To follow or not to follow: That is the question…

Six months ago I opened my Twitter account. Doubtful at first, I now find it exciting and interesting. I am a fan. I see so many advantages: Reading news from different sources in a single site, getting direct answers from public figures (e.g. politicians, artists), participating in debates about controversial issues, and more. I follow newspapers, reporters, politicians, government institutions, universities, NGOs, and some individuals whose ideas I respect. I use Twitter as a great source of information. However, I’ve encountered a problem…

I used to be a teacher at a university in Mexico. Recently some students have begun following me in Twitter, and I can’t help but wonder… Should I follow back? I am pretty sure that most of them expect me to do so. It is polite, isn’t it? I do follow some of them, the ones who share articles and insightful ideas. But others tweet about trivial things. I am not really interested in the number of cups of coffee they drink (e.g. “Second cup of coffee today… I love coffee.”), or in their perception of the temperature (e.g. “It’s so cold!! I’m freezing”). Should I follow them as well?

For students who are new to Twitter, being followed can potentially encourage them to become more active and more interesting Twitter users. As their former teacher, I am attracted to that idea. As a person with limited time to spend browsing over information in Twitter, I don’t really like the idea of having my Twitter full of trivial tweets.

I am afraid I don’t really know the way out of this dilemma. I have to admit that when students directly ask me to follow them, I explain them why I don’t want to (e.g. “I don’t really care enough about soccer to like the idea of having a whole match narrated, minute after minute”), but I do follow them… I can’t help it. It feels too impolite not to do it. To follow or not to follow: That is a question hard to answer.

– Brenda Padilla

Leave a comment


  1. You could put the students in a list. That way you can follow the list separately from your main feed and still see interesting tweets from the students that are sharing interesting content, whilst not having to trawl through loads of stuff you’re not interested in on your regular stream.

  2. Brenda Padilla

     /  January 24, 2011

    That’s an interesting idea! Thanks! I also have to admit that I’ve had over 200 students. Sometimes it’s hard to know who has been my student and who hasn’t!

  3. bdra

     /  January 24, 2011

    When you become a long-standing academic with many significant publications, you won’t be able to follow everyone who follows you. So you may as well start not following people now…

  4. jobadge

     /  January 25, 2011

    I wouldn’t worry, I don’t expect anyone I follow to follow me back. There is a reason that twitter was set up in this way 😉

  5. Brenda: just be a bit rude and start unfollowing. Will make life easier.


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