Stephanie Fierman On The (Tw)Attention Economy

I’ve really started to wonder how we can possibly ingest the fire hose of information that comes at us every day. The obvious answer is that we can’t. Brits know it, tweens know it, experts know it.  And yet… on it comes, leading one to either eliminate it - unsubscribe to an email newsletter, sign off Facebook, stop watching Real Housewives of New Jersey (oops, sorry - that’s mine) - or somehow filter out what we don’t want.  Some call this phenomenon the ”attention economy.” 

In the attention economy, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that finite amount of attention over a rising level of noise.  In other words, it becomes increasingly important to make choices, to become more discriminating, to understand the value of our thoughts and our time.  So while I may watch reality TV because I like it, it would never dawn on me to voluntarily invite a continuous information stream into my skull that I neither want nor need. I recently wrote a post on this topic as it pertains to Twitter, arguably the Web’s newest, most popular time suck.

Well here’s another upside-down concept from the Twuniverse:  Twitter Karma.  If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a clue what this would be. But if you are, you may know what’s coming…


On Twitter, you follow people whose thoughts interest you, and others may follow you for the same reason.  Twitter Karma refers to those whom you follow who do not follow you back. This means that you’ve elected to see every tweet of theirs and they have not reciprocated. Some people find this to be rude: so rude, in fact that they unfollow individuals who – after a respectable amount of time – didn’t follow them back.

stephanie-fierman-twitter-cartoon1.jpg

Wait - what? This is a problem? Did I go to sleep and wake up back in the 3rd grade?

We’re grown-ups. Each of us has her own unique interests, profession and curiosities. Each of us has goals of expanding his knowledge in different directions. So if I follow you on Twitter because you have a point of view I find valuable, why would I expect you to reciprocate (and consider it a compliment) if you don’t need what I have to say? Maybe someday you’ll be interested… but not now.

I do not take offense, but make no mistake: I’m supposed to.  By implication, those who do not reciprocate are ingrates and creeps.


Twitter karma feels precisely like one of those mean little games children play. Move on.


Look, here’s my point of view: if you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re a reasonably confident person who has something to say. I doubt you need or want an insincere slap on the back from someone who felt pressured to offer it.


This is the only life we get, people. You only have so many brain cells: use them wisely. Be choosy. Mandatory school books or work stuff aside… take in the information you need and want. Leave the rest. By doing so, we not only grow… but maybe we do increase the likelihood that we’ll have something to say that others will want to “follow.”


But, hey. If you’re squeamish about unfollowing a “mean girl” (or guy) on Twitter, sort folks on TweetDeck.  It’ll change your Twexistence.

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.