Social Media : Quality v. Quantity

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest, Klout–your “popularity” is measured in many ways, but largely in how many people follow you and how many you follow. Not how good the relationship is, not how many people de-friend you half an hour after you accepted their request, but quantity.

Unfollowing is fine. Image from

Klout is interested in how much you post and how many people re-post. And we take the bait. We want to be popular. We want to be recognized–Klout has pure genius behind it. In ways they will not tell you, but will gather lots of information about you, they create a number and then tell you how you can make it higher. I’ve gotten more Klout requests from people I don’t know than I have from any other social media. We are hungry for popularity.

It’s easy to mistake quantity for quality, but the essential difference lies in connection. In relationships. In being with people around whom you can be authentic and be accepted, not for whom you have to act in ways that allow you to be approved.

How do you find those people you want to build a relationship with? Easier than you think. First of all, think quality–what these people offer to others. Would you bring someone into your house who trashes people in public? Who does nothing but market his/her product or service? For whom conversation is them-to-you only, never you-to-them?  Don’t follow them either. Even if they have 30,000 followers.  They can’t keep up with all of them; most likely you aren’t The One.

Other suggestions:

1. Before you follow back on Twitter, read the person’s bio and home page. The bio should be specific, not just cute. If the home page is loaded with mindless photos, requests for RTs, updates of their locations from 4Square, give them a pass. What will you learn, contribute to, or relate to from this person? A whole page is a good cross-section of their character for the day.

2. Check your values. I’m not talking about honesty, ethics, and courage, because they are easy to disguise or hide. I’m talking about characteristics that are important to you–comfortable shoes, spicy food, ability to listen to you rant without fixing. Those values are what you are looking for in a relationship, even online. Does the person’s posts express this?

If you follow someone and they immediately direct or private message you with a marketing offer, un-friend them. For them, you are a way to make money, not build a relationship.

3. On Facebook, the check is similar. A lot of those “Blah, blah, I know only 3% of you will have the guts to share this, but if you do. . . ” mean low content value, high popularity need.  A lot of links to  their Etsy sites and nothing else is a pass. People who never comment on your posts–is this a relationship? People who say they are thinning their FB friends and you should leave one word about them and then re-post, and then they will . . . .sigh. I un-friend them without a guilty thought.

So how do you find people you want to follow? Look at the friends of your friends. Look up authors you like of books you’ve read. If you read blogs, look at the blogroll. (Although a lot of blogs don’t have them anymore). But before you decide on anyone, read what they post. We are what we post.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who keeps an art journal.


18 thoughts on “Social Media : Quality v. Quantity

  1. I liked the comment about hiding stuff–I have been doing that from day one with someone whose art I enjoy and her personal postings but her politics are like fingernails on a blackboard to me. I hide her stuff all the time! FB has been handy to share pictures with my far flung family and bits of news that are easier to dispense than a group email.
    I’ve not seen any need for the other social media though I’m considering a blog so I have a way to publish my artwork when I finish a nice piece.

  2. Just to play devil’s advocate for a minute — social media are not the same as friendships, and don’t work the same way. You care about your friends, and each of them can command some of your time. Social media is not like that, and doesn’t really try to be. It’s just an unfortunate accident that the word “friend” is reused. Social media nodes can’t command any of your time, and there’s no underlying assumption of caring. You are in control.

    There are a lot of ways to use social media, and one way is based on quantity. One example: if you follow thousands of people on Twitter, and use some of the pretty interesting tools out there, you can get much more of a real time sense of what a large group is thinking about and trending toward and away from. This is a truly new thing in the world; nobody EVER has had this new kind of sense available at their command.

    You don’t have to choose between friends and “friends” any more than you have to choose between paper and computers. Maybe social media is about something different than meeting people physically. Not exclusive, not in competition, but different. Not relationships. Something else that we haven’t invented vocabulary for yet.

