Twitter is Like Dating, Not Marriage

September 18, 2011 · 13 comments

in Twitter

Twitter is like dating, not marriageMutually following someone on Twitter is like dating. You go for a while, learn about them, and determine if they are someone you want to have in your life. If their stream is positive, adds value, and is something you enjoy showing up in your timeline, you continue to follow them and “date.” If you detect negativity and find they no longer add value, you break off the relationship by unfollowing.

It may be that your “tastes” have changed, or you decide to do some social media spring cleaning.

The dating process may be entered into without a conversation. You don’t ask,

“Hey, would you like to go out with me?”

You follow someone either you learned of their reputation, saw someone else recommend or retweet (RT) them, or because they followed you. You follow because you thought there would be value in what they share. Just like dating, you go out with someone because you think spending time with them would enhance your life.

Stages of Twitter Dating

  1. Awareness – You learn of the person on Twitter.
  2. Background Check – You read their bio, determine if you have something in common, if they have tweeted content you feel is interesting, if common friends follow them.
  3. Relationship – You click “Follow” and begin the Twitter relationship. The relationship may continue for months and years. There is no contractno marriage license. You’re free to continue to follow and date or to decide you no longer want that person in your stream.
    • Two-Way Relationship – If they followed you first or subsequently follow you back, then you are dating.
    • One-Way Relationship - If the person is not following you already, then you have sent a signal that you are interested and want them in your stream.
      • CAVEAT: That applies if they know you are following. Many have turned off Twitter notifications, like myself, and don’t regularly look at new followers.
      • If you want a two-way relationship, RT what they share or @ them to enter into conversation.
  4. Break-UpBreaking up is so hard to do, sometimes. You may simply get tired of seeing posts from this person. It may be their constant Foursquare updates, their attitude, language, or that they use generalizations and call people names, etc. Whatever the reason, you decide it’s time to stop dating.
    • You do the break-up dance and “unfollow.” You don’t have to go to divorce court!
  5. Stealth Dating – There is an alternative to breaking up. You can put the person into a list, and never view that list. That way they think they are still dating on Twitter, but really, they are completely ignored.

Real-Life Breakup Story

I “broke up” with someone I’d been following for months on Twitter. We had a couple interactions. It felt they were a bit antagonistic, but I shrugged it off. We didn’t @ or RT each other’s stuff. We had mutual friends and both work in search. That’s about the extent of commonality.

  • I noticed quite a few tweets I didn’t agree with. (Oh, well, not a big deal.)
  • I noticed more tweets then decided it was time…
  • I did the break-up dance and unfollowed them.

Here is the tweet I received the next day:

Tweet after unfollowing

This tweet confirmed I had made a good move by unfollowing. Decision verified!

How would you have responded?

I decided to avoid getting a divorce lawyer. We were not married!

“‘Till unfollow do us part.”

Twitter represents the oddest form of dating.

  • It’s common to have no (or little) interaction with people whom you are dating.
  • You don’t have to send a “Dear John” letter or announce you no longer want to “go out” anymore.
  • Many will simply accept the “unfollow” as a signal that interests and people change. Others become bitter and lash out like a bad divorce.

Just remember, in social media, everything you do and say is part of your profile. You are judged by what you share and what you push to your stream. As the saying goes:

Better to remain quiet and be thought a fool
than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Why do you follow and unfollow people on Twitter? Do you take it personally when someone unfollows you or shrug it off?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lyena Solomon September 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm

This rings so true to my own experience! First of all, I do not see any reason to immediately follow people because you know them or they followed you. So, people, don’t get upset because someone did not followed you back. Second, I have many friends who do not follow me even though they are on Twitter. One of my relatives unfollowed me and said, “Your stream is a firehose.” Well, yes it is for some people. And unfollowing is fine. We still tweet at each other every so often.
The question still remains, will we ever grow up? The answer is an emphatic “no”.


2 Dana Lookadoo September 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Thanks, Lyena! You hit on something I felt like saying and have been feeling but haven’t verbalized in print…

Grow up!

Social media, in general, is often like high school!

Admittedly, the first year I was on Twitter, I spent hours fretting over someone who didn’t follow me. Now I feel really bad, because I rarely check my followers and only pay attention to those who interact.

P.S. I like your fire hose!


3 Tim Biden September 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Occasionally people get offended that you unfollow them. Let them! At the end of the day, it’s your twitter stream and you control who you want to read tweets from. Does the anchorman on Channel 7 get offended if you turn off the TV during his bit about the latest cholera breakout? Twitter followers should be no different.

And if someone unfollows you, it isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes they will follow us because we look interesting or they seem to think we have similar interests. Once they get to know us they may think we’re rude, boring or shallow. That is their opinion and they are welcome to it. And they are welcome to be wrong. ;-)

Follow. Unfollow. Change your mind and do an about-face. Do some Twitter spring cleaning. You’re allowed to because it’s your stream.


4 Dana Lookadoo September 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Tim, I couldn’t have said it better!! Turning off the TV is a great analogy, albeit they don’t personally know you, and TV is one-way communication.

I’m even more surprised that someone is even monitoring that they are unfollowed. I’m sure there is an app that let’s them know, but who would put time and energy into such? Amazed!

Thanks for commenting! I hunted you down to follow you! I like your “Live with no regrets” tagline. Last year I read “One Month to Live – 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.” The book was part of my motivation to do some spring cleaning of social media. Thanks for that reminder!


