twitter.com/felch and the knee-jerk action of reciprocal "friend adding" - are people just looking for "friends"?
Yesterday I received the standard email that Twitter users get telling me that someone named "felch" had added me as a friend and indicating that I could follow the link http://twitter.com/felch (now dead but worked yesterday) to add the person back as a friend. Not having a clue who it was, I naturally followed the link and, as I twittered, found that this person had added 7812 friends! Huh? Why would you do this? How could you realistically follow updates from some 8000 people?
I became a bit more suspicious because there was no personal information there about whoever "felch" was and there were only 4 updates with one or two words that were basically trivial or meaningless. Unable to see any reason whatsoever to add this person as a "friend" so that I would wind up following their updates, I didn't add them...
But at least 929 people did!
That's the number of "followers" the account had when I noted it yesterday. I have no idea how many followers the account ultimately had. I was hoping to catch a screenshot to include here, but that account is no longer there... either removed by Twitter admins or, I suppose, removed by the person who created it. (My bet is on the admins, but you never know.) Why did someone do it? Was it an experiment to test how many people would blindly add friends? Was there some other SEO purpose? Or was someone just bored and looking for something to play around with?
And what about those 900 people - why did they just add someone who: a) they did not know; b) provided no information about themself; and c) seemed to have nothing to offer so far?
Now I suppose I should put it in perspective... at the time I noticed, 6,883 Twitter users had not added "felch" to their friend list. Of course some may not have yet seen the email and perhaps did later. But if we take those numbers as they were, it amounts to about 12% of the people "felch" added doing a reciprocal add of "felch". So the vast majority did not (at the time I noticed)... but 12% did.
Is it because of the natural sense of reciprocity? (i.e. if you are so kind as to be a follower of me then I should be a follower of you) Is it because people are still experimenting with Twitter and so are just adding people who add them? Is it because people saw no harm in adding someone else to the list of people they follow? Is it perhaps because it was very obvious that "felch" was new to Twitter and so there was an assumption that he/she might soon start posting real information? Is is because people just want to have more "friends"? Why?
For my part, I only have a limited amount of "attention" that I can give to things and with so may things clamoring for my attention I am very picky about the amount of "attention clutter" around me. If you look at my twitter page, there is an assymetry of attention there... I currently follow 59 people and (for whatever reason) have 93 followers. For some reason, I didn't add 34 people. Now it could be that the email telling me they added me is still in my queue. It may be that I went to their page, found that I don't know them, and just didn't seen any updates of interest to merit adding them at that time. It may be that when the email came I was just grumpy and not feeling like adding anyone. I don't know.
What I do know is that I hardly have time to scan all the other information coming at me in so many ways. If anything, I am constantly trying to reduce and streamline my information flows to make them more efficient and useful. So before I do something that is going go take away some attention, such as adding a Twitter friend or adding a RSS feed to my reader, I do give it some thought. Is it really going to help/amuse/inform me? Or do I know the person?
But it would seem that some percentage of people just click "add" when offered Twitter friendship. Why?