Beware the follower

I guess you’re all on social media. It’s a given these days that we spend a lot of our time online (remember those blissful days, way back when the internet was limited to scientists and nerds?).

It’s nice to follow people, and it’s even better if they follow back. It gets the conversation flowing.

But what about those that follow you? They look friendly, interesting, good for business, or all three. Sometimes you follow them and immediately start talking… but there are others that are on the periphery. They aren’t among your regular crowd of cyber-friends. You follow them back thinking that you’ll catch their tweets at some point and they look interesting enough to pique interest. Then they fall off the radar.

You can go for days, weeks and even months without seeing them again. It’s the time difference you tell yourself… they’re too busy to tweet… you just keep missing them. Or do you?

Are they really who they say they are?

MazeNow, there is a lot floating around about cyberpeople not being who they seem. Beware your “friends”… that quite interesting professional with an interesting biog, may actually be a 15 year old student who just wants to troll people… and may get you eventually. I got caught out early on in the days of Twitter when a group of us got together… some met in real-life, some never did, but we were all who we said we were (well… as far as I’m aware). One of my regrets is not making the get together in London that everyone had… apparently a swell time was had by all and a lot of friendships were made (well… what do you expect from a bunch of Stephen Fry devotees who had a liking for drinking Spamtini’s during midnight quizzes?), and we have mostly all kept in touch as Twitter grew bigger and moved from a smallish bunch to a gazillion users.

But I’m getting away from the point. At one of our online get-togethers a few of us started talking to a young lass who seemed genuine enough. Until things started to get weird. I won’t go into details but a few of us were taken in, to the point that the authorities were nearly called when the “girl” started to get suicidal. Creepy troll 1, normal people 0.

That’s all very well… you live and learn and try not to be taken in again. But what about those “fall off the radar” followers that you are following? Let’s get back to them shall we?

Have you noticed that sometimes your friends change their, for example, Twitter name? Some people are terrible for it and change their names more often than they change their socks. Sometimes it can get so bad that you want to slap them with a wet haddock and say “stop it, sometimes I don’t know who you are anymore!”

Now, imagine that it’s not your friends who are changing their names, but the people you are following? Do you still know who they are?

The more people you are following, the more difficult it can be to spot. Until one day you see someone on your timeline and think “Ey up… I would never have followed a [insert deviant of your choice here]”

Confused? Ok, here’s a little timeline to illustrate:


Day one: [Ping] FabProfessionalsRUs is now following you.

Day one: Oh, I’ve been followed by FabProfessionalsRUs, they look interesting, let’s follow em.


Day seven: FabProfessionalsRUs keeps adding people, being friendly and looking interesting.

Day seven: FabProfessionalsRUs still look interesting, lots of RTs and talking to people. Let’s keep following.


Day twenty: Wonder where FabProfessionalsRUs have gone? Oh never mind, life’s to short to go searching at the moment.

Day twenty: FabProfessionalsRUs changes their @name… which since Twitter changed is not that easy to see. Now they are FabProfessionalsRUs @nefariousdude (but no-one notices because they are not tweeting).


Day thirty: FabProfessionalsRUs must have left, haven’t seen em… their loss.

Day thirty: FabProfessionalsRUs now changes their “proper” Twitter name to FabProsRUs.


Day fifty: FabProsRUs start slowly tweeting their not so professional photos to the world.

Day fifty: Hang on… who is FabProsRUs? What the HELL is that photo on my timeline?? I certainly don’t follow [insert deviant goings on of your choice here].

 what the

So you see… social media is great. You get to connect with some wonderful people; you can follow some great brands and see photos of parts of the world you can only dream of. You can also reach out to potential clients and it makes business communication more easy and relaxed.

Just stay alert and be aware that not everyone is on the level. Use lists to keep track of who you follow, especially as your numbers increase (this is something that I will admit to being terrible at), and if you see someone on your timeline who looks a bit dodgy, unfollow and remember you can use the block button.

There will always be the scammers who pretend to be someone they are not; they will suck people in to get loads of followers then eventually reveal their true nature. As long as you are aware, you can still enjoy social media… but the old days of the spambot seem to be behind us, a new kind of spammer is emerging. Forewarned is forearmed.

8 Comments on “Beware the follower

      • It has to said its real strength comes from sharing ‘block lists’ with the core of your contacts. It will not stop them creating new accounts or finding new ways to come at you sideways through other social sites with what ever nonsense ‘rotten motives’ they have but it is a good start.

  1. Very interesting post – that will most likely keep me away from Twitter forevermore (although, getting together with Stephen Fry devotees sounds up my alley – but what is a Spamatini??). Now that at C&S we have thousands and thousands of followers, it gets complicated to know who is who – but much easier to block unwelcome presences. But we have noticed all those companies rendering assorted services that must click on the follow buttons of millions of websites in hope to catch some business. I mean, really – you need to put a little bit more effort than that!

    • Totally… I like to be able to communicate, and if someone is just selling something they are soon unfollowed.

      Spamtinis….aaaah. Well. In the interest of silliness Frys was a cyber bar where we all met online, and drank Spamtinis. An homage to Monty Python (spam with everything) and a sly dig at the spammers that were around at the time. Totally daft, but a good time was had by all. Edna Fry over on Twitter was our host…check her out 😉

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