This article was a real-time experiment to track my unfollowing of everyone on Twitter and report back with results.
I’ve decided I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter for 60 days. I’ll be using this post as a semi-updated journal to track my thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. If you want to chat with me about it, send me a tweet: @jasondoesstuff.
*It should be known ahead of time that I quit Facebook in 2016. Hence why I’m not mentioning quitting Facebook.
Why I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter
Since 2007, I’ve greatly enjoyed Twitter. It’s a wonderful platform that gives you access to people and lets people have access to you. I can’t deny the fact that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without sending 73,000 short messages out into the world (that’s an average of 20 tweets per day over the course of 10 years). I believe that 3/4 of those messages have been direct replies to other people: conversations I’ve enjoyed having that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else online.
But for the past few years, I’ve become a different person.
I no longer want to share as many updates about my life. And I no longer need to know what everyone else is doing and thinking all day, either. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man (get off my virtual lawn!), or maybe I’ve simply started to recognize that social media is the next great addiction. Either way, these are the two main reasons why I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter:
- I want to break my addictive habits (constantly refreshing feeds)
- I want to remove as much negativity from my life as possible
Can we all agree that social media sites are the FIRST places we, as humans, go to share our displeasures? Have a bad experience with your cable provider? Angry tweet! You don’t like the current state of political affairs? Angry Facebook post! If something negative happens in your life, you share it.
Remember when that used to be a new, empowering, even positive thing? Social media was the place an individual could publicly confront a corporation and get action taken faster than would have been possible with a private email or phone call. I can’t discount that people who deserve an answer or a solution have often found it a lot faster by leveraging the power of social media.
However, when EVERYONE is sharing their grievances all the time, there’s a cumulative effect happening that I’m not comfortable being aware of all day, every day. While it may feel good to air frustrations and blow off steam, it can/does have a negative effect on the people reading.
I’m not here to convince anyone how they should or shouldn’t use their own social media accounts, but I do want to control the messaging that I consume on a daily basis.
I’ve tried pruning my Twitter feed on many previous occasions, but it’s not enough.
For the past decade, I’ve done what most people do on Twitter: I’ve haphazardly unfollowed and followed people. There was no rhyme or reason to it.
Then, in 2014, I spent an entire day organizing the people I followed into Twitter Lists. Painstakingly, I went through hundreds of Twitter accounts I followed. I moved them into carefully curated Lists. I ended up with a main Twitter feed of only 100ish people. For about 48 hours, I felt great about myself and these new Twitter Lists. Then, I never looked at those Lists ever again, ever.
Since that time, Twitter has changed. One huge change that has led to “the great unfollowing of 2017” is that they now show tweets liked by people you follow (whether you follow the person they liked the tweet from or not). I may really enjoy the tweets of @person, but absolutely not enjoy or care about the tweets @person likes. I have to unfollow that person if I don’t want to see tweets they’ve liked. Which led to the big question:
Why follow anyone on Twitter at all?
That’s the answer I’m going to find by unfollowing everyone for 60 days. I feel like my life (online and off) has gotten better with 30-day social media detoxes. Could this be the next step?
My 60-day experiment of unfollowing everyone on Twitter
This journal-of-sorts won’t be updated on a daily basis, but I’ll try to update it weekly (if meaningful-to-me thoughts occur). A few parameters I’ve set for myself:
- I will ABSOLUTELY still be reading mentions/replies. That’s the part of Twitter I love and want to keep. That’s where the best conversation happens.
- I’ll still be going to people’s Twitter profiles to read their tweets… if I can remember to do that (part of what I want to find out in this experiment). Who are the people I really want to read tweets from? Who do I miss? Can my brain remember those people??
- I created a private Twitter List and added the 116 people I was following in case I wanted to re-follow everyone (or the folks that stood out the most) after the 60 days.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in…
Day 1 of the great unfollowing (August 1, 2017)
Well, technically, it’s 9:15pm PDT on July 31, but who’s counting?? If I’m being 100% honest, I chose to do all the unfollowing later in the evening because of a main concern I have about unfollowing people on Twitter (in general): People will be offended.
