social networking

Authentic or Not? Part 3: Ignoring Tweets & Status Updates

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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ignoringAs the social networking scene becomes more crowded, busy, and chaotic, more people are experimenting with automating or outsourcing social media tasks.  But does this violate the spirit of authenticity which is so highly valued within social media?

So far we’ve discussed

Part 1: Ghost Tweeting, Facebooking, & Blogging
Part 2: Automatically following back

Today, we’re talking about reading tweets and status updates.  Is there an expectation that a person should read all the tweets and status updates of all the people they friend/follow?  Some of them?

Listen Up!

The big difference between social media and other forms of media is that while traditional media is broadcast in one direction, social media is multi-directional and conversational.

As in the offline world, if you’re going to engage with people and have conversations with them in social media, you have to listen to them.  In fact, most social media gurus will tell you that listening is more important than speaking.

What’s implied by friending/following?

Some people believe that when you friend someone on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, you are essentially saying to them, “I want to listen to you?”  If that’s the case, then friending/following someone and not listening to them could be compared to sitting down for coffee with someone and then tuning them out as they tell you what’s going on in their life.

Other people believe that when you friend someone on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, it’s more like subscribing to a newspaper or email newsletter.  The information is there for you to take in when you want to and ignore when you don’t.

Which do you think is the better analogy? Or do you have one of your own?

Does a person need to read tweet and status update of all their friends/followers?  If not, what percentage of tweets/updates read makes you a good listener or bad listener?

Facebook and Twitter have introduced lists.  By placing friends/followers on lists and then checking those lists at different frequencies, a person can read all the tweets/updates for people on some lists and some of the tweets/updates for people on other lists.  Some lists might get checked very infrequently, and very few of the tweets/updates of the people on that list are seen.  Authentic or not?

Or really does it come down to a matter of intentions?  If I put a Facebook friend on a list and intend to check it periodically but don’t, is that cool? But if I have no intention of reading any more of a person’s updates and click the Facebook ignore button next to their name, is that disingenuous?

My take

I don’t think we’re under any social obligation to read tweets or status updates.  But, the better a person is at listening to people through social media, the better their relationships will be.

Offline our relationships with people vary in depth depending on how much we listen and engage with a person.  That is the case in social media as well.  It’s perfectly natural to have varying depths of relationships online, and to listen to and engage with some people more than others.

Where I think it can become disingenuous is when someone feigns interest in another person to manipulate them into doing something. It’s like the hot girl back in high school who would flirt with all the guys – even the ones she didn’t like – just to get attention, help with homework, guys buying her stuff, etc.

I’m interested to hear what you think and to try to flesh out this issue.

–> Authentic or Not? Part 4: Automatic Direct Messages

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • I agree. Social media is a passive aggressive way to deal with emotions and situations a lot of times. Just because you blast it out there for everyone to read, doesn't mean you are helping the situation or that the party that it was intended for got the hint. The blaster may feel better, but nothing has been resolved.

    I definitely view following/friending as a newsletter. I catch up on news when I have time. It's not that I care less, but that life is busy and I don't have time to eat, sleep and drink social media. If it's serious or urgent, then my friends have my number and can talk to me directly or text me and then a faster response is way more likely.

    Side note: When did texting become the new phone conversation? I hate it when people act like I am ignoring them when they text me. Hello, it's a text, it's not like I hit the ignore button on my phone when you were trying to reach me. I will eventually get to you, but there are other things I need to take care of first.

    Social media is a beast that must be tamed or at least put or a reserve or something. If we let it run wild, then we may have a new breed of youth that is coming of age. A lot more emotionally shaky, ADHD, and neurotic people walking around….. that's dangerous.
    (Sorry for the rant-like post. I will get off my soap box now.)

    • Kyle, you make a great point – it is easy for social media to get out of control and important to prevent that from happening. A person who feels obligated read updates and tweets is going to have a hard time turning it off and doing other more important things in life.

  • You made some great points, Paul. I agree that learning to listen on social media makes relationships better, and I also love your point about offline relationships varying in depth as well.

    Personally, I love the feature of lists. I have more followers on Twitter than I can keep up with just like I have more acquaintances in life than I have time to keep up in depth. I also follow some people that are too "loud" and clog up my whole page occasionally. So, instead of ignoring them, I list them. Then, I manage the time I spend with each list. You are right–just as we have varying relationships offline, we will mirror that online. There is no "one size fits all" for followers.

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