Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I unfollowed hundreds of people thanks to Tony Baldasaro

I was inspired by Tony Baldasaro's post Why I Unfollowed 5,000 People to reclaim my connection with the people I follow on Twitter by unfollowing hundreds of people.

I joined Twitter in June 2009 because Alfie Kohn posted on his website that he had joined. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and promptly gave Twitter up after looking at it for about a month. I didn't necessarily know it at the time, but my problem was that I was not connected to anyone, so lurking got pretty old, pretty fast. 

Then in January 2010, I started this blog, and it made sense to use Twitter to share my latest posts. People started responding and connecting and interacting with me via Twitter, so I stayed interested.

People starting following me. 

I can remember following my first 100 people and making a conscious decision not to follow more than that because I wanted Twitter to remain manageable; however, even 100 people was becoming difficult to keep up with. I quickly realized that I didn't need (or want) to read every single tweet by those I followed.

I remember when I decided to relinquish my self-imposed limit on who I followed when I decided to return the favor to those who followed me by following them. This was a mistake and led to the beginning of the end of my connections with those I followed. Before I knew it, I was following about 1,500 people and I quickly found myself never looking at my Twitter Timeline.

That's when I turned to lists. 

I knew that there really was only a handful of people that I really needed and wanted to stay connected closely with. After looking at the two lists that I use the most, there are actually 40 people on Twitter that I follow on a daily basis. I wanted to know what they knew. I wanted to read what they were reading. I wanted to think about what they are thinking about. I wanted their insight. I wanted to learn from them. 

Months ago, I found myself going through the list of people I followed on Twitter and recognized that I didn't recognize most of them, so I unfollowed about 1,000 people without saying a word to anyone. I forced myself to ignore how many followers I had so that I could not track how many followers I had lost. This left me with about 400 people I "followed" but still payed little attention to. There were still too many tweets to keep track of.

So when I read Tony Baldasoro's post Why I Unfollowed 5,000 People, I knew that I had to be more authentic about who I followed. I mean, how can I claim to know how to use Twitter when I don't even follow the people I follow. I almost exclusively use Twitter on my iPhone, and I'm tired of my home button being useless.

The first run through my unfollowing people was easy -- if I didn't recognize the avatar, I clicked unfollow. But then I still had like 400 people and I knew it was still too many. I had to make some tough decisions. 

Do I unfollow:
  • my friend that I used to play hockey with? 
  • my school board trustee? 
  • my deputy superintendent? 
  • people I followed first but no longer connect with?
  • popular people that others may follow closely but I don't?
As of now, I'm following about 230 people, and it's still likely too many, but I'm really having a hard time reducing it more than that. Everyone of those 230 people are people that I actively recognize and am at least loosely familiar with. As I approach 10,000 followers, I am again going to have to try and ignore how many followers I might lose because in the end this is about reconnecting with those who I follow and not about simply adding or retaining those who follow me. After all, I'm pretty sure that the actual number of people who really follow me on Twitter is significantly less than 10,000. Never forget that the number of followers you have on Twitter is kind of like the time that used to flash on your VCR.

If you are reading this and you have already checked your Twitter account to see that I have unfollowed you, please don't take it personally.

If you feel the need to unfollow me, I understand. Heck, maybe you could take this opportunity to reconnect with those you follow. Maybe I'm on that list, and maybe I'm not. And if I have to lose some followers so that others can also reclaim and reconnect with those they follow, then I'm more than okay with that.

Please understand that if we are to make social networking about relationships and learning then we all have to make choices about the quality and quantity of people we choose to follow. 


  1. Joe,
    I'm always humbled when folks use the word "inspired" when referring to my work... so very humbly, I say thank you.

    I really don't know that the "right" number of followers is. I may find in a year or two that I am following thousands of folks again. I just hope that the process by which I do follow people is more authentic than it has been to this point. I may or may not know everyone that I follow, but at the very least, I need to know that the process by which I chose to follow them was true to my commitment to rebuild relationships.

  2. Joe, thank you for an excellent share. I wonder about the same issues raised by Tony in his post. It is not an all or nothing, but finding the right balance which, I suppose, could be an all or nothing for some of us. I like the points about the making tough decisions. It is not easy to unconnect in the real or virtual worlds.

    Take care,


  3. Joe, I've found myself in a similar situation, and my response has been to just avoid Twitter of late. But I don't think that's the best answer so I'm slowly trying to take back my feed by "unfollowing" some folks. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this. If you figure out the "magic number," please share.

  4. Twitter feeds for educators are just that much more enriching when followed on Flipboard. I have a BC educators list that I only look at on Flipboard. It is narrowly focused but Flipboard's graphically rich environment makes that focus seem much broader.

    The only reason I ended up on this page is because of a Google+ post. I don't follow this particular Twitter account.

  5. Ha Joe, I did this last week as well. I felt Twitter had gotten into a rut for me, I wasn't engaging in as many conversations and creating new connections as I wanted to. So I unfollowed everybody and started fresh. I don't know what my limit is but I am loving the rediscovery of people, finding new people and creating new conversations that building your PLN from scratch has given me. I don't think all of my followers really follow me either, so although I felt slightly guilty I am getting over it. Thank you for this timely post.


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