Bonus Content: Issue 6

There’s little doubt that Twitter is a great invention. A godsend for snoopers, stalkers and your garden variety voyeurs, millions have now jacked themselves into the Twitterverse, eager for glimpses of the lives of celebrities, friends or simply wanting to open up a new channel of media into their daily life. Like all great inventions, however, there is a nefarious, darker side to its existence. Just like how the wheel led to transport, Blu-Ray discs and – most importantly – Wagon Wheels, Twitter has contributed to the increasing noise of the Internet; yet another distraction that demands time and effort to stay on top of.

Not checking your Twitter feed is akin to going to the toilet in the pub and coming back to find everyone in tears laughing at something you’ll now invariably never be part of. Sure, someone can fill you in – or you can mull over people’s previous tweets – but the very nature of Twitter is that it exists in the now; an ephemeral snap-shot of your own cocooned zeitgeist that is ever moving, constantly rushing away from itself and toward the next topic.

Hence, more and more people are taking at look at their Following list and thinking: who can I live without? Who can I remove from my hourly check without the risk of downgrading my life?

A recent study showed that 80-90% of all content on the Internet was created from 2008 onwards. That’s a shocking statistic when you think about it. In literally 24 months, the Internet has exponentially exploded in size, overshadowing its previous girth by an impressive order of magnitude. From endless Facebook pictures no one cares about, to fan sites dedicated to LOST and Stargate Universe fan-fiction no-one (but me) reads, the Internet is breeding. If this frantic expansive trend continues, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t, it will become harder and harder for us as connected people to siphon through the racket and locate good, interesting and, crucially, relevant content. Which leads me to the crux of this Bonus Content: I’ve stopped Following certain people on Twitter. And here’s why.

Actually, before we get into the reasons, I just wanted to clearly state that I in no way harbour any negative feelings to the people I’ve left behind, nor should they interpret my departure as an affront. It just wasn’t working out for me. I’m also under no delusions that I’m the most exciting person on the planet. I know for a fact that people have stopped following me on Twitter, and I’m really cool with that. I talk about what I like on Twitter, and sometimes people think they know me or what I might talk about, and then, after the 50th tweet about Heavy Rain – a game they didn’t even know existed until I kept mentioning it ad nauseam, they leave me to me own devices. The Unfollow action is almost like a secret breakup. Rather than telling a loved one that it’s not me, it’s you, surreptitiously clicking Unfollow and then hoping the person doesn’t notice is akin to simply not returning calls after the third, and horrendously uncomfortable, date. It’s no big deal. It’s not like you’re publically slapping the person in the face for not being interesting enough to demand a few seconds of your own day to experience.

I follow about one third of the amount of people who follow me. Bragging? Hell no. I follow about fifty people. You do the math. I’m not that popular. I use Twitter as a tool. I see Twitter as a worthwhile investment of my time in order for me to keep in real-time contact with friends who now live in far-flung places like Sydney and California. I use it to keep an eye on great gaming deals, to gain an insightful look at the lives of game designers, people I admire. I follow very few “celebs.” I once followed both Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek) and LeVar Burton (Geordi LaFore from the same show) because, when I first got into Twitter, they were some of the coolest people around. I still follow LeVar Burton because I find his tweets informative, positive, and he really comes across like an exceptionally nice guy. I stopped following Data when he went on a long, surreal mock breakout of a mental hospital. It was interesting at the start; a tale told through Twitter as if it was really happening to Brent. After a while, however, I tired of the story-telling experiment and let him be. I never went back.

But what of the other people I’ve twidumped? Well, I’ve been thinking of late about why I unfollow certain people and, mentally, I started to form a list of reasons of why I’m no longer found in the friends section of many people. Finally, if you’re thinking of following me (and this isn’t a pimping for followers by the way, I equate no significance to the number of followers anyone has to their personal worth and my Twitter account is not mentioned anywhere here in this piece), you might want to consider the following considering I do follow people back. If only for a short time to see if we have anything in common.

