None of us like the feeling of being rejected but it’s even more difficult to swallow when something like friendship, which has a relatively low social risk, is rejected. With much of our social interactions moving on-line and the anonymity of the internet, this type of rejection is becoming especially common. But it being common doesn’t necessarily lower the impact it has on our self-esteem.
I started using many of the social media sites in preparation for a course I was developing in on-line business promotion. What I found fascinating was how many nice people there were out there and how you could quickly become friends with people all over the world. But like real life in-person friendships, these friendships often had their challenges. In fact, in the on-line world, the ups and downs of these relationships are even more pronounced as everything can show up in a feed for the world (or at least the rest of your friends on that particular network) to see.
I’ll use Twitter as an example as this has been the network that I feel is best designed for starting friendships. Twitter has the concept of you can follow me and I can follow you but we don’t necessarily have to follow each other. On top of that, everyone in the world can see what you post on Twitter (unless you disallow it, which essentially defeats the purpose of micro-blogging) and it’s pretty easy to reply back to something someone else posted.
What I’ve found most frustrating about Twitter is how many users use it like a popularity contest and try to get the highest ranking by having more people follow them than they follow. So some people will follow you, then you’d follow them back and then after a while they’d remove 90% of their followers to get this high ranking. This is a common tactic for people that want to look like celebrities – if you have 10,000 followers and you only follow 100 people, then you must be famous, right?
Now I’ve had other people follow me and then un-follow me for various reasons. I’ve asked some folks that are well versed in social media about why someone might un-follow someone else and here’s what we came up with:
You posted something they disagreed with:
Perhaps it’s something political or you took a swipe at their celebrity idol. It could be something as silly as saying you prefer Coke over Pepsi or vice versa or as hot button as your feelings about the current administration.
You post too often:
If you post 200 messages a day in Twitter, people might find you to be too noisy to follow – especially if they don’t find anything of value in what you post.
You hurt your credibility:
I notice this all the time with speakers posting nonsense like “public speaking is like riding a bike” yet other so-called experts might post advice or tips that either provide no benefit or could be harmful if followed.
You’re rude, mean or out of line:
Sometimes it takes a single four-letter word to get people to stop listening to you. The other challenge with online communication is that tone is often hard to distinguish so a seemingly innocent comment may be taken out of context.
You spam or post inappropriate content:
If everything you post is a link to your get rich quick scheme or adult web site, a lot of folks will stop paying attention to you.
Your posts are too whiny or negative:
If all you do is complain about your life, your job and everything around you, people will start ignoring you unless you’re very funny.
Your posts are too robotic:
The classic example of this is someone who ties every post into a product he or she is selling. But posting your status without humor or emotion can seem a bit robotic too. Try to make your posts interesting.
Now this is far from being a complete list, but you can pretty much see what might cause someone to lose interest in what you have to say. What’s interesting is that a lot of this also applies to real world friendships. If you’re overbearing, insensitive, mean or overly negative, you might find people trying to distance themselves from you. If you’re overly boring or opinionated, you may turn off some folks as well.
So the lesson to learn here applies to the way you communicate in the physical world and online: think before you speak. It may be tempting to blurt something out to get a good laugh, but keep in mind that not everyone shares your sense of humor or your opinions. Whether you’re speaking to one person, a group of people or communicating to the world on-line, a little thought up front will save you some aggravation later on.