The Twitter Dilemma: To Follow or Not To Follow.

Via on Jun 29, 2009

twitter followers

When I first joined Twitter, I was overwhelmed.  I remember after creating my account, I just looked at the screen and felt like Robert Redford’s character at the end of the movie The Candidate.  “Now what?” is what came to my mind.  I had no idea how to proceed.

One of my good friends, Lisis, kindly introduced me to her followers and all of a sudden, I started to have my own followers. I was so happy to have people follow me and I followed everyone back in return.

The next challenge was learning to master saying what I wanted to say in only 140 spaces.  At first, I thought it would be simple. It turns out that 140 spaces is really not that much.  I was reminded of John Steinbeck’s advice that if you cannot explain your book or article in one sentence, then you have no idea about what you are writing. I never agreed with the guy, but being on Twitter changed my perspective.

The whole tag line of “What are you doing?” is pretty deceptive, too.  In the beginning, I literally tweeted about what I was doing.  Some of my early day tweets were about my breakfast which always included drinking yerba mate or eating oatmeal.  Then there were tweets about lunch and dinner.  Then there were the tweets about going to Starbucks and being at Starbucks.

About two weeks into my experience with Twitter, I read an article that you really do not need to tweet about what you are actually doing.  Apparently, most people ignore that and just write whatever they feel like.  My initial reaction was why in the world do they say: “What are you doing?”

I quickly got over that frustration and began tweeting about whatever crossed my mind.  One day while at work, I saw a man dressed as a cow on the corner.  So I tweeted about that.  I tweeted about my blog and whatever else came to mind.

It has been about three months since I first joined Twitter but there is one thing that I still struggle with and that is: do you have to follow people who follow you?

Two weeks ago, I got a few tweets that were downright offensive, which were directed at me. One was from a guy who apparently thought cursing for 140 spaces was a form of conversation.  Another guy was so enamored with certain body parts, that he felt compelled to share that with me.

I had no idea who these people were and I was not following them at all but they knew about me somehow.  I then did what I thought I would never need or want to do, and I blocked them.  I found myself going through all my followers and blocking people who seemed racy enough to leave offensive tweets.

This all made logical sense but my heart and spiritual self felt that this behavior of mine was bordering on being judgmental—something I try and avoid in “real” life. Just because someone has a tweet that is obviously provocative (and I am being very polite here), does that justify me blocking them out?  I felt at a loss.

Even though I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I do recall that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes.  He was criticized for it but he said that they need help, and that was his way of helping them.

Buddha also shared his teachings with all kinds of people and was also criticized for being open to all classes and castes.  Not that I am like Jesus or Buddha but I could not help but feel that I was doing something not right by blocking some people from following me.

With this thought, I eased up on my blocking and decided that I would do something a bit less judgmental and just follow people who share the same beliefs as me.  As a result, my number of followers increased to the point where it was higher than the number of people that I actually follow.

This felt good for about a week, and then I started to notice that some people who were following me stopped following me since I was not returning the gesture.  I totally understood the rationale, but it made me realize that I had not found any peace with the whole issue.  Even the Dalai Lama and Thich Nat Hanh follow the people who follow them. [Well, the Dalai Lama's not exactly on Twitter, actually. ~ed.]

When I first started on Twitter, many people followed me simply because I had followed them.  It is thanks to those people that the number of my followers has reached into the thousands.

So I have now returned to my initial practice of following the people who follow me.  I also do follow people on my own and if they follow me back, great and if not, no worries.  If someone who does follow me says something offensive like those two guys, then I will block them because there is no need to be personally attacked for no reason.

With this realization, I made my peace with the whole thing for the time being.  Maybe my belief will change by the time this article is posted…I have no clue.  What I do know is that we live in an age where information is freely given.  It is not up to me to determine who is worthy of getting my tweets or not.

If something I say, whether through a tweet, a blog post or an article on Elephant Journal can be of benefit to someone, then that is awesome.  Sometimes, one of the best ways we can learn about life is through each other.  We all have some wisdom to share.

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About Nadia Ballas-Ruta

Nadia Ballas-Ruta is a former attorney and almost took final vows as a Vedanta nun with the prestigious Ramakrishna Order. She has traveled the world, lived in India and so much more. She currently is working as a freelance writer and photographer. The focus of her work as an artist is to help people recognize their inherent Divinity. She is also a regular contributor at Think Simple Now.

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2 Responses to “The Twitter Dilemma: To Follow or Not To Follow.”

  1. [...] Here is a link to my new article, The Twitter Dilemma: To Follow Or Not to Follow, at Elephant Journal. To read more about the reasons behind my new schedule change, click [...]

  2. Great article, Nadia! Twitter is such an interesting site and it's so hard to know what to do in terms of following and not following and unfollowing. Thanks for writing about this topic — very interesting!

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