Here we go. The top ten reasons why I’m no longer following you. In descending order:

10. You tweet too little

There’s no handbook to Twitter. There are no hard or firm rules dictating “tweetiquette” or how often someone should or should not tweet. I do expect to get something from you on a regular basis, however, or I’ll just grow bored and designate you as one of the many people who created a Twitter account and then just lost interest. Apparently, there is a guy out there with 10,000 followers and he’s never tweeted. Not once. Who is this guy? Seemingly some important professor or something, his followers likely fawning students who are hoping the old lunatic lets something slip about an upcoming exam perhaps. “Had a great dream about Voltaire and his views on religious Enlightenment last night.” Best start brushing up on your French philosophy, people. It’s akin to sitting around the Dali Lama after he’s slipped into a coma, waiting for the man to resurface with all of life’s great answers. Invariably, nothing ever happens.

If I haven’t heard from you on Twitter for a few weeks I’ll consider that a sign that you’re left the Twitterverse. Or you’ve died. Sorry. I’ll send some flowers or something.

9. You tweet too much

Alternatively, you could be one of those people who have permanently jacked themselves into the Nexus and are disseminating an almost continuous torrent of opinion, facts and random snippets of your life across the ether. As I mentioned above, I use Twitter as a tool; an outlet for me to enjoy other people’s insights and lives. If you’ve commandeered by Twitter feed with what looks like the equivalent to verbal Diarrhoea, I literally consider that a hijacking. You’ve now made it more difficult for me to get to the content I actually want. You’re gone, guy.

For the record, I tweet between five and ten times per day. That’s just me. I’m not saying it’s the right number, but I consider it an inoffensive one. I don’t think I’m so important that you need to hear every bloody thought in my head. I do, however, have some interesting things to say among my daily “I’m going for a coffee” tweet. Trust me, that’s an important message right there. If you don’t see that one, consider me abducted and some usurper has stolen my account. Or I’m under duress. Stop replying to me and call the bloody police.

8. You talk about one thing and one thing only

If you’re reading this and are already following me, you know I like to talk about writing and games. Or writing about games. You also know I like talking about learning Japanese, coffee, my aspirations and experience as a freelance journalist, my family, my loved ones, my hopes and dreams, fitness, music, film, travelling. I also go off the deep-end at times and regurgitate rare quotes from famous people including various philosophers, classicists, whatever. What I’m trying to get across here is that I have many interests, and I’m passionate about each and every one of them.

If you’re passionate about one solitary thing, that’s actually quite commendable. You’ve really honed your focus into one dream or one topic that you care so much about that anything else has been deemed superfluous. Go you. Unfortunately, if I don’t have an intense interest in this one thing you love, your perpetual musings on the subject is likely to be lost on me. I’m not saying people who talk about one thing are bad Twitterers. They’re just not people I usually follow.

7. You’re too … oblique.

If you’re guilty of ever Tweeting something along the lines of “That thing that just happened to me was awesome!” it’s like my hand has evolved its own sentience and is blindly reaching for the mouse, desperately seeking the Unfollow icon. I know what you’re doing. You’re fishing. And, trust me, I’m out of bait. I detest these type of tweets. Sometimes I might mention that I’ve become privy to some gaming industry secret. I’m not trying to rub your nose in it. I’m not trying to be oblique. I’m probably just excited and, faced with the fact that I can’t blab about it (unless I want to be shunned by the very people I respect), mentioning the simple fact I’ve been trusted with some piece of sensitive information on Twitter is cathartic enough for me to get it out of my system. If your tweets require a Rosetta Stone to decipher, or you’re just looking for attention, you won’t get it from me, friend. You will get one less follower, however.

6. You’re doing it wrong!

Believe it or not, Twitter has just passed its fourth birthday. A lot has changed since its initial tentative emergence on the digital scene back in 2006. Oprah uses it. People have proposed over it. Others have used it to deliver their suicide notes. Possibly its biggest change, however, is its primary use. Though you won’t see it adorn the front page now, Twitter’s original prompt was “What are you doing?”

This made sense at the time. Twitter was promoted as a micro-blogging tool, not as a medium to share thoughts, links, images, requests, and a whole bunch of other stuff that happens on Twitter on a daily basis. Despite this, what Twitter was never meant for, and still isn’t intended to cater to, is people having conversations.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve replied to people on Twitter. They’re replied to me and I may have even replied back. Technically, this is a conversation. I do, however, always try and maintain a sliver of external appeal in such retorts. In other words, I hope people who are reading such an exchange find it interesting. What’s not interesting is when two people are having a personal conversation over Twitter. Curt, meaningless comebacks with no context and little public appeal. I don’t need to see this. I don’t want to see this. Of course, you would be right if you said that if I’m seeing both sides of the conversation I’m obviously following both of the culprits. You’d be right. Maybe I should unfollow the pair of them. As the Japanese say: Issekinichou. One stone. Two birds.

