On Facebook, you have reciprocal relations with all of your linked friends. You might have more common interests, and less flammery material. In addition, under the new design, you effectively unsubscribe from a flammy friend’s updates – without sacrificing your friend connection.

Twitter was a bit innovative in tossing out reciprocity. You can follow people without them following you. Oddly, Twitter has never straightened out the terms for this. The inverse of follower is given as a following, which doesn’t quite sound right: there is no plural. Hubspot’s State of the Twittersphere Q4 2008 reveals that 88% of people have less than 100 “Number Following.” This is linguistically confounding, since it easily can be confused for “Number of Followers.” I would humbly suggest “fave” and use it here. You have followers, and you have faves (people you follow). If you have a reciprocal relationship, it can be described as a friend in the Facebook sense.

Therefore, flam can just as well stand for “Faves’ Lovingly Annoying Messages.” Each status has meaning to the sender, but not to ever reader. The updates from a fave in an airport are meaningless to most followers, unless you are in the destination city as the traveler and would like to meet him or her (I have joked that someone should assemble a compilation book titled Idlewild: Bloggers and twitter users passing the time at airports.)

If been wondering about the “following” terminology issues as well at times, and would suggest “Followee” rather than “Fave” as a replacement, as the latter would overlap with the “Favorite” function in Twitter (which, if had been done right, would actually be used by Tweeps instead of the spontaneously emerging Retweet – RT).

Then again, “Followee” is only one letter away from “Follower”, and the two letters are even next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard.

Twitter further confuses things by calling your Home Page RSS stream “with friends”, which is really your tweets plus those of people you are following! Friends would normally be interpreted as only those users with which you have a mutual follow “friendship”.

Solution? Not sure, and maybe none is needed. Though it can at times be awkward to talk about Twitter Followee/Follower issues in ways that are clear to everybody.

Advertisements