Recently on Twitter, I have found more people who follow you, wait until you follow back and then quietly unfollow. They usually do this in the first week, so clearly this is a policy they have adopted to grow their following. Given that the vast majority are muted, since they are not interested in my product, and I am not particularly interested in theirs, you would think they would content themselves with sitting quietly on the list, but no, apparently this is not enough and they require a list of mute followers who they do not themselves follow.
When first on twitter, this was mainly 17 year olds, with a list of four word sentences about nothing in particular, who seemed to require validation in the form of 20,000 or so followers not listening to anything they say. Recently I have noticed, however that more and more middle aged people are doing the same thing. When did we all become so vain and facile that we relied on fake followers and likes for an ego salve every day, whether interested or not?
Now in the case of someone trying to build a following or business empire such as that of David Wolfe, I can see why it would be beneficial to have a massive following of superficially disinterested people. The more followers or likers of his page, the more important he appears to be, and the more feedback he gets from his many posts. Whether this feedback actually does him any good long term is really up to him. I am sure that the numbers are considered to be useful indicators of popularity with the same types of interest groups as lost their money in the dot com boom of the late 90s – people who do not really understand how the internet functions.
My guess is that they are mostly floating fans of the pithy memes and few of them will actually turn out to be customers. Experience so far tells me that engagement has no relationship at all with followers or likes. I have around fifteen thousand readers, and a few thousand people who want to see artwork, and you would never guess from my figures on social media or individual sites. I am considered to be providing good blog posts, although people rarely comment.
When I examine my own behaviour, I can see why this would be the case. If I am interested in something, I do not need to click like to be reminded that I am interested. The only things I click like on are either things I wish to be seen to be interested in, or reciprocal likes with someone who has requested that I like their page. I would not dream of clicking like on ebay, for example, although I spend a great deal of time and money with ebay. It is a kind of extension of tattoos or branded tee shirts as far as I am concerned, and not something I feel the need to identify with.
The internet generally was a lot more interesting and personal when we were still without the social media giants of facebook and twitter. Social media has made it far easier to spread the word about things that are important to us, on one hand, and far easier to sink into a daily social whirl without actually finding any new and important interest streams, on the other. Take the number of daily meat eaters who now spend their time ranting about animal cruelty when they see a picture of a dead giraffe or lion, for example. Are they actually joining the dots in terms of the tasty steaks and cheese on the supermarket shelf? I think not. It is nice that people are less anthrocentric than they once were, but not so nice that they seem to be encouraged not to actually think for themselves.
Our reliance on celebrity culture for stimulus is also causing a kind of brain death which horrifies those of a generation who remember life before continuous light entertainment on demand. More and more news items refer to products, and more recommendations from celebrities have replaced actual media content, examples beyond clothing and makeup including politics, social values, moral judgements and campaigns. Even the spellcheck on my own blog attempts to make me spell like a Yank, in a futile attempt to make us all adhere to Webster’s simplified English. It will be a sad day indeed when everyone forgets how to spell programme properly. The road to idiocracy is paved with apathy and laziness.
Rather than rely on the number of likes, retweets and followers we get, perhaps we should worry more about the input, in order to improve the quality of our general output, at work, with friends, and in our daily lives. Does it really matter if Brad went out without Angelina? Does it matter at all if Miley takes her clothes off again? No, of course not, but as long as you waste your time on that, you take your eye off the ball in terms of being aware of your own power and ability to shape your own futures. This suits your political situation, whatever country you are in, perfectly. The less time you spend actually thinking for yourself the better.
Stay unhappy, and you keep shopping. Stay entertained, and you stop thinking. Carry on relying on others to provide you with a minute to minute mood changer from your gadget or phone, and you forgo your own development. All of those things are desperately important if you happen to want to steal the future from the masses. Sleep on, and you win the destiny of losing everything to the very companies you continue to feed with the holy money.
As long as you are worrying about how many fake followers, likes you have, you are not doing anything about the things that really matter in your life. It is too easy to pick the soft option.