We see a retweet that we like the content of and, naturally, we follow the author. In this way our timeline fills up with stuff that we like.
Occasionally someone we’re following will tweet something that we don’t like or disagree with so we unfollow them. In this way our timeline is continually being tweaked and cleansed.
There are Darwinian principles at work here. Only the fittest tweeters survive our (unnatural) selection process but, crucially, ours is a kind of reverse evolution which favours homogeny rather than diversity.
We’ve ended up with a timeline which is really just our own opinions played back to us. We are following ourselves. When we look at Twitter we are just staring in the mirror.
“So what?” I hear you ask.
It’s only natural that we select a list of people and organisations to follow whose views closely resemble our own. That’s fine – but the risk is that we end up with a Twitter that tells us that the world shares our own opinions – that everything is OK and that there’s nothing to worry about.
Healthier, I think, to follow at least a few people from the right if you personally lean left – and vice versa. Similarly, if you distrust the public sector – follow a few of the best Government tweeters.
By listening to as broad a cross section of the marvellous Twitter zoo as possible we can learn more, be more open minded, and be better are what we do. Or to put it somewhat more cynically – know your enemy.
Otherwise we’re just staring at ourselves in the mirror which, as a pass-time, is about as unproductive as it gets.