I was thrown a little this morning as one of the Ed Leaders that I truly respect sent out a tweet that stated "To #follow or #unfollow? Is that the question?" Since he listed myself and a few other well respected (well at least by me they are) Ed Leaders I follow on Twitter as well as their blogs, at first I was like, "Whoa, did I say or tweet something on twitter to offend him?" Being as thick as I usually am, sometimes I miss these things. He quickly tweeted me back and let me know that he was asking us our thoughts on Tony Baldasaro and Joe Bower's recent posts regarding unfollowing large amounts of their followers.
I took the time tonight to read both posts (it was a crazy day at school so I didn't have time to sneak in any professional reading today). It was some interesting reading and I have to say, I do understand where they were coming from.....but I also have to say, I disagree with their method. While I know I do not follow every tweet of all of the people I follow (I hope that doesn't offend them) I also know that I sure don't expect them to follow every tweet of mine. Unlike Tony and Joe, I have not collected 5,000 or more followers. Still, if I had that many, I am also not sure I would follow them all. I do check to see what my followers tweet, check out their profiles to see if they are remotely in the area of education or leadership, and if not, I choose not to follow. Heck, I have even blocked quite a few, mostly because I could tell they were there to sell me something that I really wasn't interested in or held such deeply different views from me.....well, I just knew that relationship wouldn't blossom or that I really wouldn't glean much from their tweets.
So while my twitter feed isn't maddeningly whizzing by at a clip that human eyes can't keep up with, it can go pretty fast, especially when there is a great chat going. I should also note that I almost always use Tweetdeck for my tweeting. It allows me to follow specific hashtag chats in one column, watch for specific tweets that mention me in another, and check tweets I have favorited and want check on at a later time, all while the timeline keeps a pretty constant flow rolling in. As a matter of fact, when I am left to using twitter on my iPhone or iPad, I go a little crazy trying to keep up, not to mention I type much slower on the iPhone or iPad (does that mean I am becoming a serious TWEEP?). So now that I have found a tool that let's me manage my followers and the people that I follow in a way that doesn't make me feel like I need glasses or at least some kind of super stimulant to keep up with the tweets, how do I manage to respectfully participate with all of the connections I have made via Twitter?
Well, to be honest sometimes, I am not the most responsible (or maybe responsive) Tweep. I try to focus first on the folks that have spoke to me directly. If I have tweets in my mentions or interactions columns, I try to respond to them first. But, if I cross a tweet in my timeline that speaks to things I have been thinking about or just really makes me reflective....well then I join in. I always wonder to myself if I am being rude. I saw a tweet come through the other day by Beth Still (a Social Studies teacher and a very connected educator) who has around 8,000 followers but only 500 people she follows. The tweet was directed to someone else but something in it struck a note so I commented back. I also made an apology for jumping in on someone else's tweet, to which she replied, "Why sorry for jumping in? I want people to talk about this."
I guess what I am getting at is that while I am sure that my list of people I follow is not nearly as long as Tony's or Joe's, I can't imagine unfollowing them all, and then working my way back up. I am sure there are a few folks I follow that I just don't connect with that frequently now. Tony is one of them. He was one of my first follows. He is well respected and was often listed as one of the highly recommended #FridayFollows. I also followed his blog posts closely when I first began using Twitter. It's not that Tony and I don't connect on the same level anymore, I just think at times our East Coast/Midwest time zone disparities keep us from being online at the same time. Every now and then he sends out some great tweets (usually connected to his awesome blog posts) that I try to favorite and check out when I can. He is very passionate about the introverted learner and that would be a weak area for me. As soon as I remotely know someone, I can talk their ear off. Tony would probably find a quieter spot in an Edcamp conference if I was around. Still, I know I have tons to learn from him, so I will continue to follow him via Twitter and his blog. Joe is also excellent. I caught Joe Bower on twitter via someone else retweeting one of his blog posts. I checked it out and I knew right away that Joe and I saw eye to eye on quite a few things. Not everything, but a lot. So I quickly followed him and favorited his blog. I have repeated this process over and over.
I follow over 1,500 people now. Can that keep the timeline moving along fast at times? Yep! But I can't imagine that someone I thought worth following in the first place, might not share an idea or new piece of knowledge that I would miss desperately if I didn't keep in some sort of contact. This is the strength of my PLN. Not that I have 150 relationships that are deeply involved and whose lives touch mine in deep meaningful ways. I have phones and cars for things like that, and to be honest my siblings and parents say I don't use those resources enough either. No, I have 1,500 plus people that I can go to with questions or that will supply me with enough professional development power to make me a more effective leader and educator in the less than 2 years I have been using Twitter. Some that I have connected with in Powerful ways that I do care deeply about, and many more that I have learned from, shared with and that are just important people that I am glad I have rubbed virtual elbows with via social media. I wouldn't unfollow them for any reason, especially something like my belief that my lack of direct conversation has made me think our connection as a PLN has weakened. I know the right topic, comment, post, tweet or just the right joke will cross my view someday and that we will open that connection again, like an old high school friend that you bump into years later, and it all comes rushing back.