‘Following’ – is it the virtual ‘Smile’?

As teachers/ educators we often talk about empowering children – building up their self-belief, helping them to use their voice so that they can be heard and ensuring that we are supporting their wellbeing. As teachers/ educators we go out of our way to ensure that this talk is put into action, so that the little and not-so-little people in our care can leave us more rounded, confident individuals, who are ready to embrace their next challenge.

I find it surprising therefore, that teachers/ educators don’t always go out of their way to empower others in their profession. Sadly, I see this on Twitter all too often. Over the past few weeks, there have been so many ‘follow’ threads doing the rounds – on the most part if you are recommended you are meant to recommend 10 more people to follow and so it goes on. There is then a level of disgruntlement felt when:

  1. No one follows you.

  2. The people you follow don’t follow you back.

So what is it about following that causes such angst? Why don’t people always immediately follow someone back? I have heard the theory that timelines will become too busy, but surely content preferences can be set up to avoid this. Twitter intuitively sets up the ‘top tweet timeline’ based on accounts that are interacted with most. Keeping the timeline on top tweets and not on latest tweets will surely enable anyone to not feel overloaded.

That being the case why doesn’t everyone just follow back? I see follows as being like virtual smiles. I follow someone because I like what they have written and I am smiling at them. I follow back because I am smiling back at someone who has followed me. The only time I don’t, is when the person’s account is protected and they have no profile information written. This is because I have received some uncomfortable DMs from people I have not been able to find out much about but have followed in good faith.

It appears that the people most unlikely to follow back are those with tens of thousands already following them. Why is this? I don’t have an answer but thought I would pose the question. There are exceptions. There are those who have thousands following them who will always follow back immediately, answer questions when tagged, respond to DMs and are such a force for good. They smile when I smile and that makes me feel wonderful.

In the real world, when someone smiles at me I feel acknowledged – they’ve noticed me and made an effort to make me feel special. It is exactly the same with following and following back in the virtual world. Being followed makes me feel acknowledged. It makes me feel that I have tweeted something that someone else has liked and they have chosen to follow me because of it. When someone smiles at me in the street do I scowl back? Of course I don’t, I give my biggest, cheesiest grin. When someone follows me on Twitter I follow back because it is my virtual smile. My acknowledgement of their follow.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone followed their followers back? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people sitting on 75,000 followers were not just following 80 of them? As teachers/ educators we work hard to empower children. We build up their self-belief, help them to use their voice so that they can be heard and ensure that we support their wellbeing. Can’t we do this for everyone on #edutwitter too? We can – we just have to follow them and follow them back if they follow us.

I really hope that some of you will virtually smile at me this week and I promise that I will virtually smile back.

Have a truly wonderful week and please remember to join #TinyVoiceTuesday and #TinyVoiceTuesdayUnites so we can empower each other.

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