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An old stamp collection.

Image by DigitalTribes via Flickr

I’m not sure what to think of this new race to see who gets a million followers first.  On the one hand, it seems like some strange popularity contest, where we’re all supposed to run like lemmings and “follow” after a celeb to give him/her more validation and status in the eyes of their peers.  Or maybe it’s simply to stroke their ego?  I don’t know, but it feels a bit awkward for me.

On the other hand, I’ve read that Ashton Kutcher is going to buy 10,000 mosquito bed nets if he beats CNN to a million followers and CNN said they’d match that if they reach a million followers before him.  I applaud them for their charitable actions, but just wish they would have stated that *before* they went on this race to collect followers, rather than afterwards.  But hey, I shouldn’t criticize – at least they’re doing something good.

Given this race to collect mega-followers just for the sake of the numbers, I’m re-examining if I understand what Twitter is all about.

I thought Twitter was about the ability to talk to others in a two- or multi-way conversation, without the barriers of status, physicality, situation or velvet ropes.  Twitter leveled the playing field so any one of us could “@ reply” somebody else – whether they were Ashton Kutcher, Neil Diamond, or the latest person coming on supposedly tomorrow, Oprah Winfrey.  This notion of collecting “followers” as a status symbol doesn’t feel right.  I like Robert Scoble‘s approach – he follows almost everyone that follows him and actively responds to everyone – not just celebs, but even those with a single follower. It probably takes a lot of time for him, but it seems quite genuine and warm.

Connecting with people on the internet, even if only for 140 characters at time, can feed into us in many positive ways.  I’ve met many interesting people through Twitter and enjoy these new relationships; plus I now even rely on Twitter for my daily news.  I hope Twitter remains the place where serendipitous conversations can happen – and not the place where we can collect people like we can collect stamps.