What I learned by unfollowing everyone on Twitter

During a Twitter conversation this past week, I was asked why bother following people who we disagree with. While the social media platform has gained a reputation as an environment with bullying and negativity, and for good reason, it has allowed so many people to connect through conversations.

I’ve been an active Twitter user since 2009. When I first joined, it was such a cool experience to connect with other members of the agriculture community from across the globe. I could have a conversation with farmers in the Midwest and Australia to learn what they were doing that day. I could even tweet my favorite Texas Country music artists and they’d reply!

@JPlovesCotton was one of the first people I met IRL (In Real Life) after connecting on Twitter. I connected with @DairyCarrie, who is now one of my absolute best friends and chosen family. Hell, there was even a day when #moo trended in support of farmers, and the community across the platform celebrated.

After more than a decade of social media, these conversations seem like a fabric of our daily lives. We turn to Facebook for updates on family members who live down the road or a few states away. Instagram has become a place to curate photos and videos of our favorite memories. And TikTok is where we’re turning for entertaining videos.

Twitter remains a place for great conversations – albeit with much larger audiences.

Hitting Reset on Twitter

This past winter, I decided to hit reset on who I allowed to consume my time. Much like I rewrote my brand a few years ago, I realized that if I was going to branch outside my ag bubble, I needed to be intentional about who I was following and interacting with. If I only follow like-minded people, those are the only perspectives I will see and engage with.

One morning, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter. More than a decade of accounts that ranged from now-inactive users, farmers I connected with in the earlier days, a multitude of brands and marketers, and a laundry list of antagonists (often others in the agriculture community) who continued to draw me into negative conversations that I was beginning to resent.

To rebuild my following list, I knew I wanted to reconnect with true friends in agriculture, but I also wanted to ensure I was following people outside my ag bubble. I was once told to “follow people who you want to follow you.” So, I looked to other areas of interest where I can connect with people. Running. Travel. Weather. Food.

I began following voices I admired in the running community, voices who make me think, and those who inspire others to be better people. Then I turned to travel and weather. And finally, my ag circle.

Rebuilding for Better Twitter Conversations

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly rebuilt an intentional audience of people who want to interact and have a constructive conversation. This has included people who have different viewpoints and perspectives to help me better understand others outside my inner circles. And I’ve learned from those conversations.

I’ve purposely omitted news outlets and brand marketing accounts who do not help me reach these goals. I use lists to keep track of news and journalist accounts, but they no longer clog my feed with polarizing and sensational headlines.

As a result, I’ve found Twitter to be a much more enjoyable place, much like the earlier days of the platform where we can have actual conversations and celebrate the accomplishments of others.

To those who diss social media as a toxic environment, I want to remind you that you have control over what you see and who demands your attention. Take a moment to hit reset and be intentional about who you follow and how that helps you reach your goals – whether that is to be informed, entertained or inspired.

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Ryan Goodman works in grassroots advocacy with beef cattle farmers and ranchers across the United States. He is a proud alumnus of Oklahoma State University, with studies focusing on cattle reproduction and nutrition. Ryans
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