I received an email from a friend wanting to know why I was following a particular person on Twitter. His question was simply “Seriously?” It wasn’t the first time I have received such questions / comments, so let me explain.
Everyone uses Twitter differently. Some use it to follow a few select individuals in their career field, others follow only family members and close friends, others follow anyone that posts interesting material, etc. The uses of Twitter vary greatly, so it is best not to assume that others have the same purpose for their Twitter account that you have for yours.
I USUALLY FOLLOWBACK FOR THE PURPOSE OF EVANGELISM & MINISTRY
About a year ago I decided to use Twitter primarily as an evangelism and ministry tool. I still use Twitter to engage friends and family, but usually utilize Facebook for maintaining and nurturing those relationships. Given that my primary purpose for Twitter is evangelism and ministry, I usually followback most of those who follow me, including at times some pretty unsavory characters
When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Have I seen any results by shifting my focus to evangelism and ministry? Yes. In the last year I have conversed with two separate individuals who were contemplating suicide, I have had the opportunity to share Christ and his plan of salvation with several individuals (including one in a land where we have difficulty sending missionaries), have received feedback that someone was returning to church after a long absence, and had many other such ministry encounters. I am encouraged by such engagements.
I USUALLY FOLLOWBACK FOR THE SAKE OF RELATIONSHIPS
About the same time that I made the change of focus above, I overheard a conversation in the student center at the college in which I teach. It went something like this:
Student A: “I have been following Professor X on Twitter and commenting on his posts, but he won’t follow me back.”
Student B: “He follows me.”
Student A: “I guess I didn’t make the cut.”
This wasn’t the first time that I heard conversations where people expressed disappointment that their pastor, professor, colleague, or (you fill in the blank) wouldn’t follow them. I do not want to give anyone the impression that they somehow didn’t make the cut — better to followback.
I USUALLY FOLLOWBACK FOR THE SAKE OF COURTESY
I have served on staff in one of the largest churches of America; people knew me that I did not know. I have been teaching at the college level for more than twenty years; my memories of many of those students have begun to fade away. I value these people and other acquaintances even though I cannot always recall their names or the nature of our relationship. I want to make sure the door is open to facilitate communication if they desire to reconnect, so I usually followback.
WHY I FOLLOWBACK FOREIGN LANGUAGE TWITTER ACCOUNTS
Related to the above point, at this time in my life I have thousands of former students, missions contacts, and friends for whom English is not their primary language. I regret that I do not remember them all but do not want to give the appearance of rudeness by failing to followback when they follow me on Twitter. Additionally, I pastor a church in a multi-ethnic community where people often seek to make some connection to the church before actually attending. So, I usually followback foreign language accounts, even if I don’t know what they are saying.
I FOLLOWBACK TO GET FEEDBACK ON MY WRITING
I no longer allow comments on my website articles. I made that decision for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here. However, I enjoy getting feedback from my readers and Twitter is a good way for my readers to interact with me. I have a diverse community of website readers and Twitter is a good way for them to reach out to me. So, I usually followback on Twitter.
BUT, BUT, BUT…
Aren’t I running the risk of giving the wrong impression by following some shady characters? Sure, but I would rather have that happen than fail to show courtesy to a former student or someone I met on the mission field. I would rather run that risk than miss out on connecting with someone who is open to the gospel and seeking a connection to Christ’s church.
DON’T YOU END UP FOLLOWING MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU CAN REALLY “FOLLOW”?
Doesn’t following that many people become unmanageable?
I use various Twitter applications to differentiate close friends and family in order to follow their contributions to Twitter more closely than others. It is also easy to establish Lists in Twitter to catalog your contacts by interest (church, politics, school, etc).
So, I usually followback,
but there are some reasons that I choose NOT to do so.
REASONS I REFRAIN FROM FOLLOWING A TWITTER ACCOUNT
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that are “Private” unless I know the account holder personally.
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that appear to be published by bots. Why bother?
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that have depictions of violence or seem to advocate violence.
- I follow lots of people who have a different worldview from my own, and who express ideas with which I disagree. It is part of the conversation. But I do NOT follow those accounts that are being used primarily to promote things with which I strongly disagree. I don’t want to subject myself to their endless promotional materials.
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that use profanity. I simply don’t want to have those words in my head.
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that have any form of nudity in their profile picture, cover photo, or timeline.
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that have pictures of guys without shirts. Dude, really? There are lots of different reasons why you might want to show off your chest and abs — none of them good.
- I do NOT follow Twitter accounts that “favorite” or retweet the content that I mention above. When you favorite it, I end up seeing it.
Well, that is some of my reasoning for following back. Why not tweet me a note about what you think of my choice?