Or did I stumble at the first slight?
I got “Un-followed” last year by a Tumblr regular with close to 2,500 followers after I pointedly disliked one of his re-blogged items (to me, a zero interest poorly exposed and composed photo he found somewhere on the web) and about which I sent him a personal letter explaining why I thought too much rubbish was being re-circulated. I suggested it would make a great discussion thread open to all. I never heard back… was promptly de-listed… but remain here, open-minded and free to talk.
Anyway… I’ve made more than a thousand posts in the past year of being active on Tumblr and am starting to feel the need to draw back and reconsider where I’m going and, importantly, what I’m gaining from searching-out others’ posts on that site, whether they be photos, artwork, graphics, calligraphy, videos or quotes… or, from being showered by offerings from people I follow, be they original or re-blogged posts.
And for me there lies a dilemma… do I gain more from my own chosen searches and self-edited results, and/or do I gain enough by being surprised by the multiple item posts made and sent to my ‘dashboard’ by people I have chosen to follow.
And there’s another angle to consider because I increasingly look at who has liked a post I’ve liked… and so click on their pseudos to see what they’re producing themselves. If it is visually exciting, original work then I’ll almost certainly follow them. I don’t expect them to like my original offerings – if they just happen to want to see who the hell I am amongst sometimes hundreds of other instant fans, then fine, I appreciate their time and curiosity in doing so – but I don’t hope or expect they’ll reciprocate with a follow too. Why should I? Vanity?
Following it or wallowing in it?
I’ve noticed that some people make a point of writing on their page that they almost always follow when followed… but I feel that’s just being polite in an awkward response to being followed – which doesn’t seem rational at all – and automatically opens you to receiving content from people who liked you first but who may have entirely different ideas, views, visual stimulus, standards and language to your own. What’s the point? Numerical bragging rights? Think it will impress a potential employer on your CV?
There has to be a limit to the visual information one can absorb from so many followers… even followers who you really dig. And I think it worth while to mention the first two points made by Everett Bogue in his minimalist blog “Far Beyond The Stars” where he wrote…
- “Follow less than 150 people. Your human brain can’t breathe if you exceed that limit. Less is always more. Start large, but work your way down, not up; it’s a river ~ you can’t drink it all.”
He was not talking about following on Tumblr, but on Twitter, which is a not dissimilar internet phenomenon.
Usage and abusage
I was fairly new to that type of social networking – I couldn’t grasp fully what he was implying concerning Twitter… and shortly after I canceled my account because of being numbed by the garbage being spouted and the unenforced abuse of the English language, spelling and punctuation. I thought, God help future generations if “Twitter speak” is what they use and judge as their learning curve. Note: However, I have re-joined Twitter ;~)
But I’ve lasted much longer on Tumblr, and Everett has a point. I greet, talk with and know far more people daily through of living in a small town (despite it being in a country foreign to my birth and one where I had to learn the language) than I did when residing and working in Manchester (where I was born) or London, a city of now more than 12 million people of an amazingly mixed and interesting culture.
In the meantime I’ve got to know the work of a select few people I follow on Tumblr. I long doubted if I would ever achieve the heady heights of 150 followers, but I have done (the number is now around 600 on my various Tumblr pages) and feel somewhat faux because I couldn’t ever honestly say I’d be more than peripherally in touch with a large majority of them… it’s simply too large a number. Actually, that originally hoped for number of 150 (max) on Tumblr can be catered for if they only post regularly a couple of times (max) a week… but it’s too many followers if they habitually post a dozen or more re-blogged photos a day!
I’ve also been on (and frequently off) Facebook for a couple of years and sometimes feel that my current 15 Friends, including my first wife, our children and grandchildren scattered across the continents, is perhaps enough… although I can now understand the marketing potential of FB, but that’s another story!
Keep It Simple Stupid
However, in his “The Art of Minimalism“ blog, Mike Donghia writes in an article “Facebook Made Simpler”…
- “People across the world spend over seven hundred billion minutes a month on Facebook. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million years spent perusing the status updates, photos, and links of our friends and their friends.”
- “If we’re not mindful of how we use this powerful tool, it will become just another source of noise in our lives. Another distraction that keeps us from creating, playing, building and really living.”
Further in he writes…
- “Scientific studies at Oxford University show that humans can only manage a network of 150 friends. Un-friend anyone you haven’t contacted in the last year and focus on quality relationship over quantity.”
So there we have that 150 number again! I know Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ et al thrive on numbers – big numbers – but I feel one day they will be seriously reduced in their appeal, and maybe ultimately taken over having slumped in vogue and value because of the enormous volume of nothingness (or crap, to put it less politely) that is blogged, followed and re-blogged. There has to be – no, there should have been – a numerical limit to the number of posts made per person per day. It would have concentrated the minds of posters and probably produced better quality overall with more items actually worth following.
Edit… Edit… Edit…
As another example of this dilemma, I have more than 8,000 images with the on-line photo agency Alamy which has left it too late to introduce editing of their licensed content. The result is that a small but growing proportion of their 26+ million images is boringly repetitive, image-wise, and generally unusable for the media despite being from photographers who have satisfied the agency’s criteria for providing technically excellent image files… as if accurate sharpness, good exposure and correct color were ever going to guarantee interesting content and composition!
Before winding up I want to say that having for the first time (last year) re-blogged an item which was part of an early interview with the young Steve Jobs of Apple, and despite feeling that the re-blog was really interesting, I then vowed NOT to re-blog anything else again (apart from quotes I had written down in notebooks in the past) and only post my own original photos, artwork and writings no more than a couple of times a day. I thought that that limited output would be enough for any of my followers to cope with… and they might study those fewer posts perhaps for a little longer and reply with comments critical or otherwise, but at least in a way to stimulate interest, knowledge, understanding, conversation and even friendship. However, that vow didn’t last long because I began to benefit by increasing my subscriptions to others ‘sharing’ re-blogged articles which I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.
BTW: By co-incidence, Mike Donghia of “The Art of Minimalism” asked some time ago… “If you have a blog, write a post about what’s next for you in 2011“. Consider the above article one of my concerns and appropriate responses ;~)