    There’s a comedian who recounts airline passenger complaints, saying “you get to sit in a magic chair in the sky, and here you are complaining about the sandwich you’re served there…”

    • I agree with you completely. Well, except for one thing. When I look at Twitter, I see a lot of “Good morning, Twitterverse!”
      and “How is your Monday going so far?” Those are not questions on trends. These are people who think that their relationships are real. When I once said that people on Twitter were not real friends, I was swamped with emails for two days, with stories of how their BFF is just like family, and on Twitter.

      Part II: There is #TEAMFOLLOWBACK on Twitter, and it’s about quantity for them. I’ve found Twitter to be really useful by reading through the people I follow, but because I screen out people who use 4Square to tell me they are the mayor of the water cooler, I think I get better results. Just me.

  3. 1) Oops! I don´t even have a bio in Twitter. Double oops because I don´t even have a tweet on Twitter!
    2) My life and art are clear and open in my posts.
    3) I keep my friends´ number low so I can actually read what they say. I´m not one to send many requests (I was raised with the “you are NOT to bother people”).
    I update my sidebar blogroll every six months and keep my reader under 67 suscriptions. If I want new ones over that, some have to go.
    I follow links. And sometimes links of the blogger whose blog I just found by a link. I open a lot of tabs and bookmark those that seem cool . After a while of consistent content I may follow or bookmark for good.
    On a different topic but blog related, I´m considering opening a blog in Spanish and I´m working out if it needs to be/should be/might be in the same account of my English one or an independent one. A lot of reflection on bilinguism is taking place. 🙂

    • So, I have two questions–why you use the number 67 for subscriptions. Random? Lucky number. And then, just to give you an opinion you didn’t ask for, I’d love to see Spanish next to English. I’m struggling to learn Spanish and easy access to the English on would be wonderful. But it’s just me.

      • 50 were too few, 100 were too many. I needed something in between. And 67 is my birth year. 😀
        About the Spanish /English one my main concern was privacy. I have a ton of the kids pictures with their uniforms in previous years (I´m getting better at leaving the name out). Also my home. It´s unlikely someone across the world would show up at my door, but someone in the same neighbourhood …

  4. As usual Quinn, you are right on–I deliberately don’t Tweet or Pin but am selective about which of my hundreds of Facebook friends I follow–it is easier to “hide” the game players and sellers and look them up when “I” want to.

  5. Quinn, since i regard you as a “qualtiy” friend on the interwebs and read everything you send out, I am replying to let you know the masses are out there, and they may not always comment, but like me read and usually agree with all that you put out there! Keep up the good work…

  6. Well put, Quinn. For me, it’s called “diluting the brand.” I noticed it most recently on LinkedIn, which to me is a marketing tool to find work and legitimize my professional presence. People seem to use it as a social medium, which is totally annoying, especially when they feel the need to post every twenty minutes.

    • LinkedIn was never meant to be social media is that sense, but now, since I got an invitation from them to try out “People You Might Know” –a direct rip off from FB, I think they are diluting their own brand.

  7. I’m with Caroline. I’d much rather read an interesting blog than search through scads and scads of pictures and ideas on Pinterest for instance. I just don’t have the time or inclination to fall into that never ending pit of “inspiration.” I also don’t “get” Twitter. Another real waste of time in my opinion. I do have a Facebook account and use it to keep up with my “real” friends, their families, my coworkers and to post and view pictures of family, friends, or my art sometimes.

  8. This little dinosaur prefers blogs to social media. The blogs I follow are varied and have one thing in common; the authors have something to say, and its well worth reading! They amuse, educate, inspire and sometimes upset me, which is all good because it makes me think and makes sure I don’t get too set in my ways and thinking. I do check the blog roll of the people I follow in order to find other interesting blogs, and have come across some gems that way.
    My brief flirtations with FB and Twitter, and the onslaught of garbage that followed, taught me that while I might have mellowed with age, I still don’t suffer fools gladly. Social media is best left to those who enjoy what it has to offer, while I remain happily grumpy at not having to be BFF with someone I have never met and am never likely to. To each our own; its variety that keeps the world going around, not popularity contests.

    • The popularity race has been on for a long time, it’s not surprising it surfaced in social media. I do like FB and Twitter–but I am realistic that these people are not my “real” friends, and I don’t expect them to be.

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