I’ve been using Twitter for a couple of months now and notice that I seem to have a different approach to it than many – especially those who are trying to make money out of it!

Not long after I signed up as @jnanagarbha I began to get people that I didn’t know starting to follow me. When I commented on this, I got one response that made me think that the person was expecting me to say profound things because I’m an ordained Buddhist. I felt a degree of pressure to do this for a while, and made some half-hearted attempts, but I soon found this rather uncomfortable. Not least because many of the people following my Tweets are also ordained Buddhists, and some of them have much more experience and greater depth of practice than me.

In the end, I decided to set up a second account @BuddhistCoach which I use to send out the odd (hopefully) useful comment, and open to the idea that I might get some more work through my engagement with Twitter.

Over the weeks I’ve noticed a few trends in Twitter and in my own Tweets, and seeing some of my friends seem to share some of my perspectives (Hi @Bodhipaksa!) I thought I’d write some stuff down. So, onto my credo

I’m only going to follow you if I want to read your Tweets

The people I mention above who started following me were ordinary folk. After a month or so this began to change, and I began to get more followers who were either seeking to put across a particular vision, thought I might share similar beliefs, or wanted to sell me something. Although I can’t begin to guess why someone who sells luxury cars (automobiles) in California would think that a skint Buddhist in south-east London was a likely customer!

There seems to be something of a convention (or even obligation) that when someone follows you, then you follow them back in return. Many people seem to try to get followers by following people – sometimes at random – in the hope that they’ll follow back and then click on links offered to various deals or whatever. You can even pay people to do this for you.

I’m not going to automatically follow you back. If someone follows me on either of my accounts then I go and look at what they’ve been Tweeting. If I find it interesting (and I explain some of the things that influence my decision below) then I’ll follow, if it doesn’t then I won’t. This is because…

If I follow you, then I am going to try to read your Tweets

Perhaps this is a little old fashioned, and maybe I’m looking at Twitter in a similar way to email, but I do try to read all the Tweets I’ve received. This is because I’m more interested in depth of connection than breadth. This will limit the number of people I can follow and stay sane, so I’ll say something about…

Some reasons that I won’t follow you – or will stop

• I don’t follow people who are trying to sell me something – even if it’s something I might be interested in buying. Call it stubbornness or a point of principle, I just don’t like being hassled.

• I don’t follow if every Tweet is a link – I need some context and a sense that you’re a human being.

• I won’t follow, or will stop following you if you belt out dozens of Tweets in a row. I find a block of Tweets from the same person a bit overwhelming, so space them out a bit guys.

• I make a distinction between social Tweets and business & spiritual practice Tweets, both in my own Tweets and my following. I seldom follow people I don’t know on @jnanagarbha, and I’m likely to get bored with multiple Tweets about your cat or favourite bits of technology on @BuddhistCoach.

I’m not wishing to be rude here, but I’m afraid I’m not that interested in the minutiae of the lives of people I don’t know living in cities scattered across the planet – and I don’t expect you’re that interested in the sleep patterns of my toddler. In fact I don’t expect my close friends are that interested in such stuff either. (I’ve since changed my mind on this a bit – see below)

• I won’t follow you if your Tweets conflict too strongly with my values. I’m a Buddhist, I strive to make my communication honest, helpful, friendly and constructive. I’m not going to follow you if your Tweets are harsh, violent, consistently angry, or abusive. Nor will I follow you if you advocate violence or causing harm.

• I’m not going to follow you on both @jnanagarbha and @BuddhistCoach – that sort of duplication would just be silly. Although a few of my friends follow me on both, presumably they’re interested in what I have to say in both contexts.

• I’m not going to follow you if you don’t have any Tweets yet, or you don’t have a profile picture or any biographical information – because I don’t have enough information to make a decision.

• I’m not going to follow you if your name is a random string of letters or @(insert female name here)1987 – how dumb/ horny do you think I am?

Twitter is a new phenomenon. Perhaps my approach to it will change over time, or I’ll just get bored with it and withdraw my energies. I anticipate that Twitter itself will settle down after a while into some more normalised patterns, and then something else will come along that we’ll all get excited about – I’m already venturing into boos, which seem like fun.

7 months later….  23 December 2009

I’ve been meaning to read this through for a while and see if things had changed with greater experience of Twitter and it’s wider adoption, and slightly to my surpise only a couple of things come to mind.

One is that I’ve got very bored of people who Twitter quotations all the time, and that it turns out I’m more interested in your cat than I thought I was. I guess one of the things I’m wanting from Twitter is some degree of connection. If people only Tweet assertions, or supposedly encouraging quotations I find that pretty boring. I want to know a bit about who you are, what the struggles in your life are, how all these ideas relate to your life.

Another thing is that I’ve now set up a third Twitter account which I use to follow famous people and news sources and such like. I guess all I’ve done with these multiple accounts is to create my own Twitter lists, but since Tweetie handles multiple accounts and not lists then it works pretty well for me for now.

I guess I can sum up my Twitter credo is to be as fully human as I can, and use Twitter to connect as fully as possible with other humans.

Have a great festive season.