Today is Friday. You know what that means, it’s time for #FollowFriday! #FollowFriday (#FF) was created as a way for people in the Twitter community to make recommendations to their audience (i.e. make recommendations to their own Twitter followers) as to who they should follow. At it’s core, #FollowFriday was — and in some ways still is — a vehicle through which people try to facilitate engagement under the basis that following the person being mentioned will add value to one’s timeline and overall experience. What is has become, at least according to me, is a popularity contest where people are more interested in giving and receiving praise (endorsements) than they are with facilitating engagement between people in their social and professional circles.
#FollowFriday shouldn’t be about endorsements; it should be about facilitating engagement.
I kept reverting back to a recent conversation I had with Jason Meriwether over the phone in which we were discussing what it means to be a man of color within the field higher education. During our conversation, Jason realized that there was value in connecting me with one of his friends and colleagues, Fernando Diaz; the Director of the Latino Resource Center at Chicago State University. Jason proceeded to email Fernando after our conversation. His email stated the following:
I am writing to connect the two of you. Fernando and I go back a long way, and Alberto and I began our relationship earlier this year. Aside from being Latino, you two share similar values, goals, talents, and work ethic. These common facets of your life and experiences are the basis for making this connection. It will be my mission to get you both in the same room, but it is my hope that you two volley emails and speak soon. – Jason
Jason’s email, though short, is one that I remember vividly. This isn’t necessarily because of the content, but because of the approach. Jason took the time to identify why he thought there would be value in Fernando and I engaging in a conversation — because we have similar values, goals, talents and work ethic. Though he didn’t necessarily outline what our common values were (he left it up to us to figure that part out), he was intentional behind explaining why there was value in us engaging with one another. My conversation with Fernando was a phenomenal one and only served as further justification that we have work to do with respect to how we facilitate engagement between (and within) our social and professional circles.
What if, instead of flooding everyone’s timelines with a laundry list of Twitter endorsements, we each made a commitment to identify common values and facets between people who wouldn’t necessarily engage otherwise? What if we moved away from making large, overarching blanket statements about the online presence of others and move towards a model where we connect people based on what we know about both parties, as opposed to advertising what we want the world to know about one party? What if, on a weekly basis, we made a commitment to connect those that have meaningful stories to share with those that could benefit from hearing those stories? Isn’t that was facilitating engagement is about? Isn’t that a great way to end the week?