Tony Baldasaro wrote a blog post yesterday that is getting a lot of attention regarding why he “unfollowed 5000 people on Twitter” and how he is going back to starting over. There is a lot of powerful thoughts in his post on how we actually connect with each other in this space:
As I pressed unfollow 5,000 times, I realized that I didn’t know most of the folks that I was unfollowing. Actually, it was more than that, I had no clue who these folks were. They were complete strangers. I literally had no connection to them, which, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise. As I said earlier, I didn’t “pay any attention to them” how the hell would I actually know them. It did hurt to unfollow folks who brought great value to my life, but I knew if I was going to do it, I had to fully commit.
Now I don’t want to say Tony is wrong, and from my several meetings with him I can tell you he is an awesome guy, but I do want to offer a different perspective.
Several years ago when I first started Twitter, I thought, like many do, that it was probably the dumbest thing ever. I used it randomly, followed some educators, but mostly celebrities, because I didn’t understand how it could improve me as an educator. My brother and others asked people to blindly follow me to help me build a network even though I had nothing to contribute in that space. It was not that I had nothing to contribute, but that I just didn’t really understand how I could do it on a social network. So people followed me and I offered nothing other than a wise-crack here and there. Then after a couple of weeks I decided to take a year sabbatical from the space
A year later, I was coaxed into trying it again and people blindly followed me knowing how I easily gave up on it in the first place. I actually decided to give it a legitimate try and quickly I was hooked. I was amazed at how much I learned from others and how open people were to connecting. I remember sending out a google form and having people share and reshare a tweet that showed my staff the power of Twitter for professional learning. I look back at that post and some people that helped have become good friends and some people I still don’t even know. Yet they were all willing to help some guy from Canada who was trying to help his staff.
I even watch today as my brother asks people from his network to help him get others connected:
—Alec Couros (@courosa) November 1, 2012
Him asking for this help while only following a select few would be hypocritical in my opinion. (He follows over 13,000 people.)
The network that I have connected with on Twitter have helped me through some tough times. When my first dog Kobe passed away people supported me from wherever they were in the world to make it through a difficult time. When I was dealing with some personal issues, again people rallied around me and either tweeted, commented on my post, or emailed me directly to offer stories and support. Some I knew and some were total strangers, but all were willing to help.
Currently, I follow over 8500 people on Twitter and that count will continue to grow. I rarely look at my “home” column because, as Tony mentioned, it moves way to fast. I use hashtags and lists to find information I am interested in. Every once in awhile though, I take a peek at that home column (interestingly enough, that is how I found Tony’s blog post) and find something amazing, or see someone I follow asking for help. Either I try to help them myself, or “Retweet” them to help them find a connection. If I didn’t follow them, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I do this because so many people have done this for me. Although it is my “Personal Learning Network” it is not just about what I take from it, but also what I can give, not only in information, but in facilitating connections and offering some help. I am, as all educators are, extremely busy, but when I can help, I try to do my best. We are all teachers and we all should focus on what is best for kids.
I look back at when I started and if people look at what I had actually contributed, no one would have followed me. I think they looked at what I could contribute in the future. I remember this summer when someone with 15 followers and 26 tweets, helped me out a great deal. If I used Tony’s way, this would have not happened.
Now some of you may be reading this that I am not following on Twitter and if that is true, I apologize. I don’t use a “follow back” function because I do limit my network to mostly teachers (yes, I do follow Justin Bieber), and do not really care to connect with companies. I also don’t check who unfollows me because I don’t really know how that would be helpful to me in any way. I do follow people that don’t follow me because I can still learn from them. The only reason I wouldn’t follow someone is because I find them offensive. I try to look at who follows me when I have an opportunity, and follow them back if they are an educator because I know that I can probably learn something from them. But unfortunately, sometimes I miss people and when it is brought to my attention I am often quite embarrassed. Allie Holland, Jimmy Casas, and Diana Williams are all people that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t following, yet I have learned a ton from them in a short time and actually would consider them friends now.
Although there are some tweeters that I look at daily, Tony could have done what he was talking about by simply creating a list of his favourite tweeters and inserting that column into Tweetdeck. It really is that easy.
I have learned over and over again, that I have no idea who I can help, who can help me, and who I can be the connector for between two separate parties, so I do my best to follow as many teachers as possible. You do not have to be a prolific “Tweeter” to help me become a better educator although your sharing does help. A ton of people trusted that they could learn from something from me a long time ago when I had contributed very little, so I am going to continue to do the same.