“Follow me!” 

Image Source: http://www.history.army.mil/art/A&I/Follow-Cpt.htm

Rather than a call to follow someone on Twitter, this served as a battlefield call for soldiers charging against an enemy. It captured my attention when I sat on Dad’s need and he would share about his time in the Korean Conflict.

For the Twittering mass, we might liken that call to a charge to fight against ignorance, against the desolation of the lonely educator or administrator, mired in the mud of the mundane. We might compare the call to “Follow Me!” as an invitation to those who have forgotten what fun learning can be when done in collaboration with others.

Over the last month, I’ve found myself ignoring the nearly ubiquitous call to “Follow” others on Twitter. Unlike “Follow Me!,” the exhortation to Follow is an opportunity to blindly embrace those who have chosen to follow blindly someone because of a few contributions.

When I first began on Twitter, I sought to build a network of educators. But over time, I started following 1 plus two more. This enabled me to grow my network even quicker. Now, though, I have stepped back and moved away from this approach. Too many people, too many voices clamoring for attention, all whispering one word that overwhelms me with its intensity–FOLLOW.

I no longer seek to follow. Rather, I seek the leader who’s follow me is differentiated from the crowd by his//her commitment to helping me learn, to being willing to have a conversation with me. As I trim down those I follow from 7K+ down to my target 150-200, I have found myself sorting out my reasons for cutting. Those include the following:

1) Tweet your own stuff if you can. Original ideas are better than constant retweets about edubabble about reform that never comes. If you don’t, you’ll probably be cut. I seek originality, authenticity, a willingness to share your own thoughts rather than constantly sharing what others have to say.

2) Tweet once about sports, you’re outa there! While others strengthen relationships discussing sports or the weather, I’d rather spend my time diving deeper into education, leadership, technology topics.

3) If you’re a business but don’t care, then seeya later. As I cleared out my Twitter followers, I noticed how I’d followed businesses who put out impersonal updates, boring, plodding insights into arcane business moves they were making. Who cares? I want to hear real stories of how you made an impact. The Haiku Deck folks do this quite well, casually sharing their product info alongside awesome stuff people are creating.

4) My interests are changing. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s refreshing to finally admit I can’t keep up with everything. I’m not that surprised, I suppose, but those who read this blog and follow me on Twitter may see posts about a wide variety of topics related to education (or, gasp, not).

5) Content sharing via scoop it and similar tools. I sincerely loathe many content curation tools that force me to click/tap multiple times to get to content. Sharing content should be as to do as it is to access. Take advantage of tools like Read It Later’s Pocket and IFTTT.com to easily share content and re-direct it with others. In the meantime, if I see ScoopIt, Storify, I will unfollow you.

Are these 5 reasons too wacky? Maybe so. But anyone who expects others to follow has the courage of his convictions, even if death is a cannonade away.

Update: On re-reading this, I didn’t share what my alternate plan was. If not following thousands of people, how to stay up to date? The answer is simple–Hashtags. There are hundreds of hashtags, each promising a wealth of ideas and information. Google “education twitter hashtags” and you’ll have to wade through blog entries and articles advocating for hashtags.

One of the other points that folks don’t realize is that the Twitter search actually reveals anyone who tweets about you…you don’t have to follow others to tweet at them or see connections. There’s no need to follow every person who has tweeted at you or about something you’ve written; you still see their contributions in the Twitter search!