1,000 people for the same reason as you Sally, as I like following people who have something to say and don’t just share links, etc. Of course I also share my blog links (often), but love the twitter buzz we get. I stopped worrying about people unfollowing me ages back, but will never forget I actually did take it personal back then. Now, just do not mind. Life is too short to worry about these things. …. saying that, off to check if you are still following me … ha ha ha 😉

    1. Ha! I am certain I’m following you, as I know we sometimes chat on Twitter. I think we’re very similar in our approach – perhaps because I’ve been doing this so long, it doesn’t occur to me to worry these days – you can’t follow EVERYONE, and I think we all have the right to use social media as we like – for me it’s important to have people I can chat with, and while yes, we all plug our posts, if it’s done too much or that’s ALL you do, it’s not really for me.

      It’s nice it’s not just me who thinks that way, though, it’s nice to know I’m not necessarily upsetting people I don’t follow on every platform. Phew!

  5. Seriously, where do people get the time from?! If there’s some spare, I’d like it to have the chance to ‘organise’ my social edit accounts. Then again, I might just use it to randomly upload videos of my cute kitties to Periscope because I just KNOW you’ll follow me then… Haha. Anyhow I’m with you, social should be fun, not work, and crafts, wraps and healthy do not inspire me. Unless Gino decides to promote his new healthy craft range in a pinny and a wrap, then I’m all eyes of course.

  6. I don’t go to twitter much anymore. A few months ago a few ppl lamented that we don’t chat on twitter anymore. I tried to go back and chat but it didn’t work – maybe I follow too many people? On fb it’s totally reciprocal – if you unfriend someone they are not your firend and it goes both ways. I unfriended a local guy recently because he kept posting about religious events he was organizing and I’m just not interested enough in that sort of thing to have 20 posts a day on my newsfeed. Nothing personal but it was interfereing with my social experience. I miss the twitter community we used to have. Maybe we could have tots100 group on twitter where we could all chat again – without the other political and media stuff I follow getting in the way?

    1. It’s an interesting idea – we did try a hashtag for just chat on Tots100 but it quickly gets overwhelmed by people posting links. What works for me, if I’m honest, is limiting the number of people I follow and actively making the effort to engage – it’s taken a month or two but for me now, Twitter is becoming a lot more fun. I think you get back what you put in. And I unfollow if someone floods my timeline with links for their post or their linky or their request for a review item etc. Because like you say, it affects my social experience and I’m running a personal account, and I think that should be okay to do. Hopefully, it is for most people. Obvs some people are just more sensitive than others (and I’m on the insensitive side, for sure)

  7. Apps that claim to help you keep on track of followers and that bulk follow and unfollow are the devil.
    Two months ago I went on a mass unfollowing spree on Twitter, there was just too much noise from far too many randoms. I unfollowed about 16,000 accounts over 2 soul destroying days. And not soul destroying because I felt awful about unfollowing people, should destroying because honestly I had never spoken to the people and actually that fact was kind of depressing. When you look at it like that it I wasn’t being very sociable on social media.
    Like with 99% of my blogging expereinces I would have totally advocated reciprocal following at one time. And then I woke up to the real and sustainable world!

  8. Well, we used to follow each other on Twitter and at some point you unfollowed me. When I realised I had that ‘Huh.’ moment and unfollowed you but then, a bit later, I realised I actually liked your tweets, they made me laugh, so I followed you back. Since then I have stopped checking who has unfollowed me and life is a better place! I completely get your way of doing social media and tbh I don’t have time to do Twitter the way it’s meant to be done – I have lost the art of conversation on there as I just don’t have the time. But if people follow me – real people rather than competition enterers – I’ll generally follow them back just because I like to. But I’m a bit click happy with the mute button too!

  9. Honestly now I don’t give a flying fig who unfollows me on nay platform. Worrying about unfolding just leads to the dark side.

    So if I post my cats do funny videos you’ll follow me on every platform right ?


  10. I don’t know much about Twitter but the one I hate is when you unfriend randoms from high school on Facebook (you know, the ones who were mean to you when you actually WENT to school together but now want to nose your photos…??) and then somehow they notice and try to befriend you AGAIN. I feel ridiculous levels of guilt and have been known to exclaim ‘gosh, how weird, you’ve somehow been deleted off my friends list…random?!’ Durrh!

  11. Hi Sally, I totally agree with you. If you are just going to follow someone because you want them to follow you back, it’s not a good reason. Also, the idea of not having the same interests (because some people tend to scream out loud their beliefs online, not judging, people can do whatever they want on their social media as long as it’s legal) made me dislike Facebook (I ended my account 5 years ago), because there you add your friends, not only people you like to hear from, and I was starting to dislike people I used to like. Very sad and unnecessary, I think. Anyways, good post!!

  12. I signed up to one of those ‘find out who unfollowed you’ kind of sites. Why did I even think it would be a good idea? NOTHING is good about it! It lasted about 2 hours until I came to my senses. Life can be harsh enough already, without knowing who has unfollowed you on Twitter! I’m over the ‘If you follow me, I’ll follow you’ stuff. Didn’t we leave that behind on the playground?

  13. I get totally stressed when bloggers want to friend me on Facebook- I try to keep that a family and IRL zone as much as possible. On Twitter I try to follow people that I have something in common with- I’m not too fussed if they don’t follow me back. Although I did just unfollow folks that hadn’t tweeted in over a month. I’m trying to do the same with Instagram- I want to look and nice pretty things but I don’t want to follow companies trying to sell me crap or like you said folks eating acai berries and wrapping themselves in cling film & telling me they lost weight/inches doing that.

  14. I think you’re absolutely right. I have no idea why anyone uses those unfollow tracker thingies, as I think I’d feel upset each time, and as you say, it’s no doubt because I tweeted a bunch of stuff that they weren’t interested in rather than because they now actually loathe me. It’s social media so it should be fun, chatty and interactive. I love IG as it seems less weird this way, though that said, I’ve made the wraps mistake too many times, too – I want funny, real or pretty there, not people’s stomachs!

  15. I thought it was just me that ended up following those wrap-selling people on Instagram. I also thought they were bloggers! I tend to use different social media platforms for different things so the people I follow on each are really different. Twitter to me is just a blogging thing. I would never have signed up had I not started the blog, so I follow, well, everyone, their neighbour and their dog included! I also like it for chats with blogger friends. I use Facebook for friends and family, Instagram for staring at food (and people’s kids or dogs it seems) and Pinterest for everything, from redesigning my dream house (OK, life) to cooking to crafts, education and days out.

    Sorry, I just realised I had been rambling on a bit! No, I don’t think social media should be reciprocal. It would be odd not to follow someone you’re having frequent conversations with. Whoever unfollowed/unliked you on every social media known to man is probably very bored and it sounds like he/she felt it was some sort of personal attack when you unfollowed him/her on Twitter!

  16. I don’t know. At the moment I’m feeling very I don’t know about lots of social media and blogging things. I need them, I love them, I want them. But after a two week digital detox last summer I’m loving spending time talking to my kids and listening to them, cuddling up on the sofa to watch a film with my husband and do just that without Facebook checks every 5 mins, and I’m enjoying getting lost in a good book without picking up my phone all the time. So I don’t know at the moment. I want to be sociable online but I want to be sociable offline too. I just need to figure out how to do both now. And follow me / unfollow me, whatever works for you. I am who I am, I write what I write. I don’t know who follows me and who doesn’t, I just know who I follow. Great post, apologies for this rambling comment 😉

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