Why Be a Follower?

I’ve wondered for some time about the horrible naming conventions on social media. They bother me.

This is your fair warning that I’m going to be a bit pointed in this one. Before I go further I want to that I’ve connected to some great folks on social media platforms, but for now I’m going to focus on generalities.

Facebook has completely devalued the meaning of the word “friend,” using it as emotional leverage to stay connected to people you knew in the past that wound up being every bit of the pretentiously self-important thumb twaddlers you thought they would. It ushered in the era of peer pressure as lifestyle capital, and forwarded the idea of groupthink as normalcy.

Facebook is now the struggle session for Generation X and their parents. I’ve seen some spectacular fights on the platform, and I’ve seen some magnificent moments that amount to schadenfreude as spectacle. But make no mistake that Facebook has taught us to revel in our baser tribal instincts of ideological purity and virtual bloodlust.

But at least it used a benign word, “friend,” to denote a connection. Twitter…went a different way.

Twitter has followers. What a poisonous word that can be.

A follower can never be a leader. A follower is always looking to someone else. And so, even those who have attained a modicum of “celebrity” are still following others. There is a circular, leaderless quality to it all.

A follower can be a disciple, someone who accepts and spreads the word of another. In the best cases, they are the adherent of a good teacher’s lessons. In the worst…something other.

A follower is always a follower, and being a follower is fraught with peril.

On social media, you follow people and you collect followers. Certainly there are those who have gained many followers, but even they follow others. There is a circular insanity to it, that surrenders individuality to the clueless maelstrom of anger and dissatisfaction.

When you are only a follower, you are no more reliable than a flag in the wind. You are an empty vessel to be filled by others.

So don’t be a follower of people. Be a thinker, be a philosopher, and be a resource. Be a real friend. You owe it to yourself to question and validate each step you take, not have someone tell you what to think.

No reason.

P.S. Being a man of faith, I anticipate the snarky response that I am a follower in that context. I’d simply reply that Jesus sent the disciples out to be apostles. The baptismal vow for Catholics is to become a priest, a prophet, and king; the believer is not a follower but a part of the whole. There’s also the whole matter of whose teachings you’re espousing, with God being maybe the one being in the entire Universe you should follow, but then we get into questions bigger than this blog.