Hands up who remembers Friends Reunited? You know, that Iron Age social networking site where people in early middle-age unwisely hooked up with old flames and gave themselves a load of marital grief. Launched in 2000, I was briefly a member and 'reunited' with a handful of boyhood buddies with whom I exchanged one email apiece. No, it's impact on my life was hardly dramatic.
Then there was Facebook. When our younger son went travelling for a couple of years he was adamant that the best way to keep abreast of his adventures was to 'friend' him on Facebook, so I reluctantly opened an account and did so. I hardly ever posted anything on it, and didn't really grasp how to use it properly. Too much jargon, it made me feel old and out of touch. The final straw came when its sidebar ads kept encouraging me to seek a young Russian wife. My account now has an empty 'timeline' and I am 'friend'less...which is how I like it!
Twitter appeared just nine years ago and initially I saw no reason to investigate. However, two or three years back I succumbed to curiosity and was pleasantly surprised. Subsequently I have found quite a few reasons to like it. In case Twitter is still a distant planet to you I'll briefly explain how it works. You simply compose a post of 140 characters or less and then publish it. You can attach photos or video, but doing so uses up some of your 140-character allowance. In a nutshell that's all there is to it. Do that and you've successfully 'tweeted'. Congratulations.
What's the point? you might ask. I certainly did.
Well, the answer depends on who you are. If you're a politician you might answer that the point is to preach your manifesto and gain acolytes. A business will probably see Twitter as so much free advertising. And an average bod like me may see it as an opportunity for some gentle micro-blogging, and then, when he gets back into macro-blogging, as somewhere to publicise his >140-character posts. So you'll appreciate by now that all tweeters have a common requirement: an audience. And this is where 'followers' come in...
'Following' on Twitter
If you 'follow' someone who posts on Twitter, you receive all their tweets. I follow all sorts, from the Met Office through Plumberparts to Bridport Events. Those three illustrate some of the variety available, but of course there are also millions of individuals to follow. Some are birders, and I follow a few of them too. All good, and following a well chosen bunch of tweeters will provide you with a wealth of information, amusement, chit-chat and food for thought - whatever you want really. I'm still on the learning curve here, but that's basically my reason for becoming someone's 'follower' or - cringe - 'tweep' (look it up). On the other hand, I can't help thinking that one reason some folks out there 'follow' others is simply in the hope of getting a 'follow' in return. If you don't reciprocate their 'follow' fairly quickly, then they 'unfollow' you in punishment for your snub. Well, at least it seems that way to me.
Welcome to social media!
This is how social networking was done in Queen Victoria's day...