Twitter snobs or efficient learners?

In the past few weeks Twitter has pretty much exploded, hasn’t it?  I knew something was happening when even the boring old fuds on CBS Sunday Morning started bashing my favorite learning tool!

The conversations have continued in my own professional circles as teachers try to figure out exactly what Twitter means for them.  One interesting bit was written by a guy I’ve started following named Mike Arsenault.

What Mike wonders while studying the statistics of the top tech teacher Twits is whether or not there is an etiquette around the “following” process.

He asks:

I would imagine most Twitterers have reasons for who they follow and who they do not follow. I personally do not follow everyone that follows me. I tend to look at a users’ profile and if they do have similar interest (education, technology use in schools, social media, etc.) I follow them.

As you look at the data [on the leading Ed Twits] almost half of these people have approximately 4 times more followers than people they follow or worse.

Is this a bad thing?

Author Brett Borders—who Mike cites in his bit—-goes even further, calling people with an unbalanced follower to following ratio “noobs” and “snobs:”

You might think that non-reciprocation makes you look like an “influential thought leader,” but to me it looks like:

  1. You’re kind of a noob. Your name might be “big,” but your social media interaction and filtering skills are small.
  2. You’re kind of a snob. You’re more concerned with appearing “popular” than listening and learning from people.

Here’s my take:  As a Twit (@plugusin) I definitely don’t follow everyone who follows me—in fact, my following ratio would rate pretty low when compared to the teachers Mike studies in his post—but that has nothing to do with trying to appear like an “influential thought leader.”

Instead, it has everything to do with wanting to be able to have meaningful conversations with people. I’ve found that whenever the number of people that I’m following grows to more than 200, I simply get lost in the streams of information that come through my Twitter feed.

At that point, Twitter becomes useless, doesn’t it?

After all, I’m trying to learn from the people that I’m following, and that’s hard to do when good ideas are buried under piles and piles of messages.  My decision to follow a small handful of people—instead of everyone who follows me—is about information management, not arrogance.

And in my opinion, managing the tidal wave of information at their fingertips is probably THE most important skill for 21st Century learners—whether they be adults or kids—to master.  Just because I can follow a thousand people doesn’t mean I should!

I think the trap that we fall into when we use any social networking application for professional work is forgetting that the tool is about facilitating learning, not being popular.  Judging one’s influence through numbers overlooks the real purpose for jumping into any digital conversation.

In the end, I couldn’t care less how many people I’m followed by or how many people that I’m following. What I care about is connecting to a managable network of likeminded colleagues that I can learn from.

Does this make any sense?