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Less is More

Less  is More

I did it! I finally deleted over 200 PEOPLE ON TWITTER!

*hold for applause*


What? You aren’t impressed? What if I told you that I wasn’t actually communicating with those 200 people, hadn’t met them in person, and I was communicating with them because Twitter told me they were a good match. I had started following them in hopes of broadening my reach online reach and expanding my global PLN. In this short entry, I’m going to advocate for something that’s a bit counterintuitive and tell you why less is more.

This post is inspired by my COETAIL course which provocatively asks us whether we are online lurkers who don’t engage in discussions, or are we creators who connect by being active?

Clearly we aim to be the latter. But the road to being a connected creator is a little more nuanced than run out there and start posting without something meaningful to add to conversations.

I believe we need to adjust our mentalities. Today, young people believe that success is having a large amount of followers. The other day, I heard a student telling another “congratulations on 100 followers!” It’s a milestone! It got me to thinking– are adults similar? Checking to see how many “likes” we get on a vacation picture? Do we look at profiles on Twitter at conferences and judge someone based on how many followers they have? Yes and yes. We aspire to be aspirational; we long to be loved; we fake it until we’re famous!

God I love alliteration.

Ok, this is a post about connecting and lurking, right? Well, here’s your big pay off that you’ve been waiting for. My point!

What if we have fewer connections. And those fewer connections are maintained, regular, and frequent? Rather than all of us aiming to be the next Gladwellian connector, we can be a good coworker? Friend? Partner? Teacher who knows his/her students well?

What if we focused on the quality of relationships rather than the sheer number of followers and fans? What if we asked ourselves on how we can connect with one another using technology in ways we couldn’t before? Tech should enhance what I would say most people already value: deep and meaningful relationships.

Ok, so not a revolutionary idea here, Alex. What are you really trying to say?

Well, now comes the fun part. If you’re buying what I’m selling here, then perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at your social media and ask– out of the people that I follow, how many of them do I regularly interact with? Could I do a better job at building my relationship with people before I start following them?

You can also ask yourself, how can I better build relationships with people in face-to-face situations? Can I be less distracted with my devices? Can I be more empathetic? Can I show more gratitude?

Look long and hard at your own ethics. What do you believe a good relationship looks like and how does social media help you to enhance them? Are you modeling these ethics?

But first step is first. Delete.


  • […] Now, everything is changing and it’s also challenging myself. I’m coming out of my comfort zone. I will begin to share my thoughts….. even this blog! Sometime back, an administrator told me that I’m a silent worker. That, I didn’t go around the place showing off what we are doing. I always believe that it’s not my style but I was wrong. Social media can be an open door for content (if we know how to find what we need) to grow as professionals or to share experiences. As well as, a mass of connections but are all of them meaningful?. I like Alex Macmillan post about Tweeter and his reflexion about connections […]

    • I wonder if schools value extroversion; you might be right, social media can help introverts connect with one another.

  • Very interesting post Alex! It has certainly made me think about what I value in my online PLN. I agree that we should work hard to maintain a set of strong connections, those deep meaningful relationships you mentioned. These are important for our happiness, wellbeing and if we pick them well, our professional growth too. For me, these are mostly my friends, my colleagues, and to some extent the connections I have made at conferences or workshops I’ve attended. However, I also believe that there is huge value in having a bigger network of less “meaningful” relationships, particularly from a professional standpoint. Twitter and my other extended parts of my PLN are a place that I go to be inspired, find new ideas, read articles that challenge my thinking, and engage with (or lurk around) people who are passionate about what they’re doing. If I limited myself to only the people who I have been able to establish strong connections or relationships with, it would significantly decrease my pool of inspiration. I would also feel at risk of being stuck in a “silo” where there was no challenging of ideas, or outside influence for radical new thoughts. For me, having a wider range of more minor connections in my network is how I try to mitigate this siloing, and continue to find new perspectives on education.

    • Yes, I think that’s more or less how I use Twitter as well. It’s a grab-bag of many voices. To be honest, it’s off putting because it’s so overwhelming. I found that I would get lost in it often and skim a few of the recent tweets. This led me to lurking more often.

      I also agree with you– if we have a wide network, we can escape artificial & academic bubbles. I suppose what I would like to pose in this post is this question: are you valuing breadth or depth? They both have their merits, so perhaps you can consider your priority when you want to engage with others and stop lurking.

  • Tanya LeClair -

    These are some very important questions to ask ourselves when venturing into any PLN. Thanks for your thoughtful post Alex. I would have to say that I agree with both you and Mike in that I find value in small and meaningful groups but also in the larger community I have developed within my Twitter PLN. It’s something that has evolved for me. People that just started as random connections have developed into close friends. I also find that having a large pool of “followers” allows me to see diverse perspectives and source ideas. It’s become a sort of curated search engine of idea generators that I am always tweeking. Twitter in particular also has great tools for making smaller lists within your larger community, allowing you to manage what you see. As long as we are asking ourselves if it adds value personally/professionally than any version of ones social media is worth having.

    • Thanks, Tanya. There are definitely benefits to having a super wide social network. But as you said, there is also a benefit to maintaining perhaps a core group in a curated list.

      At the end of the day, as long as it’s meaningful for you, or as long as you can make meaning out of it all, in the words of Captain Picard and… engage!

  • Thank you for this reflective post, Alex! I, too, have had bouts where I go through my following list and unfollow people. I used to follow almost everyone who followed me. I’ve stopped that in recent years. I think it’s partly because I’m not as active and don’t want to take the time to check out everyone’s profile (which is what I was doing before), but also because I’ve started caring less about the numbers. I’m probably missing out on some great connections. But how many connections can I actually maintain to the level that I want to? It’s definitely something I want to continue to contemplate – finding the balance between connecting meaningfully & connecting numbly.

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