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.