5 Tim Biden September 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

There are services such as qwitter that show people who unfollowed them but as you said, “who would put time and energy into such?” Admittedly, I did when I first joined Twitter but now realize how utterly useless it is. It doesn’t tell you why they unfollowed you. There is no unfollow interview so the list of people is utterly useless.

“One Month to Live – 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life” sounds like a great book that more people (almost everyone I know) needs to read. I will check it out later. Thank you for the recommendation. =)

For me, living with no regrets means getting out there, getting my hands dirty, making friends and living life. When you read things like, you just have to think about how you live your daily life.

And thank you for the follow. =)


6 Dana Lookadoo September 24, 2011 at 9:58 am

Tim, THANK YOU so very much for sharing that blog post. What a great perspective and so true! I especially agree with those who regret not living true to self rather than what’s expected and not working so hard.

This relates to Twitter as well. I don’t think any of us, when faced with dying, will say,

I wish I would have spent more time on Twitter…


7 Michelle September 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I’m just finding my twitter legs but I realized I had to get over myself quickly on this one. When I first got started on twitter I was amazed that my daughter, who has been tweeting for some time and tweets about everything with ease, didn’t follow me right away but waited until one of her friends decided to follow me. One of her rules of twitter engagement is that she does not ‘follow back’ unless the follower produces content she is interested in. You’ve got to respect a tweeter with integrity!

I too started looking at twitter stats to figure out who unfollowed me versus who stayed and even trying to understand what it could all mean. Then I realized I can NEVER know why some one unfollows me unless they tell me so why get caught up with what I can’t change when I can focus on what I can control. I know now that even if I lose every follower I have for what ever reason I can always reinvent myself and start and new following. I could do this by just changing my content and focus. The beauty of twitter!

It’s funny to see how seemingly innocuous things in life can bring out the ugly in people. I mean laugh out loud funny!


8 Dana Lookadoo September 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

Michelle, I agree with your daughter’s approach and integrity! Conversely, if we don’t like someone’s stream, we unfollow. I had no idea I’d be the brunt of such lashing out… Who would EVEN IMAGINE Twitter would bring out the ugly in people?

We see it all the time with social media. People filter less of what they say and share while sitting behind the computer. Maybe it’s due emotional attachment.

This is understandable, because social media has become many people’s primary form of socializing and extra-curricular activity.

  • Twitter first thing in the morning.
  • Twitter last thing at night.
  • Have spare time on the weekends? People primarily hang out on Twitter.
  • Heck, people hanging out IRL are telling others what they are doing on Twitter!

Confession: Been there. Done that. Over it.

The “innocuous” can permeate like a poison. Maybe it’s time we start thinking beyond 140!


9 John Doherty September 26, 2011 at 7:32 am

Dana –

These are great thoughts. I totally agree with you. There are a lot of people that I have followed for a while, then unfollowed because they were not providing value. I take the Wil Reynolds approach of provide me value and I’ll stick around. Don’t provide me value, and I’m out. My time is too demanded already, and I don’t need to waste it on things that don’t provide me value.

This goes beyond Twitter as well. I recently unsubscribed to a lot of people on Facebook (not unfriended, just took their updates out of my Stream). I also announced that I was doing this and got some VERY passive aggressive comments from people who I have not talked to in YEARS. I just laughed and continued on.

I think it’s even alright to not follow people whom you have met in real life. Once again, it’s all about the value they provide online.



10 Dana Lookadoo September 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Thank you, John, for the reminder of Wil’s “provide value” approach. That’s why Twitter is so much like dating. If you date someone who is a dud, you don’t go out anymore. As you said, you’re time is valuable! Why waste it with someone whom you don’t want in your stream? #rhetorical

I’m laughing at your Facebook comments, because I unfriended 175 people – some I didn’t really know. BUT, I didn’t announce myself, so they didn’t know. Passive aggressive comments? Oh me! Oh my!!

I’ve been in this constant battle of deciding how much time to spend in social media, and the time we do spend, we want it to be focused. Your approach of subscribing accordingly is the best approach.

Your comment arrived at a perfect time. This same individual I unfollowed, from 2 accounts now, sent a reply to my business account charging that I clearly didn’t understand how social media worked and that I must be a bot. I decided to not enter into conversation or engage, even though the hair on my back was raised a little…

Thank you!


11 Judith September 27, 2011 at 6:48 am

Interesting post, Dana. I like the dating analogy. I personally do not care who unfollows me – and frankly, I never really notice. If we haven’t interacted then there’s no point in anguishing over why they left my stream. Maybe because it’s precisely we aren’t (or more precisely, our posts) aren’t that relevant to each other anymore.

The steps that individual took to get you to notice? (not sure what he/she wants so I’m not sure about the right word) him/her again is astounding. You must really mean a lot to that individual. ;)


12 Dana Lookadoo September 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Judith, I feel the same way as you. I’d like to say I pay more attention to followers and who is and is not following, but I don’t. If someone reaches out to interact, then I pay a lot of attention. As you alluded, we cannot be relevant to everyone nor should we try. Guess it’s like SEO. The majority of our Twitter streams are like mini niche websites, fairly focused and not targeting the general populace. And even within our own niche, we don’t have to “gel” with each person.

Now, I had not even considered that I was valuable to that person, especially since there was no interaction. But thanks for the insight and the laugh anyway!


13 MRSYS April 3, 2012 at 1:06 am

Your article is well written, I really like, thanks!


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