I could use the “it’s not you, it’s me” line until I’m blue in the face, but feelings will still get hurt. I’ve wanted to do this unfollow-all experiment for quite some time and hurt feelings has been the reason I haven’t done it… Until now.
Please let it be known that I adore Matthew Inman (aka @Oatmeal). That was a tough unfollow. But truly, none were tougher than…
Yep. That’s my Mom. She’ll understand though. She knows I like doing these weird experiments (and that my love for her goes well beyond a Twitter following). Hopefully the same goes for my wife. (Update: checked with my wife, she was cool with it.)
Unfollowing 116 people felt like I was doing something wrong. It felt like I was breaking some unwritten Twitter rule.
There was definitely a twisting in my gut, the same twisting when you know you’ve made a mistake or screwed something up. Let’s hope that feeling was merely an initial reaction. Time will tell.
There’s a weird mix of emotions as I wrap up this first journal entry for this experiment. On one hand, I’m intrigued and excited to see how it goes for the next 60 days. On the other hand, there are a lot of unknowns and unknowns are scary.
I’m no stranger to 30-day detoxes from social media, but this experiment has a unique feel to it already. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens!
Day 3 of following nobody (August 3, 2017)
One of my biggest concerns when I decided to embark on this unfollowing experiment was that everyone would notice I unfollowed them and send me angry messages. That didn’t happen.
Now… My assumption is that those angry messages didn’t happen because I didn’t selectively unfollow a handful of people (as I’ve done in past years). By unfollowing 100% of the people I followed, it put everyone on the same unfollowing spectrum. I can’t prove this assumption, but it’s clear to me that the end result (no angry messages) is a victory over my biggest concern.
TIP: Want to unfollow some folks on Twitter but you’re worried about backlash/angry messages of some sort? Unfollow everyone. Call it an “experiment.” And re-follow the folks you want to follow again (quietly) a few weeks later. You’re welcome.
Anyhoo, I had my first moment of I wonder what this does now? when I clicked the Home button on Twitter:
I expected to see a nice blank page. No tweets. Maybe a note from Twitter saying “Hey, you’re a weirdo, go follow some people!” I even thought Twitter might go one step further and offer up some random accounts they deemed popular. I’m honestly glad they didn’t do the latter. But nope, my Home (or feed) is now just my own tweets. The good news? If I want to get caught up on all things me, I know where to go! 😅
There were a couple tweets I received after announcing this experiment that I really liked:
Really interested to hear how this goes. I’ve been tempted to try it a few times, but like you the hurt feelings always kept me from it.
— Kory (@korymae) August 1, 2017
— Colin Rubbert (@ColinRubbert) August 1, 2017
I’m just jealous of the quiet. I’m addicted to refreshing as well.
— Halley (@evolvesucceed) August 1, 2017
A secret goal (that’s not a secret after you read this sentence) when I decided to do this 60-day unfollowing experiment is that it would inspire other people to do some Twitter housekeeping. That seems to be working! Yay for secret goals inspiring people to take control of how they use social media.
So, how has it felt not having any tweets to scroll through for a couple days?
Honestly, not that weird. As I mentioned, I enjoy doing social media detoxes and I’d experienced not having a feed of other people’s tweets to mindlessly thumb through before.
I did, however, keep track of the four Twitter accounts I selectively chose to visit to catch up on some tweets:
- @ugmonk (found this amazing thread through Jeff’s tweets)
- @pjrvs (who I found is on his own break from Twitter – hehe!)
- @amyhoy (she just launched a new SaaS and I wanted to read about it)
- @marshal (love hearing about what he and @jon are up to at Need/Want)
And random/silly thing. It looks like Twitter still thinks I’m following people:
Day 15 of the unfollow experiment (August 15, 2017)
Holy moly, where did the past two weeks go!? Well, I can actually tell you: “work.”
