The pop singer and my fear of the follower count

Feel my pain. Or at least, feel my bemusement and vague irritation. For the last week, I have been getting “followers” on Twitter who are – let’s say – very different from the “followers” I usually attract (by which I mean urbane, witty, self-aware 6 Music listeners; mums and dads; graphic designers; indie bands; stand-ups; comedy, film and music fans; you). I am more than happy to be “followed” by this familiar bunch; people I have clearly never met, but whose decision to “follow” me seems to be based on a generally benign, thinking person’s interest in the things I either do, or am interested in. I know how this shit works. It’s exponential. Once you are followed by a certain number of people, other people pick up on you and occasionally press the FOLLOW button. It costs nothing. It’s easily undone. And unless what I Tweet is entirely offensive to you, then unless you’re having a clearout, it’s just as easy to carry on following than not. I do not fool myself here. I’m old enough to take Twitter at face value. However.

An influx of what I will very carefully and gingerly descibe as fans of “the pop singer” (yes, that one, the one beloved of very young people whose name trends more than any other; him) has started to bother me. They’re not evil people, but I surmise that they should not really be following me. Why would they want to? What’s the connection? Every morning I find I have to weed them out, and block them, for their own good. It’s almost as if they are robotic followers, and not real people, but even if they are real, a cursory glance at their pithy one-line description (which will invariably involve hearts – which I don’t even know how to type! – and “xxxx” and “xoxo” and combinations thereof) and their recent Tweets (which mainly seem to be sent to other pop stars for young people, particularly a female pop star who wears funny outfits, or to “him”, entreating the recipient to “follow me back xxxx” or “follow me bak”, as they do not care for the English language) marks them out as aliens.

I do not profess to understand very young people. But sociologically, it’s sort of morbidly fascinating to see how their minds work with regards Twitter (a social networking service I use to communicate with other adults). They seem to be understandably deluded into thinking that if they Tweet either of the two pop singers mentioned, the pop singer will follow them back automatically. Hey, maybe this is the case. It certainly looks as if all they want is affirmation. A “follow back” is the ultimate prize. I personally couldn’t give a monkey’s who follows me or not. It’s their choice. I am happy to have them onboard, but I didn’t seek them out. The young fans of the pop singers seem to spend an awful lot of time begging to be followed, as if following was a meaningful act.

I have not mentioned the name of the young, male pop singer in a Tweet, either in satire, or in socio-cultural comment, otherwise I’d have an inkling why these tots have come out of the woodwork. Why am I a marked man? As I say, it’s a minor irritant having to dissuade them from following me – I even take the time to check who else they follow first, and if there’s an obvious trail of like-minded folk to myself, I give them the benefit of the doubt, otherwise, I fear “spambot” and block for self-defence – but the mystery is exercising my mind more than it ought.

I don’t wish insult anybody. But they won’t be reading this. There’s no reason for them to. But I currently feel as if I am being bitten by midges, electronically.

I Tweeted something which was intended to be amusing (but may not have been) after the Olympics Closing Ceremony, and, to my surprise, it was re-Tweeted by someone rather famous, who has more than two million followers. I have never to my knowledge had a pithy comment broadcast to that large a potential audience before, so I am now assuming that two-and-a-bit million followers is an impossible amount to police, and some fans of the young male pop singer may be among them by the law of averages.

Maybe that explains it. If so, I wish I could go back and not have that Tweet re-Tweeted. It would have been better for all of us.

Does anyone with a greater understanding of the technology under Twitter’s bonnet have any ideas? It’s not the end of the world, and in many ways, it’s an education, but I’d like to not have it happen again. I feel like I’ve inadvertently walked into the path of stampeding schoolchildren in a bad dream and I don’t have a lollipop stick.


9 thoughts on “The pop singer and my fear of the follower count

  1. They’re following everyone in the hope they’ll be followed back. Celebrities (well, ish ;-)) like yourself are surely even better!
    Personally i think the creepiest Twitter phenomena is the amount of young women who not only follow Chris Brown but rail against his “haterz”. Celebrities retweeting abuse (although such trollish abuse is in itself objectionable) so that their armies of followers will sic the offending party with reams of abuse is a bit rum too.

  2. I had my own experience a few years back when I blogged something about seeing Emma Watson snogging her boyfriend at the Empire Awards. I had no reason to lie – I saw it with my own eyes, and it’s not like she’s not allowed to have a beau. It was like a bomb had gone off. The outrage was felt around the world. I was wrong of course, I was told, endlessly. Then it turned nasty. I quite enjoyed the fight though.

    I don’t understand blind mad love for someone I’ve never met, but there’s a lot of it on Twitter. It’s the port of call du jour for the obsessed, broken and weird. And I include myself in that.

  3. My advice: turn off the notifications about new followers and just ignore the lot of them – it’s not as if them following you has any impact on your experience of twitter (aside from the follower count). I only block spam accounts if they @-mention me (so that I don’t see them in the ‘Mentions’ view again).

  4. “I have not mentioned the name of the young, male pop singer in a Tweet, either in satire, or in socio-cultural comment”.
    I think we’re on safe, secluded ground here Andrew, so no need to be coy. It’s David Cassidy isn’t it?

    • I’m certainly getting the general impression that these desperate pleas to be followed back are the entire reason for following. It’s like their currency. As such, it’s both sad and harmless, I guess. My decision to block them is purely so that they do not see my name in their timeline, and maybe this will eventually – eventually – stem the flow. To me, it really is no different to blocking (and reporting) spambots, which we all have to do.

  5. “…I currently feel as if I am being bitten by midges, electronically.” This made me laugh heartily. I realize this loosely translates “laughing at your pain” but please don’t take it that way.

    Spambots aside, do you really think those requests sent by real kiddos are desperate pleas? If it’s bragging rights they’re after, I don’t see the desperation…it’s just a thing…a game. Followers are a strange form of collectables. Only they don’t have to dust them. And since you limit who you follow you might be considered a very rare find.

    I just noticed you are two followers away from 35,000. That’s a slightly dizzying number. I don’t completely trust my understanding of Twitter, but I do think a following like that means you are rather popular. Popular and limited. You are this generation’s limited edition Hummel…or action figure in its original box…whatever your fancy.

    You should take it as a compliment. (happy face)

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