5. All you do is Retweet

I rarely Retweet. It’s not that I don’t value the feature, I just prefer to contribute my own thoughts and views on Twitter rather than repeat someone else’s. When I do RT, it’s only when I think that my followers would value what I have seen. There are others, however, who RT practically everything. Or, worse still, all they contribute to Twitter are retweets; other people’s thoughts and impressions. If I’m following you I’m interested in what you wish to share. Not the forwarded musings of someone else.

People who only RT come across to me as people who have nothing to say themselves. Or, they do have something to say but, for whatever reason, deem other people’s output as more important than their own. SNIP!

4. U tweet like dis

I have a reputation of being a grammar nazi (small ‘n’, a Nazi was a member of Germany’s national socialist party while a ‘nazi’ is a pedantic person). I like words, and I love the power of language. In fact, I consider language to be the one thing that separates us from the apes. Well, that and an obsession with hair product. I don’t expect the people I follow to adhere to strict grammatical rules. I’m not that anal about it (OK, I’m anal about it if I’m following one of my favourite authors and he cocks up), and I know people make mistakes. I make mistakes. It’s really no big deal. And, let’s face it, sometimes you have to take shortcuts when there’s only 140 characters to play with. But if your tweets are constantly peppered with bad spelling, text-speak, or are literally beyond sloppy, it’s not that I think I’m better than you, I just don’t think we have much in common. I might not unfollow there and then just because you failed to pay attention in English class, but if I’m hovering over the button for some other reason and I recall that your tweets are godawful language abominations … *click*

3. You always want something

Twitter is a powerful tool. You can push something out into the Twitterverse, wait for a response and ultimately get some really interesting comebacks. Because of its reach, Twitter has attracted the usual deluge of spammers and scammers; people who use it only as a marketing tool. It’s understandable, and I don’t expect the world of online commerce to change anytime soon. What’s worse than the tweets about penis pills and “hot singles in my area” or the people who follow you purely on the off-chance that you’ll follow them back and hence open yourself up for their product, are the people who you’ve followed (for whatever reason) who then convert their Twitter presence into a wrench in order to get something from others. Requests for information is fine, but when all you see is someone repeatedly asking you to do something for them, give money to some cause, connect them to someone you know, write something for their website, direct people toward their website, whatever, it’s tiring. If all you talk about is getting people to give you something, well, I have no interest in that.

2. You’re too negative

Life can be quite trying at times. If you’re young enough and the only thing right now you have to worry about is where your next game is coming from and if your acne will ever clear up, consider yourself lucky (Oh, and it will, just stop picking at it goddamn it!). Adult life comes with its own shopping list of worries and commitments. I moan on Twitter at times. I complain and I rant. I express my dissatisfaction at public transport, Sony (I still love ya, babe), the fact that I’m not sleeping as much as I would like. A whole host of things. Twitter is a great outlet to get your qualms and frustrations out and into the world. Sometimes getting a simple “I hear you” from a follower while travelling on the bus in the morning is enough to lift my spirits somewhat. It’s when people choose to do nothing but complain on Twitter do I start to wonder about its purpose. And, more importantly, about theirs.

These people are naturally unhappy; constantly seeking out some new reason to belittle someone or something. Any avenue whatsoever to crap on about something. There has to be a balance. And if you’re persistently at the bottom end of life’s see-saw of despair, I have to unfollow you. Sorry. I get down and despondent just like the next person, and if all I’m getting from you is negativity, this relationship has reached its conclusion.

1. You’re boring

This harks back to something I said at the start of this article. I don’t consider myself the most exciting person in the world, but I do think people who follow me get something out of it. If I’ve unfollowed you and you haven’t fit into any of the categories above, it’s likely because I’ve deemed you uninteresting. It’s not personal. Many people could find me dull or unamusing. That’s OK. I’m a grown man, I can take it. If all you tweet about is random, insipid shit, there’s only so much expressionism I can take before I have to leave you alone to wallow in your obsession about cheese or whatever other asinine nonsense floats your boat. This is similar to the “you tweet about one thing,” reason except, in this instance, I actually enjoy rejecting these glimpses at irksome monotony. I have enough repetition and hokum in my own life, thank you very much.