One of the outcomes from my social media detoxes over the years has been all the extra time I have to focus on my projects. It’s amazing how many extra hours you find yourself with and how better you can spend those hours on things that actually matter. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy engaging in conversations on Twitter, Instagram, etc, but I also really like investing in myself, my businesses, and my customers.
The past two weeks have been incredibly productive for my wife and I. We’ve:
- Developed a plan of action for the remainder of this year (work and life schedules)
- Come up with an interesting idea to promote the upcoming BuyOurFuture launch (Sept 26)
- Been able to have a lot more 1-on-1 helpful conversations (Skype, phone, etc) with our customers
- Built an authentic automation for Better Branding Course and The Imperfect Writer
- Spent time at the beach and enjoyed a few beautiful summer days (what we’re doing all this work for)
- Watched too many Tesla Model 3 speculation and review videos (this is mostly me, hah)
Where has that left me with my unfollowing experiment on Twitter?
Truthfully? Almost forgetting about it. And I think that’s a great thing.
I waste so much less time using my Twitter feed as a place to escape doing all the mundane work (you know, the unsexy part of running businesses).
I do want to bring up one thing I have noticeably missed which is the ability to easily discover new stuff. I recently had a convo with my friend Pat on Slack about this:
Discovering new people, new interesting projects, new opinions, is a lot more difficult without a Twitter feed. I’ve found myself visiting a handful of the same websites: Colossal, The Verge, and Site Inspire. Two of my favorite things I’ve discovered recently are:
- Masters of Doom (book) – If you grew up in the 80s/90s and played computer games, you’ll LOVE this book.
- BLUEPRINT (video series) – I’ve been itching for a video series similar to Chef’s Table or Abstract that focuses just on entrepreneurs and their unique stories. I think I’ve found it!
Speaking of discovery, I can’t remember how I found it, but I came across this amazing tweet:
The tenth Fast and Furious movie should be called Fast 10: Your Seatbelts
— Cadaea #i61 (@sophiekeen) July 11, 2017
One other small update is that Twitter finally realized I stopped following people. It no longer says “You follow each other” on anyone’s profile. And, the Twitter home feed has been updated to this:
I guess that’s an improvement from just seeing all my own tweets?? I’ll take it.
Last but not least for this update: I’m loving all the replies from folks who are inspired by this experiment to clean up their Twitter following. Again, if that’s the main outcome from this little challenge, I’m a happy camper.
@jasondoesstuff so the mass unfollowing begins.
— David Sherry (@_brandswell) August 9, 2017
I didn’t quite go down to zero like @jasondoesstuff is trying to, but I’ve greatly reduced my follow list and I am happy about it.
— Erika Couto (@theerikacouto) August 9, 2017
Day 22 brings the fire 🔥 (August 22, 2017)
Today’s update is less about how my Twitter unfollowing experience is going and more about social media in general. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna soapbox you about taking a social media detox.
It occurred to me the past few weeks, while my time spent using Twitter has plummeted to almost nothing, there’s a gigantic elephant in the room with social media. Well-to-do successful business people will tell you that using social media to build your “brand” and grow your audience is necessary. You need to build deeper connections (we’ll get to that in a moment) and you need to hang out where the people are. But there’s one HUGE missing piece to that advice:
When do you reevaluate and realize that spending time on social media isn’t helping your “brand” or your business?
I know for a fact those same well-to-do successful business people would tell you to shut down a brick and mortar business if no one is walking in the doors each day. If you’re doing marketing, promotion, creating a unique in-store experience, and no one is showing up, those business folks would tell you to close the doors and move on after a certain period of time. No way in hell they tell you to keep the doors open because it helps your brand and helps you build stronger customer-connections when zero people are paying attention to you.
