(Linked from my twitter bio)
Who I follow
People I already know from another context (meatspace, Usenet, mailing lists, IRC) and like, or at least feel we have something in common.
People I find myself in conversation with, or who follow me, who seem worth knowing.
Local businesses I have a personal attachment to.
Who I unfollow
People who post only links.
People who I’d otherwise argue with.
Who I block (and possibly report)
Spam followers (mostly the kind that has a username with trailing numbers and a sexy picture as avatar).
Companies and institutions I have no connection to that gratuitously follow me, probably because I mention something that’s in their filters.
Anyone who abuses me or my friends or indeed anyone, or who enables or explicitly condones abuse.
I like Twitter, and I’m very careful of my timeline because I keep seeing reports of people being harassed and it’s never happened to me yet. (Well, not on Twitter; when it did happen it was a major annoyance but easily though somewhat tediously remedied by making every post on my Livejournal friends-only. I’m off LJ now, anyway; I’d close my account if I didn’t want to read one person’s friendslocked posts.)
I don’t follow back automatically, only when you have things to say that interest me. Note that you can have extremely interesting things to say that don’t interest me personally; please don’t take offence when I don’t follow you back.
If you post nothing but links, even if you’re a meatspace friend, you’re more annoying than I like in my timeline. I’ll unfollow you with more alacrity if all your links are to locked Facebook posts. Seriously, if I wanted to read you on Facebook I’d be on Facebook, no?
If you express (a lot of) opinions or politics I don’t agree with, I unfollow you for my own protection. That doesn’t mean I have anything against you; it’s just that I don’t want to argue with you, and I don’t trust myself not to. I unfollowed at least two people I like because of their reactionary politics, and one because of their fundamentalist Protestantism.
I’m not interested in book-promotion deals, health advice or religious saccharine.
I do the block-and-unblock trick (forcing the follower to unfollow) when someone follows me who I don’t know at all and doesn’t seem to be associated with people I do know. If they really want to follow me they can try again and I might give them another chance.
Businesses that gratuitously follow me get reported for spam. (Goodness, why would a double-glazing company in Los Angeles follow me? And when that happened I couldn’t remember posting anything at all that their followbot could have latched on to.)
I don’t see why I should want lots of new followers, as someone just promised me in a spam mention. I’d rather have the 199 I have as of writing this than thousands of anonymice to bulk up the numbers.
Twitter, for me, is sort of my local: a place to talk with people I already know, people I’d like to get to know, people my friends know. There are at least two sets of two or more people who got talking on Twitter via me: excellent.
What it is not:
– a self-promotion tool, though I announced my book there and will do so again if/when I release anything else. That’s like saying “hey people, my book is out, want a copy?” at pre-choir-practice coffee. I don’t really do self-promotion, I’m too shy for that.
– anything to do with brands. I’m just plain not interested in brands. Not my own –I don’t really know what “building a brand” means– and not anyone else’s. I don’t “engage with brands”, I just use stuff.
– a way to keep track of breaking news. I do follow links to news that interests me but if I really want news I go to news sites.
– a source of news about celebrities. I don’t even know many celebrities. If I follow someone who happens to be well-known (like some writers) it’s because they’re friends of friends of mine, and/or have interesting things to say.
I tend to feel guilty because I’m using Twitter, a commercial closed-source proprietary centralized platform, and not for instance identi.ca, but I want to talk to my friends and most of my friends happen to be on Twitter. I was on identi.ca for a while and had an adjacent (smaller) set of friends there, mostly IT people and hardly any writers (no, fingers, not ‘waiters’); then identi.ca went over to pump.io, choqok wouldn’t talk to it any more, and I didn’t think it was worth the trouble. Now choqok does support it, but I think I’m completely out of touch with that crowd and anyway I was on it mostly because I felt it was the ‘correct’ thing to do. (And I hate the stated philosophy of pump.io: “It pumps your life in and out of your friends, family and colleagues.” Thanks, but no thanks.)
Making new friends and neglecting 80% of the old friends wouldn’t agree with me. I’m already missing out on a lot of interaction between people I consider my Internet friends because I’m not on Facebook (because I don’t want to be milked for advertising, I don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort locking down privacy holes, I don’t like their real-name policy and I’m afraid the parts of my past I hope have forgotten me will catch up with me; also, it’s my daughters’ territory, and when they were teenagers I didn’t want to be the kind of parent who gets a Facebook account to keep track of their children). Incidentally, that’s also why I do have a diaspora account but barely use it at all: the people who are there are simply not the people I know.