I spent serval hours today manually combing through everyone I followed on Twitter. I was following over 10,000 accounts. As I do not use the algorithm view “For You” tab, my feed was getting a bit out of hand. I knew something had to be done.
As Elonbucks (monetization for account with over one million impressions a month) have rolled out, it’s become harder to make sense of anyone’s feed. All the incentives for status and wit have been distorted by rage clicks and engagement bait. Everyone is competing to game the algorithm for maximum reach now.
I have fought the algorithms. I prefer to browse in chronological order. But as I follow all kinds of accounts the sheer volume was too much.
I don’t follow only people I like. I wouldn’t call it “hate following” but I keep an eye on unsavory types. When you combine the engagement bait with the exodus of professional and media accounts, you get a timeline that is tilted to scheming and grifting.
The confluence of factors means anything timely like breaking news is impossible to find. My capacity to extract sense or narrative from the platform has degraded to the point where I’m at the mercy of discourse.
So I started to unfollow. I began the day a hundred or so accounts over 10K. At the end? I got it down to 5,600 or so.
I followed a few simple heuristics. If I didn’t recognize your name and you didn’t follow me back it was an automatic unfollow. If I did recognize your name but I couldn’t remember the last time you interacted with me I also unfollowed.
The only exceptions to that were if you were a journalist I followed for news or a venture fund or LP I follow for work. I don’t expect random journalists who don’t know me or funds outside of my space to chat with me.
At first, my unfollows were a lot of anonymous and avatar accounts. I am active in TPOT and degen crypto which both have a culture of anonymity, so some of the accounts enjoyable.
But as I went further, I found a veritable deluge of NFT accounts I regretted following. 2021 Julie was far too forgiving of NFT content for 2023 Julie’s tastes.
Because Twitter shows you who you followed chronologically, it was a bit like an archeological dig of my last decade on Twitter. I could see when I moved to Colorado. I could see when I was in Lower Manhattan. I unfollowed road condition, weather and emergency service accounts I did not need. Ditto local politicians.
I easily could see when I’m moved to Montana with a huge swathe of local news, local service, and local businesses all lined up chronologically to show we’d arrived in Gallatin County outside of Bozeman. I kept most of those except the local socialist club.
As I dug, I found myself with plenty of people to unfollow. A shockingly large number of women had simply left the platform.
At first I thought they had just unfollowed me for being annoying (and I’m sure many did) but I kept encountering profiles that had tweets deleted and notes saying they were abandoned. Some were men, but it was dramatically more common with women and queer accounts.
I also noticed as I got to around the 2016 layers that my gender balance went from being 80% men to 20% women to being 50/50 as we traveled to the “Before Times” prior to the Great Weirding.
There was clearly a time on Twitter before Trump and the Resistance and the Pandemic had made the platform worthy of the nickname This Hellsite.
And that time had a lot more women on the website. There were marketing and PR chicks, Girlbosses, and mommy bloggers. All gone. That made me sad.
The most enjoyable part was seeing pleasant memories like when everyone was absolutely all in on Ted Lasso.
I also found evidence of many weird interests and hobbies. Like the time I got obsessed with algae. I didn’t figure I needed to keep a bunch of trade accounts and niche biology journals in my follow list.
It was also fun to see when I first followed my husband. I recalled it as his account was surrounded by a bunch of fitness influencers. It’s a long story involving Airbnb, a power lifting friend in from out of town and rent arbitrage
I also noticed that many of the venture capitalists I’d followed early in my career who I never imagined following were in fact all now following me. It was clear that over a decade I have gone from upstart founder to respectable (ish) member of the startup ecosystem. People I once viewed as aspirational were now people who treated me as a peer.
I’ve got no idea if this massive unfollowing will help my Twitter feed but I hope it will. And if I unfollowed you it was probably an accident. I was rapid fire unfollowing and scrolling and I had to go back to refollow folks when Twitter would get out of sync. But I’m sure I missed a lot. So please don’t hesitate to remind me to follow you back if I made a mistake.