But… Those same business folks who tell you that social media is important for your business don’t ever tell you how long you should be investing time into it. They don’t have a clear deciding factor (no one walking in the door) to tell you it may be time to stop using social media to promote your business.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating here: My previous businesses had social media at the forefront of my brand-building and promotional efforts. Every day I spent time and money trying to craft unique content (yes, you can craft tweets) to keep my social media audiences engaged and interested. Yet, with all that effort, my businesses failed. In 2013 when I decided to focus less on social media and focus more on actually building a business (and great products to go along with it) I started to have success. I realized the majority of the time I was spending on social media wasn’t getting people in my virtual doors.
- Did I still want to build my brand? Yep.
- Did I still want to build connections with customers? Yep.
- Did I notice both of those things were happening with greater effectiveness when I stopped devoting time on social media? 100% yes.
The past three years have been the most profitable years of my entrepreneurial life. They are also the three years I’ve spent the least amount of time on social media.
If you want to waste time everyday scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, watching YouTube videos, etc, that’s your prerogative. But if at the same time you are trying to build a business or you are trying to chase a big dream, you’re never going to be successful. You’re going to stay in the rat-race of trying to keep up and throwing valuable time at something (social media) without a guaranteed return.
So what should you be doing with your time, if not promoting your business on social media?
1. Build a product people actually need. Is the product or service you are selling is actually helping the customers who buy it? Not just getting them to buy, but once they buy, having your product improve their lives in some way (spoiler alert: this is ongoing in business).
2. Build entry points that bring potential customers immediate value. You should be creating simple ways for people to learn more about your product and get to a purchasing decision: helpful articles, in-depth video walkthroughs, actionable workshops, free email courses, awesome free trials, etc. Not just free downloadable garbage. Actual life-changing stuff that solves problems (note: it may take you weeks or months to create this stuff).
3. Build your firehoses. When you have a product/service that people are happily paying for and sharing with their friends, create unique and different ways to attract more people. Sure, I’d advocate you could use Facebook Ads at this point in the process, but using Facebook Ads has nothing to do with creating a Facebook Page with a content strategy for posts, images, videos, etc. You want to create opportunities where you can turn on/off the flow of additional customers (because you know you nailed #1 and #2).
The last thing I want to touch on is the “deepening of connections” on social media. While I wholeheartedly agree that you can create meaningful connections, I don’t believe they are “deep” connections. When you’re just another avatar in a constant feed of swiped-through updates, how is it possible to create a deep connection? I’ll tell you: It’s 100% not.
You may start a new friendship or connection on Twitter. You may find someone interesting through a friend on Facebook. But rarely does that connection stay strong for more than a few months unless you move that connection elsewhere (email, slack, Skype, in-person, etc). And if you’re being totally honest with yourself: Do you actually believe you’ll be able to improve and grow your business by fighting to cut through the noise of social media?
My time away from Twitter these past 22 days has provided me the space to:
- Write over 30,000 words for various projects
- Create a 12-day pitch sequence for a product
- Work with my wife on an awesome 5-part video series
- Scrap an existing business plan and build an entire new one
- Take 10 calls with existing customers to simply try to help them
- Feel like I can problem solve faster for customer support issues
- Get more shit done that actually helps my businesses grow!
Maybe now’s the time to ask yourself: Is spending time on social media actually helping me grow my business and achieve my dreams? Or I am simply wasting valuable time?
Day 60… kind of (Date unknown!)
Welp, it seems I got so focused with my work and extra time, I 100% forgot to update this article/challenge. HAH! Truthfully, I think that’s a good thing. That was the entire point, right? Get free time back and take control?
Sometime after the 60 days I did end up following 20 people again. I spend almost no time mindlessly scrolling through the Home feed because I have almost nothing to scroll through.
I’m glad I took the plunge to do this. I hope you’ll at least think about going through who you follow on Twitter and unfollow a few people who constantly share things that get under your skin (or that you simply don’t want to see). I feel like I’m in complete control of how I spend time on Twitter and I loooove that.