Twitter is a great social networking tool for sharing with friends old and new. But with any social media phenomenon, there is a culture attached to it that can be borderline excessive.
Many people have started using auto-follow software to automatically follow any Twitter user who follows them, whether it is a real person or a bot. Other tactics include setting up alerts via various Twitter API-based clients for keywords and automatically following people who mention certain keywords in their tweets. These users are more concerned with follower counts than the quality of the people they follow.
Kyle Judkins at Up Your Social would call me an elitist Twitter user – I don’t follow just anyone and I try to follow people who I feel are important and add value to my stream. Following hundreds or thousands of people is difficult, if not unmanageable. That’s why I believe software like TweetDeck is so popular – people can make categories with the people they really want to listen to/read and categories for those who they are following for the sake of following (and subsequently ignore them).
Does this practice make Twitter a more helpful or engaging social tool? I don’t think so. If anything, the vast majority of tweets are simply lost in cyberspace, with few people reading and replying to them. The practice of following people just to follow them hurts the development of real, valuable and sustainable social interaction between Twitter users online and offline.