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Are Lengthy Twitter Debates Costing You Followers?

Let me start by saying that people should say anything they want in Twitter. It’s an open forum, so let your freak flag fly! I’m just hoping to enlighten those that may not be aware of the negative impact that long debates on politics, religion, ninjas vs. pirates vs. zombies, paper vs. plastic, or any other debates that are held in Twitter can have on your Followers. If you’re here for social interaction like me, you may not care. If you’re here pushing a product, project or other agenda, you may want to pay a little attention.

Yes, they may Unfollow because they disagree with your opinion. To this, I say “Meh.” People frequently disagree on topics, and you shouldn’t change your stance to please others nor should you say things you don’t believe. If they are that offended, you likely have so little in common that it’s no big loss.

More importantly, you are filling their Twitter stream with something they may deem either uninteresting or too controversial for them to want to join in. And at some point, you may begin lecturing or shouting down as others join in your debate. Let’s face it, debating a controversial viewpoint is exciting, isn’t it? It likely leads to more debate, too, filling your Followers’ stream even more with flotsam and jetsam (in their eyes). And more. And more. And more. And more. And more. And more. And more. And more. (Tedious, isn’t this?) And more. And more. And more. (Get the point?) And more. And more. And more. And more.

I believe that Twitter is a fine place to have conversation and have now been doing it for almost four years. (Yes, I’m a late-comer.) But as I recently posted in my own Twitter stream, I do feel very strongly that some discussions are far bigger than Twitter accommodates. Truncating your specific opinion down to 140 characters frequently leads to unintended interpretation, inflaming discussion and causing even MORE tweets to further explain your point. Add to that tweet count the people you are debating and it gets a unwieldy pretty quickly.

Allow me to give you two alternative options:

  • Why not state your opinion in a blog post and link it to your Twitter stream with a brief statement of your stance. People will then flock to your site to debate or agree with you in the comments. And who doesn’t love that? You and your fellow debaters will have more space to clearly state their points, and an understandable discussion can take place. Plus, your site stats will go up. Win-Win!
  • If you have a really hot debate going, why not take it to email or Google wave (Wave’s still around, right?)?

Either step will go far in maintaining good will with your followers, in my humble opinion. My finger gets mighty twitchy over the Unfollow button, and this is one of the main reasons.

Don’t have a blog? Create one! It’s easy as pie to do, and who doesn’t like pie? And you clearly have a lot to say, so why not create your own place to say it. Besides, these debates are lost in the Twitter timeline almost immediately. Create your own blog and you have it forever. And it’s pretty damned interesting looking over your blog a year later to see what you’ve written.

Now, this next suggestion may incite a few folks, but this is my space and my opinion and it’s not one that I alone hold. (Especially those of us that do not enjoy passionate political or religious debates in public venues.)

Realize that, for nearly every person you will ever meet, most views are held so personally that a Twitter or Facebook debate won’t change anyone’s opinion. Especially something like the recent Arizona shootings which sparked passionate debates with primarily political facets. You may be right, eloquent and impossible to disprove, and you still won’t change most people’s opinions.

Like most Twitter users, there are people that I Follow that are real world friends or acquaintances and there are people that I Follow that I’ve never met. In the case of the latter, it’s entirely likely that I’ll Unfollow them if they repeatedly debate and fill my Twitter stream to the point that I struggle to keep up with actual friends’ lives. And in the case of the former, I have (on very rare occasion) Unfollowed. It takes a lot for me to Unfollow an actual friend, but I have done it. After all, people can be very different in Twitter than they are in real life and it shouldn’t destroy friendship if you aren’t compatible in one or the other. At least in my humble opinion.

More often, I remove them from my Tweetdeck column so I can skip their debate until it’s over. Sometimes I remember to add them back, sometimes I don’t. A lot of folks very quietly use this sort of filtering in Twitter and in Facebook, as it’s less contentious than outright Unfollowing or Unfriending someone.

For those passionate debaters, you may not care if you are filtered out or Unfollowed, and I say more power to you! I just thought you should know the possible reason if your Follower count is lower after a lengthy and contentious debate.

Flame on!

6 replies on “Are Lengthy Twitter Debates Costing You Followers?”

I completely agree with you on all points. There are definitely folks I’ve unfollowed because of a stupid argument (not involving me) or spam (dozen+tweets in a row) tweets.

Though, if someone @ responds to a certain person not on your list you don’t see that, right? I personally try to do that specifically as to keep spam on others’ tweetdecks or aggregator of choice clear of clutter.

Thanks for another clear and well-written post!


You are correct, if you do not follow the person being @ed, you won’t see the tweet. Unless they .@ the person, which makes it viewable to all that follow them. I see this frequently during the long debates, sadly. And I find that a lot of those that I follow debate amongst themselves. Again, whatever floats your Twitter boat! But I don’t have to be on board if it becomes cumbersome. Riiiiight?

And thank you for the read and the comment!

While I agree with much of what you’ve said I’ll be honest and say it’s not often that I follow a link provided in a person’s tweet. It depends on a combination of the person tweeting and the number of times common followers retweet.

Also, I’ve seen many cases where someone’s offered up their full position in a blog yet the discussion still returns to twitter because so few feel like offering their comments in the darn blog. I think it’s because people fear the permanence of leaving a comment in a blog.

On twitter you can have your say today and *poof* your words have vanished downstream, lost in the noise that is twitter’s past. Sure, if someone really wanted to they could search for your contribution to a debate but I feel that’s not likely especially if there isn’t a Hashtag to make searching a tiny bit easier.

Perhaps if more of us make an effort to follow your great suggestions things will change. I for one am willing to give it a shot.

I’m the same way and only follow links for things that I’m very interested in learning more about, either the blogger or the subject. The folks that enter the long debates seem to be willing to follow the links, as they frequently link to and comment on others’ links. Or so it seems to me.

And your point about comments in Twitter are valid as well. It saddens me when folks do this, because I truly enjoy having the comments kept where I can find them. Oftentimes something is said that I want to refer back to, but I can’t find it in Twitter after months have passed by. I’ve been told by one reader that there is suspicion as to what the email information will be used for, and an unwillingness to enter it here. That is a very valid point, and my only response is that it is needed to prevent spam posts and that I will never use the email address for any reason. And certainly never to generate spam for someone considerate enough to comment on a post here.

Thanks for the read and the honest comment!

Right there with ya. Twitter debates or “chats” drive me crazy. It’s too bad that more clients (especially mobile) haven’t implemented global filters yet. Lists are nice, but there are some big drawbacks.

I miss a lot of peoples tweets that I would like to see because of lists, but there just isn’t enough time in the day to sift through some times.

IC: Viv mentioned it, but it seems like it might not be clear. If you @ somebody and I also follow that person, then I’ll see your response. Some people do enable an option to see all @s regardless of follow status, but it’s not the default.

I got to agree with you even though I have been involved and inadvertently started some of those debates. For me, if it takes more then 140 to post my point, I say, this is too big for twitter. Sadly not everyone understands that (I’ve seen some debates where people will post 5 tweets each time there is a back and forth) because I have found for some people, twitter is for debating. Some people only debate on twitter and have very little else to tweet.

I myself can back and forth, but if it goes on more then three rounds it’s not for twitter.

As for Google Wave, it is only still up so people can download zip files of the old wave conversations, wave is dead.

I like the bloog idea, and I think longer pieces should be put on blogs, that’s perfectly blogworthy.

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