And Twitter is being destroyed by the people who think it is.
The other day, there was an update in my tweet stream from MrTweet. It said:
New Posting: Twitter & the Law of Reciprocity (Why you should be a generous Twitterer, and how to!) http://bit.ly/Ni5tb
MrTweet is the Twitter account name for an online service that supposedly helps you find Twitter users who are like you. I joined up a while back, interested in adding a few people that I might connect with to the list of people I follow. I don’t know what MrTweet’s algorithms are like, but it didn’t come up with any matches. Still, there were few incoming tweets on that account, so I kept following it. That’s how I received the above tweet.
I followed the link. The blog post that appeared, “Twitter & the Law of Reciprocity,” included the author’s opinion of Twitter: “People may not like it, but Twitter is as old-fashioned a popularity game as high school is…”
Is that what people think? Or, more likely, is that what people have turned Twitter into?
The post went on to provide tips for increasing the number of people who follow you, prefaced with this word of warning:
This isn’t a magic “popularity” ingredient, nor can I ensure you’ll get followers by the droves if you take my advice. This IS however, a philosophical theory that can bring you benefits if you understand it and are able to take advantage of it in your self-promotional efforts.
Among the pieces of advice were to reciprocate follows. That means if someone follows you, you should automatically follow back. It doesn’t matter who the person is, where he’s from, what he tweets, what his motives are, or how well you could possibly connect with him. Just follow him blindly.
This advice made me sick. It’s this attitude that’s turning Twitter into a meaningless waste of bandwidth, full of self-promotional links and blatant advertising.
Not long afterward, I caught wind of a new site called TweepMe. This is a pure piece of automated trash with just one goal in mind for the user: increase follower count. Here’s how it works: you sign up, providing both your Twitter user ID and password. You’re automatically followed by everyone else who signed up and you automatically follow all of them. So if TweepMe has 1,000 members, you automatically have 1000 followers. Ready for the punchline? The service is free to start out. Afterwards, you pay for your membership (and new followers).
Holy f*cking cow! What moron is so desperate for followers that he’d pay to get them? Oh, yeah. These morons.
Has everyone forgotten the original purpose of Twitter? It’s a social networking site, a way to connect with people you know. It’s “microblogging.”
If you’re a Twitter member, log out of your account on Twitter and go to http://www.twitter.com/. Here’s what you’ll find right on the Home page, under “What is Twitter?”:
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?
I don’t see anything in there about selfishly eating up bandwidth to create hundreds or thousands of meaningless connections to strangers whose only interest is to do the same.
Tell me something: are these thousands of strangers you’re collecting as followers your “friends, family, and co-workers”? Are they likely to ever fit into any of those categories? Do you even care about them?
Why the hell are you “collecting” them, like a kid collects pretty rocks at the beach?
Have you read Jennifer Leggio’s excellent post on ZDNet, “I am popular on Twitter. Here’s why this means nothing.“? She echoes my sentiments exactly.
While I’ve been watching the growth, use, and misuse of Twitter for some time now, the childishness of follower collectors has only been a source of amusement for me. Until now.
The increase in demand on Twitter’s systems and bandwidth may be causing service outages. While that was bad enough as Twitter went through its growing pains, it truly sucks if it’s caused by what one Twitter user, @pageoneresults, refers to as a “Twitter Self Replicating Human Virus.” While I don’t usually link to SEO sites (I don’t believe in messing with Google search results), Edward Lewis’s blog post, “TweepMe Twitter Application,” is more than just an angry rant. It provides a wealth of information about what TweepMe is, how it works, how it can be compared to trojans and viruses, and how the idiots who initially signed on can make a clean break with it. He also opines about TweepMe’s possible role in recent Twitter outages:
There appears to be a bit more with this TweepMe application that many have overlooked. The thing is growing exponentially. It is a Twitter Self Replicating Human Virus. If it continues at its current rate, it may even hamper the performance of the Twitter pipelines. Whale Watchers are claiming that TweepMe is behind the recent Fail Whale sightings on Twitter although none of us can be sure of that.
Personally, I’m saddened by what is happening to Twitter. Since becoming an active Twitter user two years ago, I’ve always thought of my Twitter friends as “water cooler buddies.” I work in a home-based office and spend most of my days alone. Having the 100 people I follow in the Twitterrific window on my computer’s desktop gives me the social interaction I need during the day to keep my sanity. While some of these people are friends — including folks I was very close to 20 or more years ago! — others are people I met through Twitter. I’ve made good, solid connections with quite a few of them. I’ve met several of them in person and can now consider them real friends.
To me, that’s what social networking is all about. Twitter makes it easy. It enhances my life.
So you can imagine my anger and frustration when I see blog posts and Web services created with the sole purpose of increasing follower count, wasting bandwidth, and undermining Twitter’s original purpose and goals.