Pin Me

Are You Following Real People on Twitter: Or, Do You Just Have Make-Believe Friends?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/23/2011

On July 6 2011, President Obama held a town hall Twitter session garnering attention from not only tweeters but also television networks. Were those asking questions really getting answers from the President or was there more behind the scenes we didn’t see? And what about celebrity tweets?

  • slide 1 of 7

    Who's Really Behind the Curtain?

    Is President Obama Really Tweeting If you visit the official Ask Obama Town Hall Twitter website, the very first thing you see is our leader typing on a computer—he’s really tweeting back!

    Well, not really.

    If you scroll down the page, it explains how millions tweeted questions, then an algorithm and a panel decided which questions were most important. Well they had to be 140 characters or less, and then only those chosen were read—the keyword here is “read"—to the President by Twitter’s Executive Chairman, Jack Dorsey. Beyond that folks, President Obama, who most likely did not tweet, allowed White House staff—probably the fastest typist—to send out the tweets and retweets.

    #Askobama, @whitehouse and @townhall—don’t these remind you of those captions you see when a person swears on television? In fact, people are tweeting but who is really hiding behind the tweets and retweets? We love Twitter so much we even use our smartphones to send tweets.

    So, is Twitter really a personal way to contact the famous or is it just an illusion?

  • slide 2 of 7

    Charlie Is Winning!

    According to Todd Wasserman of Mashable, Charlie Sheen set a Guinness World Record by gaining one million followers on Twitter faster than anyone else. That probably helped Charlie’s “winning" attitude, but you have to wonder if those ex-strippers, now live-ins and some other folks in Charlie’s entourage weren’t helping—even a little bit.

    Tweet to Charlie and he’ll tweet back right? Hmm?

  • slide 3 of 7

    Tweeting, Twittering and Retweets

    Charlie Has Lots of Followers The phenomenon we call Twitter began in 2006 and I for one, being in the fiftyish age group range, swore I’d never tweet, twitter and actually to this day, I’m still confused about retweeting. There are # symbols and @ symbols, itty bitty owl tweets and venues like Hoot Suite and Scoop.it.

    If my father were alive today he’d be confused really and I can see why! It’s not just figuring out how to tweet and retweet, it’s also following and unfollowing, getting people to follow you and the best part—fans can follow their celebrity or sports hero favorites like Justin Timberlake or Hines Ward.

    I became a fan of Mvp86HinesWard on Twitter and he sent a tweet about how kids today don’t’ respect their elders. Well of course being in my fifties, I totally agreed and to @mvp86hinesward, I retweeted! Surprisingly I received a tweet from what appeared to be mvp86hinesward saying, “Jean you rock," but was it really my hero? Was it really Super Bowl MVP, Dancing with the Stars winner Hines? I doubt it, but I continue to follow his tweets because after all, Twitter is taking over the world one tweet at a time (hey they can use that slogan if they want—but I want my Twitter share of the money if they do).

  • slide 4 of 7

    The Good and the Not So Good

    Then of course there are those disappointing people who, after reading your itty bitty profile, they want to be your friend and “follow" you. Apparently it’s essential to find out what people are doing, right, right now—hence the need for tweeting what you are doing right, right now in 140 characters or less.

    If I write a few articles about business, finance or human resources, I get all sorts of notices from Twitter telling me so and so is following me. Once I read their itty bitty profile, I find they are really folks who own companies and want to sell me something. Like how to invest or how to manage people, etc. They aren’t interested in me—they are trying to entice me with their wares.

    I guess you can stop someone from following you and you can unfollow anyone you want. You can also report the bad and nasty as offensive to Twitter to ensure no one sends you invites to, well, you know what I mean—bad stuff, the nasty, the oh no type of offering.

    Then there are the fun to follow. I like following The Onion. They have links to funny (and totally not true) stories offering me a daily chuckle or two.

    I like following other Pittsburgh Steeler fans and apparently they love following me or they want me to follow them because they see I am a Steeler fan.

