Social media platforms have become an argumentative echo chamber. It's obviously gone into overdrive since the 2016 political changes, but the writing has been on the wall since Eli Parser's The Filter Bubble or my own book Our Virtual Shadow: We tend to follow everyone we agree with making us even more stubborn in our opinion. When we see someone who has a different take, then we become even more aggressive.
And lets not even get into the distraction/focus issue.
So some of the brightest, strongest people on social media are now doing something about it: They stopped following people online. Like, everyone.
Tech visionary Anil Dash was the first person I saw do this on, ironically, July 4th:
I unfollowed everybody on Twitter, and it's very, very calm now. Nothing personal, I just figured it's nice to reset a bit. Maybe later I'll ask for suggestions of who to follow. (Dudes, don't suggest yourself.)-- Anil Dash (@anildash) July 4, 2018
Change Catalyst CTO and entrepreneur Wayne Sutton did it shortly after, as did others:
They have hundreds of thousands of followers and were following an incredible amount of conversations. And now, silence. Why would they shut down the input and potentially miss literally thousands of discussions? It's worth explaining why it is a wise move, as I did something similar years ago.
Listen deeper, not wider
We can only pay attention to so many things. Political climate aside, there are only so many people you can hear at once - and, at a certain time, you won't be able to truly engage.
I discovered this in 2012 and, as I shared in this column, I dropped from following thousands of people to only 300:
I loved sharing varied opinions and conversations. I eventually started to feel suffocated, though--as if a continual sea of commentary was constantly thrashing me against the rocks. I realized that I was following too many people. I love initiating and enabling passionate, one-on-one conversations, and it was becoming debilitating to do that while following thousands of people. Instead, I took a drastic approach: Around 2012, I began culling the people I followed down to the most essential and insightful. It's been tough, but I regularly keep my following group to around 300--the number of people I can consistently engage during the day. Instead, I use Twitter lists to keep up with other people without having the heavy news feed. Figure out how many people you can comfortably be connected with on your favorite social-media platform and stick with that number.
Today, I'm at around 250. These are the people, organizations and movements I care about, those that have the biggest impact on my ideas and the arguments I most want to share. Every follower can look at my number and quickly understand that I am paying attention to what it shares.
Dash, Sutton and others no doubt are building up their follows again, though there is likely more thought into what they are bringing into their timelines. As I learned during my long social media sabbatical, sometimes you have to remove everything to find out what you truly need. I recommend you do the same.
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