JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 10, 2010
One of the creepier aspects of Twitter is the way you accumulate "followers." To be clear, I'm not really on Twitter. Last year, I read Emily Bazelon's article about how somebody was impersonating her on Twitter. I signed in, just to make sure nobody was doing this to me, only to discover that this meant I have officially joined Twitter. Ever since, I've been receiving regular messages about how many "followers" I've been accumulating. My only message on Twitter was an instruction to my "followers" to go away because I wasn't planning to tweet anything:
Unsurprisingly, I managed to bungle it and the message never went out.
Anyway, one thing I've wondered about twitter is this business of attracting "followers." It strikes me as fairly authoritarian in spirit. What sort of personality type gets excited at the prospect of attracting "followers"?
The answer, it turns out, is: authoritarians. Here's a message from the Embassy of Venezuela:
President Chavez Becomes Most Followed Venezuelan on Twitter
Use of Social Network Highlights Expansion of Internet in Venezuela
Just two weeks after joining Twitter, President Hugo Chavez has become Venezuela’s most followed user of the online social network, with over 265,000 followers as of Monday, May 10. He is also amongst the only heads of state that is using the network to directly engage with followers, both in Venezuela and around the world.
President Chavez joined Twitter on April 28, and within 12 hours had gained more than 45,000 followers. Since then, his Twitter accounthas gained followers at a rate sometimes exceeding 1,000 per hour. It is estimated that within the first month of use, President Chavez will gain one million followers.