    I got an email message from Twitter saying Governor Schwarzenegger was following me on Twitter—I’m not sure why he found me or wanted to follow me at all? Did he know my political persuasion? Did I write about Republicans being better than Democrats in my profile somewhere? Did I reveal I did not vote for President Obama so “the Arnold" wanted to be my Twitter friend? Probably not.

    If you get those notices of politicians following you on Twitter, it’s because they need campaign money and what better way to ask for money than being right upfront about it—in 140 characters or less? Ingenious I say! (But I have no money to give.) I need someone to really schmooze me up to give away money.

    You can also start a charity tweet—Japan needs help, Haiti needs help, hungry children all over the world need help and before you know it, you’ll get retweets and back tweets and direct messages and yes, you too will have thousands of followers—but that’s our goal with Twitter right? Having make-believe friends like we did when we were kids.

  • slide 5 of 7

    Who Are You Following?

    Who Are You Following Now it’s time to turn to your Twitter account. Who are you following and who is following you? I decided to follow Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish fame. I tweeted and tweeted and said, @DariusRucker, when are you coming to New Mexico? I got all sorts of tweets from @DariusRucker that said see Darius live in Denver in Nashville in Oregon—but never one single tweet from @DariusRucker that said, see Darius in New Mexico. I guess I need to tweet @DariusRucker’s manager and I don’t know who that is—I might get a response then.

    I will embarrassingly say here, upon looking at my Twitter account (and I am very afraid to click the box that says “Switch to New Twitter Now" because I haven’t figured out “Old Twitter" yet) that I am following 28 people and 54 people are following me. That’s a little disappointing, so okay, burst my bubble and tell me I’m a Twitter loser with a capital L!

    Most of these people I’m following (even if it is a miserable 28), I don’t really know. I do like the guy from our local newspaper that sends lots of tweets about stuff I do need to know right, right now—like when are the summer fires in New Mexico going to be contained? Or, how long the line was for the new Harry Potter movie? Or who landed in jail overnight? Or, is country singer, Lynn Anderson who lives in my hometown in jail again for yet another DUI? Those things are important to me!

    Of course I follow Bright Hub on Twitter because they follow me—not so much so because I write for Bright Hub, but because they tweet about me (aw shucks). I feel like I’m part of the new generation of tweeters and I’m excelling at this collaborative tool—well sort of.

  • slide 6 of 7

    It’s Kind of Sneaky Really

    Comedian and actor Martin Mull said on following: “A cult following is a nice way of saving very few people like you." This is true of the faces behind the scenes on Twitter, or should I say the famous on Twitter that you think your twittering with. You really aren’t you know—it’s a promoter or assistant, or as in Obama’s Town Hall Twitter, the CEO of Twitter!

    As a kid, it was a bad thing (at least in my era) if someone was “following" you, especially late at night—and you never followed them back. I shudder to think about following a follower from my youth.

    Are you sneaky on Twitter? Do you allow anyone to follow you? Do you tweet all day because you’re sure someone is interested in what you have to say? Do you follow a celebrity because you know they are really tweeting you back? Do you use Twitter for political views?

    I’m sure this collaborative phenomenon will not go away anytime soon. I mean you can follow Twitter and even “like" it on Facebook. That’s some scary stuff folks.

    So, what are you doing right, right now? Come on, I really want to know! If you do, I promise that @jeanscheid will indeed finally watch the Twitter tutorial and learn how to send a retweet—at least so you actually get it.

  • slide 7 of 7

    References

    Ask Obama Town Hall Twitter Website - http://askobama.twitter.com/

    Wasserman, Todd – Mashable “Charlie Sheen Sets New Guinness Tweet Record" retrieved at http://mashable.com/2011/03/03/charlie-sheen-sets-new-guinness-twitter-record/

    Martin Mull Quote - http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/following.html

    Image Credits:

    Obama Twitters – White House.gov/photos/Pete Souza

    Charlie Sheen - Wikimedia Commons/Angela George/CC 3.0 Share Alike License

    People Shadows - Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain License