blog / following

On social media, I typically don’t “follow” people I don’t know personally. On Twitter, I add them to a “list”, by interest: “fans of copyleft,” “ compatriots,” etc. This seems to have fewer social expectations/implications than a “follow.”

“Following,” or even just engaging a stranger in conversation, gives me feelings of presumptuousness and “clingy”-ness. Like who am I to make such demands of your attention?

It’s also a commitment to remain engaged. If I can overcome the first hurdle, then I experience the apprehension of “I can’t even make time for my existing friends, why would I beg for new ones?”

If I can overcome that as well, then the person has to pass some kind of internal quality test, lest my follows count get too high. My attention is necessarily divided among all those I follow, so each one added devalues all the others.

In other words, if I follow so many people that I can’t possibly read all that they have to say, and I’m okay with letting their published words disappear unread, what kind of friend/follower am I?

If I claim to have more friends than Dunbar’s number, some of them are definitely no more than placeholder names.

If someone follows me and they have a huge number of follows already, I know they don’t really care much for my words, but are just playing some kind of catch-’em-all game with the social graph.

On the other hand…

Frequently I find myself wondering if I miss out on opportunities, that other people seize regardless of those issues, to take part in conversations that I would enjoy, or that would find me a job that I enjoy, or that would allow me to some good for someone.

I guess I could be friendly toward or even part of an interest-group of people without being a “friend” to any of them.

Not everyone with common interests has to be a friend either.

After all lots of open source and GPL fans (whose interests I ostensibly share) are jerks who I never wish to associate with.

But I don’t even have to go that far: people can have mere acquaintainces, and think well of them, and interact with them online, without being obligated to establish friendships.

Maybe my issues are seated in the piss-poor tools we have for managing our own social networks and connections in the digial age. Everyone, regardless of your relationship to them, is a “follow,” or a “friend.” No commercial tools provide an adequate “enemies” list, or “read for shared interests but never engage with this shitty person.”

Google Plus’s “circles”, if described at a high level, seem like a good start, but they are of course only useful within Google shit and in service to their advertisers.

This all gives me tangential ideas for a powerful open-source information-age contacts-management tool, a proper user-focused “social network,” but meh, it feels like I will never get past the first project in my enormous pile, much less begin work on that one, buried in the stack somewhere.

I wonder if I should be trying to balance out the thoughts I write here with positive ones. I don’t want all of the entries to be negative, if that’s not representative of the whole of my experience.