Tweet Release: One Man’s Story Of Starting Over

Almost five years ago — April 9, 2007 — I posted my first message on Twitter. Ten days ago — January 15, 2012 — I started over.

I unfollowed everyone. Everyone. My father, my brother, my employer, my friends, my clients, my Minnesota Twins. Nearly 1,700 people and organizations I had accumulated during the past five years all gone in about five minutes. It was so refreshing.

Why’d I do it? The reasons are many-fold. Among them:

  • Clicking the “Follow” button on a new person or feed I discovered was meaningless. I would effectively never again see a tweet from that account.
  • I hate clutter, and that was five years’ worth of clutter — people who are no longer interesting, people who are no longer active, people I don’t even remember following in the first place.
  • Twitter had become boring to me. Now, with the content I’m seeing coming from a tighter, closer, more compelling group, I’m actually eager to “check Twitter.” I’m more interested and more engaged. I care.

Why not just use Twitter’s lists function? I could have, and I probably will start to use it as I rebuild the group I’m following. But that doesn’t solve the core problem I wrestled with: Why keep all the clutter by just creating a “people I really want to hear from” list? That’s what a “follow” should mean, and that’s what I’ve returned to.

After the Big Dump, I immediately began rebuilding. Adding the people who came to mind, without giving it too much thought, which is a great filter for making sure I’m only following people I really care about. The rebuild will be ongoing, of course, but I instantly accomplished my primary goal: making Twitter fun again. After all, that’s the point.

In the couple of days that followed, as I started re-following my friends, I’ve had at least a dozen people mention that they were inspired to take similar action — or at least were strongly considering it. Seems like many a twithead are becoming disillusioned with the service, looking for a change.

If you’re considering taking the Big Dump, I highly recommend it. You might catch some flack from people who are confused or offended when you follow them — “You’re just following me now?” — but that’s a small price to pay.

  • Michael Benidt

    Great decision, Mike, but I think to complete the circle and let people know how important it is to not follow zillions of people, we should add Chris Brogan’s article about his same decision just last September –

    • mjkeliher

      Yes, that’s a good piece to add to the discussion, Michael. Thanks.

  • Tim Biden

    I’ve done the same thing before and just yesterday I unfollowed about 100 people. Granted, I followed almost 300 people, not 1700, but it was cathartic and now I only follow people that I have either had real conversations with or who tweet information that is useful to me. There is now very little junk in my tweet-stream and I like it that way. =)

    • mjkeliher

      “Very little junk” is a good way to be.