To those I am about to unfollow, I apologize!

This is a letter to those people who I have unfollowed, or who have followed me and I have followed back, but have subsequently unfollowed, and to those people who I have chosen not to follow, even though they have been kind enough to follow me.

First of all, I sincerely apologize!

Life is about resources, choices and goals. It is a series of compromises, adjustments and course corrections. Due to these factors and considerations associated with them, I am unfollowing/not following you.

Permit me to explain:

It’s not you, it’s me.

I am not conceited enough to believe that my explanation or apology will make much difference in your life, but it will allow me to feel a little better. (That’s right, it’s all about me.) I just want you to know that I don’t follow and unfollow on a whim.

Life, generally, is pretty busy. I am a well-organized person, and am usually fairly disciplined; however the cliché “there are only so many hours in the day” happens to be the truth.  So my time is a valuable resource and I only have so much of it in which to achieve everything that I need to do, both in my personal and my professional life.

I know what I need to accomplish, and I have a plan to do so. As a result I do things with purpose and intent.

I also become grumpy and resentful when something that should be enjoyable turns into an obligation or “must-do” just to be crossed off my list.

So the logical decision is to maximize the time I have to devote to Twitter, because that commodity is finite.

Next, I need to limit the number of people I follow, so I feel I am doing justice to the spirit of the community and can mindfully interact with them, within the time I have to spend there.

I’d like to make a distinction about Twitter vernacular that is a pet peeve of mine; you and I may have “followers”, but the possessive nature of that word is misleading.

People choose to follow you. It is an honour, a favour, a gift, and should not be taken for granted. This is another reason why I feel an apology is needed. I may be choosing not to follow someone who has granted me the favour.

The decisions I make are not taken lightly. I would follow everyone, if I could, but that just doesn’t make sense to me.  As it is, I feel guilty about not spending enough time reading and interacting on Twitter.

Social media due diligence

In deciding to follow, someone, I do my due diligence. I read their profiles, peruse their twitter stream and ask myself the following questions:

Is their content relevant or helpful to me?
Do I think I have things to learn from them?
Are we in related fields of occupation?
Do we share the same interests (skewed towards professional interests admittedly)?
Do they write well (grammar and spelling)?
Do they actually tweet, or only retweet?
Does their contribution add value to the twittersphere?
Do they come across as genuine?

I immediately refuse to follow if the non-curse words in the stream outnumber the expletive deleteds.  Or, if all I see is an unabated stream of shameless self-promotion. I hesitate to follow if the content seems too focused on the personal or if there are too many hashtags to easily differentiate one from the other.

I’m not judging – you are who you are and Twitter is the tool you need it to be in order to express yourself. I respect that, and would hope that you can respect this as my personal opinion, my personal choice and not any form of censure.

And then, periodically, I examine the list of people I’m following and do a similar evaluation with the help of SocialBro, Hootsuite and TwitCleaner.  And, perhaps, I decide to unfollow you.

The value of Twitter is the quality of the interaction.

For me, Twitter for me is about the quality of the interaction and not a set of numbers to prove my popularity and feed my ego. I am in awe of the people with thousands of followers. It is an incredible accomplishment, though not one I aspire to emulate. I can handle walking 3 -5 miles twice a day; I enjoy it. As much as I admire them and think how cool and healthy it would be to be one, I have no desire to become a marathon runner.

I currently have a modest following of 500 or so. I follow 500 people. I would estimate overlap in my network is about 80%. I’m currently asking myself how many more people I can follow with the expectation to maintain reasonable levels of interaction.

There are difficult decisions to be made in life. I believe everyone is important, everyone matters. I am even certain that I have something to learn from everyone I encounter. I am but human, though, and I just can’t take advantage of all the opportunities.

As some knowledge is more relevant and useful to me than other information, I choose to concentrate where I am best likely to have my needs met.

So please accept my genuine and sincere apology for not following or for unfollowing you.

I’m sorry.

Robin Thornton
Communications professional. Strategic marketer. Brand builder. Consultant and resource. Opinionated fan of the written word, dogs, horses and shoes. Aficionado of Social Media and Single Malt. Extreme adult. Ever learning. Believe that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Being the eldest child might explain my tendency to try and overachieve.
  • Brad Lovell

    I love this. The other factor is this … In these days of social media and the onslaught of all it is .. Well … Having the ability to actually physically communicate effectively is a COMMODITY. Forget the ‘time’ issues’ .. If it was 1947 half the followers in this world would be screwed. The world of social media is a safe haven that sucks your time dry if you allow it. It’s easy to be somebody just by pressing a button on your phone. Thanks for stepping up. In my mind no apology should be necessary. Lose what ties you down. It’s just another press of a button. Pretty simple.

    • Robin Thornton

      Thank you for the kind words, Brad. Sometimes I have a little trouble moving on, I guess.

  • Terry Jaymes

    Great stuff. Twitter is a valuable tool. However, I feel the value dropping … not day by day, but minute by minute. There are vindictive, mean people in this world and i have no time for them. I follow what is important to me. It’s very empowering.

    • Robin Thornton

      You’re right Terry, Twitter reflects society as a whole. It’s important to know what’s important. Thanks for reinforcing my point.

  • Jenn Herman

    Thank you for sharing this! I keep a similar process in mind when deciding who to follow. I am on Twitter for growth and networking and sharing. It’s a two way street but I’m still driving my own car down that street!

    • Robin Thornton

      That’s a comfort, Jenn! Thanks!

  • Randy Bowden

    Great post Robin, I love the “quality of interaction.” I often wonder how someone can maintain engaging relationships with 50,000 ± follower/fans and have any other productivity in their life? Many claim they do just that!

    • Robin Thornton

      Thanks Randy! If anyone out there knows how to do it, I’m hoping they’ll be generous enough to share their secret!

  • Peter Trapasso


    Great post! Unfollowing is an important part of social media network management. Some networks even have maximum following limits imposed today. An example is Instagram. You can follow no more than 7500 people. Be choosy and only follow the best.



    • Robin Thornton

      Appreciate the words of support, Peter. Thank you.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    Robin, for me it is about being open to others and seeing what they might teach me even though they may not be in a similar profession. I have several followers overseas, several musicians and others who
    may never do anything monetarily for my business but I want to know what they are doing with social or want to know what they think of us….Americans. My hope with social was that it would tear down the traditional walls of doing business but also the walls that keep some of us apart? For me it’s about getting
    this pot cookin…….BTW did you just unfollow me?

    • Robin Thornton

      Sorry about that… :)

  • Frithjof

    Thanks again Robin! I added your post to my weekly favourite blog posts list

    Here is what I wrote there:

    Last week someone called me a Twitter “traditionalist” After I got over feeling old I decided to embrace that badge :-)

    I fully agree with Robin! I am looking for Social Networks not numbers. I’m sure I could have 10.000 followers if I would follow every bot and #teamfollowback stuff… but none of those wants to network