Skip to main content

Digital Angst

I've been on Twitter for all of a month and I think I have a problem. I have discovered that I actually care how many followers I have. Do I care who's tweeting me or whether people are interested what I have to tweet? No, I am obsessed with the number of followers I have. No, strike that, I don't care how many followers I have (1 or even 0 would be fine), I just care that some people have stopped following me. That's right: unfollowed me.

Stopped following me? Why? What have I done wrong? What have I failed to do? It's beginning to sound like a good self-flagellating prayer, but my guilty confusion is somewhere near what Sister Maureen used to make me feel about not going to church every Sunday. Out of hand? Oh, I think so.

Being unfollowed has something of the stench of being told "it's not you, it's me." The digital dump. But, clearly it is me, because you're following 2,000+ other people and now not me. I didn't make the cut that thousands of others did, including some idiot whose profile simply says, "Life's a dig it."

You have to keep in mind that this angst is coming from someone who actually does "un-friend" people on Facebook. That's right. If you're annoying and gumming up my Facebook, then I cut you out. Also, I don't accept every friend request. Yep, I hit "ignore" and I don't feel bad about it. Sometimes you have to do this repeatedly for years on end before the person gets the hint, but I stick with it. Occasionally, though, I get requests from people from my past and that can be lovely. I've reconnected in real life with several good friends that I haven't seen in years via Facebook. But if we weren't ever really friends and have had no contact in over a decade, I don't care to look at your holiday pics, no, I don't care what you've pinned on Pinterest and no, I don't want to sponsor the charity closest to your heart.

I don't feel that I'm being exactly ruthless by applying what I like to call the Decade Rule. Now, I do make exceptions for people who genuinely want to get back in touch. But, if you just friend request me and don't bother to tack a little message on to the request, then I know you're just being nosy. Everyone knows you're just being nosy. Is an extreme dislike of nosiness ironic coming from a memoirist? Perhaps, but the fact of the matter is, I post more about my life on this blog than I do on my Facebook account. You want to know what I'm up to? Read what I write. Honestly, isn't this better than clicking through hundreds of photos of me with people you don't know anyway?

All this to say that I don't care how many Facebook friends I have. In fact, I whittle them down and work privacy settings like a champion. So why do I care about followers on Twitter? I think it's that I feel I'm somehow lacking if people quit following me. I've followed some people and then dumped them because they were constantly tweeting and just drove me nuts. I try to be a good tweeter (is that what we are?): I don't tweet constantly, I retweet good tweets and always give credit, and I try to make my tweets worthy and worthwhile.

So why don't people like me?

I'm tempted to claim that my unfollowers must not appreciate high quality tweets, that people just prefer drivel and self-obsessed uses of 140 characters. Really, though, I probably need to admit that I still don't get Twitter. I don't know how to use it effectively. I mean, look at me: I'm clearly more suited to a longer format. Perhaps people are just disappointed to find that I'm mostly interested in tweeting about writing, writers, liberal politics and the environment. Reading that back, it doesn't even look interesting to me, but it's what Margaret Atwood does and she has almost 322,000 followers. (I know because I'm one)

So I suppose I'll have to get better at tweeting, because I definitely don't have the demi-god draw that Ms. Atwood does. Even just writing that makes me cringe: Why on earth would I want to be better at tweeting? Well, because it's a new, digital age and I'm trying to make a living off my name. Because I'm trying not to be a Luddite. Because I'm embracing all that the modern technological world has to offer.

And, quite frankly, so that people don't unfollow me.

PS: You can follow me on Twitter @sineadkeegan
If you do unfollow me, though, at least tell me why.
Or, you can just skip right to the amazing @margaretatwood herself.