Social currency

There's one thing I can't stand: people with lots of followers. "W00t!", you say. But you read it correctly.

Picture this: you get an email. "John Doe started following you on Twitter", and you're all happy! After all, those juicy tweets must be finally paying off, you're getting more followers. And John Doe has something like 35,238 followers, so he's a big shot!

Except you then notice that Mr. Doe follows 34,106 other people. That he has something like 30,000 tweets. And then you read the bio, and this is not an exclusive item list, but you may have seen things like:

  • "evangelist"
  • "passion about"
  • "specialist"
  • "guru"
  • "ninja"
  • "i help people (...)"
  • "I follow back"

Basically, this guy's a whore. He's following you not because you're that interesting, but because he wants you to follow him back! And then you check his tweets... yep, there are lots of them. With capitalized words. All of them articles he finds and shares. And not one. Single. Conversation.

So this guy John Doe is only following you because he wants something back. In his mind, it's such a favor that you get a new follower, so you have to reciprocate and follow back, and maybe even make a couple ReTweets to fill up his mighty ego. Or maybe he won't even notice at all, because numbers are what matter, numbers don't lie. What matters is the trade: I follow you, you'll compensate by following me back. It's a new form of social currency where the means become the ends, and the only person who wins is... oh wait, no one!

Being generous in a Thank You Economy is not about trading favors, you jackass. It's about meaningful giving and really expecting nothing in return. It's about building confidence and a true sense of sharing.

No one cares about your thousands of followers and the fact that you read a lot of always-the-same articles. People care about authenticity. And in case you haven't noticed, it's not that authentic to follow 30,000 people — do you even read what 1% of them say? So why should you read my things? Turns out you're not so interested after all, so I'm not willing to trust you.

Here's a quote for you, John Doe. Tweet this instead:

Yes, you can trade your way up, but at some point, the very people who were influenced by all your trades start to realize that you can't be trusted. — Seth Godin, 01/22/12