Followers versus Community

My Twitter account tells me I joined February 2010, a piece of data that I wouldn’t have known unless it was provided it to me because I haven’t been active on Twitter until recently. I have 43 followers.

What interests me about Twitter are all the ways users have devised to get more followers. There is #FF (Follow Friday) where you can list other accounts as suggestions for people to follow. There are accounts that focus on blogs and offer a place so you can list a recent post, follow the other blogs you see in the comments and retweet it.

I’ve found some great accounts and blogs to follow that way so I’m in no way knocking the process, but it makes me think about followers versus community.

This topic brings to mind an example I heard from Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist from Yale, that he explained in an On Being podcast with Krista Tippett. He described a scenario in which you put a person in a room of 1,000 people, the idea of cooperating with 1,000 individuals is overwhelming. So we’ve adapted two different methods.

First, if you break up the room into 10 groups of 100 people with each group wearing a different armband, then a new individual can identify and attach with a smaller group because it feels do-able.

The second way that we’ve adapted is to make friends. Which we do in part because we have something in common with them.  

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn and more all give us the stats on our followers. I’m a number person so I love that. But for me that doesn’t capture the feeling of community that happens when we engage with each other on a topic, a post, a picture or an idea.

The difference between followers and community/friends makes me think about speaking at my father’s funerals. When I faced those churches full of people, it was a wonderfully powerful and meaningful experience to be able to talk about my beloved father. But what I remember most is afterwards, when I listened to the many friends who came up to me talk about his gentle touch in life, was when I was able to feel the comfort of being held.

So I’ve found for me, the vitality is in the replies and comments and the people I get to know through them, regardless of the number of followers I have on any platform. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

I applaud all our ingenuity to use these platforms to find people to follow and be followers. It makes the social media feed more interesting. At the end of the day though, it’s doing the work to interact with people that keeps me fed.

So thank you for reading my posts and please know how much I appreciate when you take the time to comment. It means a great deal to connect with you. Wishing you all the best in 2023!

For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com 

And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)


25 thoughts on “Followers versus Community

  1. What an interesting essay. The difference between followers and community is an important one, and I think it’s a distinction people lose as more of our time is spent on social sites.

    I’m on Twitter a lot in the political space, though I periodically shout out my cat and my plants. I find I think of it less as a group of friends and more of as a group of allies.

    Happy New Year (the capitalization of which has always confused me, but I digress). 💖

    1. A group of allies – what an interesting distinction. That makes sense, Michelle. Thanks for adding that to the discussion! You also have a good point about the capitalization. Hmmm… but Happy New Year to you! 🙂

  2. Wonderful distinction, one I try to appreciate. I moved to WP from FB as I felt it was horrible and anti social. Anyway, last year Hugh from Hugh’s Views had a wonderful post basically saying, like less and comment more. I’m loving the comments and the diversity thus in 2023 “Like less (you can do that on FB) and comment more.”

  3. Totally agree Wynne! I think you realize, because I make a point of telling readers on my personal blog, just how much I don’t use other social media anymore. I see the purpose of networking and some levels of promotion if that’s what is of interest to the individual. I will always be thankful for my core group of readers who absolutely are friends above all else, and an integral part of my online community.

    1. That’s a good point about networking, Deb. Yes, there is a place for that too. But I agree about that core group of readers being friends. So grateful to have you as part of my online community!

    1. I like how you highlight that active work – whether online or IRL, we have to do the work to participate. Glad you are part of my community, Vicki! XOXO!

  4. You’ve hit on such great things here, Wynne. It’s funny, because I’ve always been a “like, but no comment” kind of person on social media. But on WP, I get as much out of the comments as I do actual posts a lot of times. Then of course, there’s the deeper meaning of your post – that it’s not about the number of likes or follows, but about our connection with one another. Love that! 🤍

    1. I’m with you, Kendra. It’s part of the relaxing scroll I do on social media to hit the like button but not put in the thought to comment. But WP has such a great community for comments – and you’re right on, they are so rich! Thank you for commenting! 🙂 <3

  5. I love how you break down followers/community and how you spoke about your father’s funeral. The thing that jumps out at me is that the first is about speaking to an audience and the second is more of a back and forth, where true dialogue can happen. You really get me thinking. Love that. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Very beautiful distinction indeed Wynne, I like your reflection on those two concepts (btw I sign just in case it will be displayed as anonymous, I have not understood yet the reason why sometimes I am signed in and sometimes not. I change nothing…Cristiana).

    1. How interesting about the anonymous versus non. Hmm – either way your comment is appreciated, Cristiana. And of course I appreciate that you are part of my community!

  7. A very thoughtful post, Wynne. It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed by blogging, especially when I am busy, or tired or not feeling well. There are many bloggers I truly enjoy communicating with because of their relatable perspective, similar interests, or other connection. I want to read and write quality content on subjects I care about. I try not to think of it as a numbers game.

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