Twitter barrier of entry and ego inflation

Twitter is wonderful, as many of us know. But Twitter is hard, also, The barrier of entry is high, and one of the most difficult things is finding people to follow (here are some tips).

So Twitter and Twitter users have introduced a couple of ways to overcome this difficulty: #FollowFriday and, most recently, Twitter lists.

The tools are meant to help people find people to follow. The problem is, every time someone recommends you should follow person X, either in #FF or by placing her on a list, person X is flattered. Her ego gets a boost. Now, depending on the psychological perspective we use to look at this (Western or Eastern), the ego boost may or may not be a good thing for person X himself. But what makes it annoying for all of us is that person X cannot keep it to himself. He has to count the number of lists he’s on, the number of times she’s been recommended, and let all her followers know – usually, this is done in the form of thanks: “Thank you everyone for putting me on 500 lists!” It is annoying, because along with the sincere thanks we see an overinflated ego that cannot be contained within oneself.

So, #FF and Twitter lists become ego-inflating tools, and many of us find them annoying. The question is, even though annoying, do they help newcomers find people to follow?

Unfortunately, Twitter got rid of what I thought was the best way of finding people to follow: Seeing all @replies enabled one to identify new people connected to the people she was already following. Now, you can only see @replies if you follow both people in a conversation. As Twitter adds capacity, I hope they’ll come back to the old model – it will help newcomers build their social network slowly and organically.

Now, back to the annoying part, should we blame the tool or the people? Or, is this not a problem, and no one needs to be blamed?

Personally, I would like to see a bit of humbleness… What’s your take?

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5 responses to “Twitter barrier of entry and ego inflation”

  1. Mihaela says :

    Ruud, I can see someone new to twitter using lists to find new people to follow.

    I also agree that conversations are the best way to find new people to connect to, and that’s why I miss seeing all @ replies. It’s true, many use the dot trick, but not all. And if we all do, it defeats Twitter’s purpose to reduce the load – which is a sign that they shouldn’t have removed that feature in the first place!

    Faiza, Scott, Laurel – it’s true, it’s people who find a way to make these tools into ego boosting tools, I don’t know that Twitter intended it that way. Got to love the unintended consequences of technology 🙂

  2. Ruud Hein says :

    Can’t see either feature helping new people. Lists especially are more meant for the end user than for others, in my opinion.

    One of the best ways to find people remains following conversations — and randomly following some people whom are followed by those you like.

    As for seeing @’s: this only applies to @’s at the start of a Tweet. This is why you see more and more people starting an @ tweet with a dot:
    .@whatever <— this @ reply will be visible to all

  3. Laurel Hart says :

    To list or not to list? My hope is that Twitter expands functionality in a different way, not by going back to the “old days” but by allowing more robust sorting of people connected to the user. E.g. Instead of creating a list and adding certain people to it, I wish I could sort my followers or people I’m following by different criteria: location, keywords, etc. That way there’d be no “listing,” but an easy way for me and others to see groups of people. I wish I could sort by “New York City,” or “public relations” or “education,” for example, and see who I’m following or who’s following me within that criteria. It’d be an easy way for new users to find people within my network (and for me to see connections I might currently be missing), without the “ego” of lists.

  4. Scott S says :

    I think the question of blame the people or blame the tools is a good one you can discuss until time ends. It is the same issue of wondering to blame Kalashnikov for inventing the AK-47 or the morons who use that tool for bad intent. Do you blame Nobel for inventing dynamite or the people who use it the wrong way?

    I think the issue of Ego on the internet is something that can never be solved. Just like in High School, there will always be the groups of “popular” kids that everyone wants to be a part of and hang out with. Having 6,000,000 friends or followers is just a digital version of that. You don’t know these people from Adam and Eve, but hey, I’ve got more followers than this other person.

  5. FaizaK says :

    My thoughts exactly! Glad to see someone else feeling the same way.
    Id like to add another ego-boasting factor and that is counting and celebrating the numbers of followers that you have. Twitter was never supposed to be about setting new records of number of followers or names in any lists. These elements should have been a byproduct of all the interaction and sharing. There are already a number of tools created by third parties for creating lists (tweeple) or chucking people’s data (Tweetchuck). I didn’t quite feel the need for twitter to integrate these features as a part of its structure and create an environment for competition of egos! If at all Twitter should work on its RT feature and leave its model as basic and simple as before. I was more happy with the earliest version.

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