I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the amazing response and attention I’ve received these last couple of days from both the Penn State Web Conference, and the Social Media Summit the day after. It’s really gratifying to see people recognize you and come over to say hi and reconnect. I am incredibly fortunate to get that kind of reaction from so many. Because, let’s face it: to know my kind is not necessarily to love my kind. I’m outgoing, I’m loud, I’m boisterous, I have lots of enthusiasm and very little filter. It can be a bit overwhelming to those not inclined to befriend that kind of person and, truly, I understand that. It takes all kinds, it’s not you, it’s me, it’s all good.
My involvement with the Social Media Summit also exposed me to many many new people. Did I say many? We had over 300 attend the first of it’s kind summit, and while things were initially a bit rocky as we worked out the audio bugs, we soldiered on and had a very good conversation. During the next 24 hours, I’ve had almost 50 people add me to the people they choose to follow. Now that’s a weird feeling. Spam bots? Sure. Real people? Not until now. In fact, I started to get people following me back who I’d followed for months. Nervous much? Exactly.
So then I decided to do some maintenance. I went through the new followers, followed back those whose interests and tweets were either a) covering similar interest areas or b) funny (because that’s how I roll). Then I decided to review the people I had been following. I thought this ironic, because later that morning @micala posted about looking for new direction and trying new things. Something must have been in the air, I thought.
Then the interesting thing happened. As I was going through my list, I realized there was someone not on my follow list. Sometimes that happens–Twitter hiccups, and you lose people and have to re-add them. It comes with the territory. So I went to the person’s profile, hit the follow button, and got this:
I’ve never been blocked before. And no matter how I tried to look at it, I was taking it a little personally. I mean, if you don’t want to listen to me, don’t follow. It’s that simple. I know several people personally who do not follow me, and I’ve come to accept that if I reply or mention them, they will see that, but they simply do not want my tweets cluttering up their Twitter steam.
But this is different. This is not “my tweets are private and I only let certain people in with whom I’m comfortable.” I get that get too, because I used to keep my account private. No, this is “I specifically don’t want you to be a part of my universe, so not only am I not going to follow you, I am not going to let you follow along, either.” And that, I will admit, concerns me.
Why do you block someone from your stream? The answers I’ve come up with are either they’re bots, or they’re offensive, or it’s someone you really, really detest. Honestly, I have yet to block someone. If they’re offensive, I unfollow. If they tweet too much–even for me–I unfollow. If I’m not interested, I don’t follow in the first place. If you were initially interesting but we’ve gone in separate directions, I unfollow. In my mind, it really is a lot like the people we meet in real life. Some we keep, some we walk with for a while, some we wave at in passing. No harm, no foul.
So really, this leads me to the only other reason I can think of, and that is somehow, somewhere along the line, I have offended this person’s sensibilities. And that’s not good. In fact, it’s horrible. Because on a personal level, if I’ve offended, I don’t know what I did, and I don’t know how to fix it. When engaging on the written page, we lose those oh-so-valuable non-verbal cues, and sometimes we goof. On a professional level, it can also mean if a position comes up in this person’s area, I might not be considered. We work in the same field, so we’ll see each other at events. But now I’m uncomfortable, and I’m paranoid, and I don’t really know how to–or even if I can–make it right. It feels like I’m in fifth grade again, on the playground, and afraid to go play on the swings because the big kids are there.
I actually tweeted that I’d been blocked. I got surprised responses. One person even DM’d me and suggested that perhaps it had been an error. That, too, is a definite possibility. But I still don’t know how to (or if I can) fix it. And perhaps that’s what I need to walk away with–that no matter how it happened, it happened, and I simply need to move on. I have a lot of friends in my social network who are happy to engage with me, and bear in mind the knowledge that you can’t be loved by everyone.
But I must admit, it’s going to take a while before I can go over to the swings again.