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Getting Personal with Twitter…

Jim Connolly (@jimconnolly) managed to build up an impressive network of followers, and people following him, on Twitter, with over 20,000 people in his twitter network, and discovered that he had drawn the wrong kind of attention.

He was being plagued by Internet Marketing “spammers” asking him to promote their website, and blogs, but who were very disinterested in having “real conversations”.  He wasn’t being followed by people who were necessarily interested in him, or his conversations, but were just looking to be promoted, and were DM’ing him to say so..

He’s since had to “reset” his Twitter account, in order to be able to start from scratch, and start re-building his following, and, more importantly, the people that he follows…

It’s raised an interesting conversation, in my mind, around this virtual community that can emerge, or be dissolved around your electronic identity.  Just by deleting, or closing an account, you can find yourself disconnected, unplugged, and separated from everyone else in that virtual space.  And just as easily, re-opening your account, you can quickly re-establish your identity, or be re-discovered by the friends, and familiar faces you come to encounter in these virtual worlds.

It starts to beg the question, of what defines our identity in this virtual space?? How are we truly connecting, or relating to each other, if with the flick of  a switch we can make ourselves invisible, or disconnected from each other??

Is it the conversations, and encounters we have with people that shape our use of the tools and services we use? Or are we innately just the sum product of our responses, and replies to others, on these social networks?

I’ve long been a firm believer in the power of personal connections, and meeting with people in person.. Taking the time to physically meet with people.  Take the time to talk with them.  Take the time to have real meaningful conversations, and connect with the person on the other side of the table.  But do social networks like twitter, dilute that down, or enrich the experience further?

I can see that connecting with a few thousand people in person might be less than possible, if I’m not someone like Thomas Power (founder of Ecademy), or Roger Hamilton (founder of XL Networks), people in large global social networks, who are visible advocates of their networks, jetting around the world, looking to make connections with people, and encouraging participation, that leads to them, eventually turning a profit.

But what kind of connection can you possibly have with a few thousand people? What about a few hundred people??

If it’s about quality, not quantity, then indeed, there has to be some discrimination, on each individuals part, as to who they add to their network and who they don’t.  Jim Connolloy, after his learning experience, has decided to only add people who he engages with, or who are clients, or contacts..  I think that’s an excellent approach to take, and an excellent idea, in principle… Of course, if Jim’s anything like me, and always out there looking to find new and interesting people to follow in conversation, he may happen across more people than he can reasonably follow.  I for one can’t actually follow any more people, until my following catches up with my interest in others… (there’s a Twitter imposed limit of 2k people that you can follow, until your number of people following back increases beyond that).

Nevertheless, I’m sure having gone through the hoops with Twitter once over already, @jimconnolly is already pulling in the conversation and reigning it around people, and things that interest him or engage him directly, rather than trying to cater to the masses.  Sooner or later, a message has to relate to your personal interests, to the things you like to do, to the people that you want to talk to, and less about who you think might be interesting to have those conversations with.

I wonder how long it will be before it’s going to be about having the conversations themselves, that matter, and less about the people having those conversations?

Or perhaps that would make it just too impersonal??  What do you think?

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