Even the tiniest nuances may have a significant effect on long-term performance when large social media sites describe their plans. If you’re a privacy advocate, one of the first things you’ll notice about Twitter is how little of your personal information is kept private. Everyone can view a complete list of the accounts you’re following if your account is public, and even if it’s ahem…’protected,’ everyone can still see a numerical total if your account is public. The same is true for the overall number of accounts that follow you.
There’s nothing you or anybody else on Twitter can do to keep this information hidden. This isn’t an oversight; it’s a calculated move. It may seem to be a little and practically insignificant feature, but Twitter understands that forcing your follower numbers to be shown puts you under a lot of pressure to compete with other users. No one wants to seem inept or disliked, yet that is precisely the impression you get when you have a small number of followers. As a result, Twitter’s compulsory display of follower totals is mostly a psychological tactic. It implies that you’ll follow Twitter’s instructions and strive for attention. Twitter is attempting to shame you into putting in more effort on the platform. Many Twitter users would conceal their following counts if they could, and then rest.
How to Hide My Following List
Twitter does not want its users to unwind; instead, it wants them to be constantly motivated. It wants them to keep up appearances by following other people, tweeting them, badgering influentials for attention, and overall working like a dog to seem more popular. The desire for status is a powerful motivation. If you could simply conceal your status, the need to put in all that effort would disappear, and millions of Twitter users would be squandering… sorry, spending a lot less time on the platform.
However, with this kind of regime, Twitter also confronts counterproductive aspects. Twitter, in effect, promotes a rat race by requiring every user to display their status, and a rat race may soon become a nuisance. If Twitter becomes too much like work, it ceases to be a leisure activity, and many users or potential users will say: “Nah, you ain’t paying me – I’ve got better things to do with my time than relentlessly pester people.” This is especially true these days, when most users know that the majority of their followers are purely a status symbol and aren’t reading a word they say.
The number of individuals who are driven by the rat race and view it as an exciting challenge is clearly higher than the number of people who see it as a chore, as shown by the fact that follower numbers are now visible. However, there is a significant additional disadvantage to consider when it comes to the forced display of accounts you follow (as opposed to your followers). Whereas public follower totals encourage people to follow other people, visible following totals encourage people to unfollow them.
It would take an entire article to list all of the reasons behind this, but it is a reality, and the evidence is clear. Look at a site like WordPress.com, which doesn’t provide a total number of followers, and you’ll find that the number of followers is very high. If you get a WordPress follower, it’s virtually likely that they’ll stick with you in a year, whether or not you’re active on the platform. Why? Because they don’t feel obligated to unfollow.
Yes, WordPress does not have follow limitations, while Twitter does, which means Twitter puts more pressure on users to unfollow. However, the majority of unfollowing on Twitter comes from accounts that are nowhere near their follow limit. People unfollow primarily to increase their follower/following ratio. In the end, they’re doing it to make themselves seem more popular, to raise their position.
A very disappointing aspect of the experience is the deeply entrenched plague of persistent unfollowing throughout Twitter. If I don’t use a Twitter account for a month and then return to use it, my follower count will very certainly have decreased. This occurs to everyone, with the exception of celebrities and other kinds of extremely prominent users with a well-known ‘real-world’ profile. Your Twitter followers will decrease if you stop “playing the game.”
Of course, there’s a case to be made that Twitter doesn’t want you to quit using the service, so the loss of followers during inactivity is part of the incentive. However, even while utilizing the site, the continuous unfollowing is visible. Okay, so when you’re an active user, you’re frequently compensating for any losses with new followers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t notice when you’re being unfollowed on a regular basis.
Being unfollowed all the time prompts questions such, “Is this really worth the trouble?”
’. I feel a sense of wasted effort when I use Twitter that I don’t experience with WordPress. It would be ridiculous to claim that this is only due to the fact that people unfollow on Twitter while they don’t on WordPress, but the psychological pain caused by constant unfollowing on Twitter is a significant contributor to the issue.
SHOULD TWITTER ALLOW FOR THE HIDE OF FOLLOW COUNTS?
I think this is both feasible and essential for Twitter. It would be extremely simple to conceal the real number of accounts that were followed. It’s only a number, after all. Obviously, there would be a discussion over whether the list of accounts followed should likewise be hidden. The truth is that the answer is no. The answer would ideally be yes from a privacy perspective, however this is a commercial social network, and knowing who someone follows is helpful as a reference for other account holders with similar interests. Realistically, Twitter will not allow these lists to be hidden. In any event, until Twitter allows for the concealing of follower lists as well, following lists may be ‘reverse inferred’ in part from the other end. The list would not be private even if it was hidden.
So all we’re talking about is concealing a number. The total number of Twitter accounts you follow. Someone could theoretically go through your whole list of followers and manually add up the amount. Are they, however, going to bother? Obviously not. Removing that number – the total number of accounts you’re following in real time – would, in my view, relieve a lot of psychological pressure on Twitter users to unfollow.
Wouldn’t third-party applications be tempted to calculate and show the following totals automatically? Yes, but the answer is simple: make it a privacy constraint of API usage that app builders do not show a following count unless the user explicitly authorizes it.
I’d even go so far as to propose that the following count be concealed by default, with a choice to make it visible. Twitter could see a substantial decrease in unfollowing as a result of much less psychological pressure on users to unfollow for status reasons, which is certain to be excellent for motivation and business.