When technology tells us we have no friends

by David Spark on November 24, 2008

Online social networking can be one of the most gratifying and ego boosting activities. We often get daily reminders of what a great person we are (e.g. “John Doe is now your friend,” “JaneDoe67 is now following you on Twitter”). It’s all done to make you feel good about yourself with their technology. And it causes you to build a stronger personal association with the social networking brand.

Social networking tools don’t traditionally alert you when you start losing friends. Click “Remove a friend” on Facebook and your former friend won’t get an email that announces “John Doe is no longer your friend.” How much longer would you want to use Facebook if they told you that?

I didn’t think anyone would do this until I heard about Qwitter. This is a Twitter utility, which like many of the Twitter utilities was written using the open Twitter API by someone other than the folks at Twitter. Sign up for Qwitter with just your Twitter ID and email address and every time someone stops following you on Twitter, you’ll get an email announcing that the person stopped following you, along with a copy of the Tweet you sent that caused them to make the decision.

I just signed up for Qwitter and Friday night I posted this Tweet:

Just saw the documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” again. Great film. Looking forward to “Milk.”

(NOTE: Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician in San Francisco. He was a San Francisco supervisor and he was assassinated.)

It’s Monday, and I haven’t posted anything to Twitter since. But, I lost five followers already because of that Tweet. Now this causes me to start thinking, “Are some of my followers homophobic? Or are they just not interested about what movies I went to see? Should I stop talking about anything that has gay issues in it? Or should I stop tweeting about such banal topics?”

Qwitter has given me knowledge that I don’t know if I want. On one hand it’s great that I’m informed that certain posts are causing people to leave. I could start thinking, “Well, now I shouldn’t post those kinds of Tweets.” But then, those Tweets might be why the majority of them are staying. Also, should I let 5 people out of 1,000 (a half a percent) have any influence on what I’m publishing?

Also, Qwitter really doesn’t tell me what their motivation was. Yes, they could be homophobic. Or, they could not be interested in what movies I like. Or, they could be cleaning up their Twitter follower list. Or, they could have seen something else of mine they didn’t like and this Tweet just reminded them to stop following me. Or, maybe they decided to stop following everyone who was Tweeting on a Friday night. Who knows.

Do you want social networks to give you this kind of information? Do you find it valuable? Can your ego withstand the pain of de-friending? Easy to say now, but sign up for Qwitter and then tell me what you think.

For more, read my post, “The awkwardness of de-friending” plus my article on Mashable, “12 Great Tales of De-friending.”

Previous post:

Next post: