Tweet Release: One Man’s Story Of Starting Over

January 25, 2012

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  • I hate clutter, and that was five years’ worth of clutter — people who are no longer interesting, people who are no longer active, people I don’t even remember following in the first place.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.