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How to be Cooler than a Siberian Sunbather when it comes to Twitter Lists (or Anything Else!).

Picture credit:  Lauri Vain "Ice Hole Swimming"

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Do you want to be a low value Twitter user?

Are you happy chasing your tail trying to keep up with other not-so-smart people?  Do you think there are rules you ought to follow to constantly get more followers?  Do you feel frustrated you've not been included in this list, or that?  Are you content to settle for mediocre at best?

If yes, carry on as you are, there's nothing more for you here.

How about you go away and find a post that'll teach you how to automate your Twitter account so you can tweet while you sleep?

If you're still here, and I suspect my lovely Twitter friends will be, then I'd like to share some ideas that are helping me stay cool, no matter how many lists I DO NOT get on, or however many people DON'T want to follow me!

Because you know what?

None of that stuff really matters!

That's right.  How many followers we have?  Not important.  How many lists are we are on? Irrelevant!

Why?  Because those kinds of measurements, taken on their own, are not the point.

The point is, in my opinion:  it's who we are and what we are doing that matters.

That raises massive questions, and I hope we are working on what they mean for us and how we are responding to them.  But they're the stuff of other posts, whole blogs, academic research papers, books, seminars, PhDs, global think tanks, philosophy, science, religion, psychology, spirituality, social theory, politics, football, shopping, ballroom dancing, and they generate millions of hours of discussions and debates. 

Hey, I love all that stuff but really, in this post, I just want to talk about Twitter lists!  

Picture credit:  Kellan

So here's a list of thoughts toward reallygood thinking, that'll help us avoid the "ingredients of FAIL" and get those lists in perspective:

1)  Twitter lists are random. 

They are arbitrary, subjective, personal, non-personal, thoughtful, stupid, amazing, rubbish, helpful, useless, accurate, wrong, you can go on and on.  Go on, pick any words you like!

Lists are built by people and can be about anything people want to put in them!  People have flaws, misunderstandings, insights, passions, they are lazy, full of ideas, egos, agendas, kindness, nastiness, greatness, hot air, world-changing actions, you can go on and on.  Go on, pick any words you like!

2)  If you are on one list and feel great about it, you'll soon find you've not been included in another and might not feel so good!

How crazy to invest that kind of power in something external, something over which you have absolutely zero control.  Yes, you can start a campaign to ingratiate yourself to those so-called influential people who create the most highly regarded lists, but even then, you may not be included! 

3)  Lists may be useful, but I suspect some will simply use them as yet another status, or lack of status, metric.

I know there may be some who regard the number of followers someone has as the defining factor in measuring or determining that person's importance, influence, social value etc.  I suspect those people will also regard the number of lists one is on to represent the same.

This attitude is a sure fire way to reinforce what contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton calls "status anxiety":  just another thing to use to compare ourselves with others and check where we feel we come in our perceived rankings.

4)  To be included, or not to be included, is important, or not important, depending on who is doing the including, or the not including, whichever you choose!

If someone created a list called "most beautiful runners who have lost 20 per cent of their body weight since taking up the sport" (imagine you could have a title that long!) and I wasn't included, would I be bothered?  Too right I would - IF it was created by my mates in the local athletics club.  But if it was originated by @fatarizonarunner then I'd not be too upset being left out. 

The thing is, we often have expectations about how we want others to perceive us.  We sometimes think folk should understand things about us, they should recognise our achievements, immediately see what makes us so worthy, and they should include us because compared to others on their lists, we are just as good, if not better! 

Again, this kind of thinking gets us nowhere.  It's futile.  It doesn't help us.  It presupposes a world in which all facts, interpretation of facts, subjective judgements and understanding, are put into the mix and out pops a perfectly formed, fully comprehensive assessment of us and everyone else, and that sparks appropriate choices and actions. 

What kind of universe do we think we are living in?

5)  So much stuff that affects our lives is random, accidental, flawed. 

Get over it! 

Let's be grateful (at least most of us reading this) we were not born on a rubbish dump in some sh** hole with no one to feed us, care for us, or help us grow up and have a decent life.

Being as cool as a Siberian sunbather is partly about getting things into proper perspective.

Picture credit:  Lauri Vain

Here's a list of thoughts toward reallygood thinking, that'll help us move beyond caring about what lists we are on, or not on:

1)  It's not about you (or me).  It's about "we".  So think-with!

I found a chapter called "It's not about you" in Dan Pink's great little book, "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need".  In it, the main character, Johnny, has to learn that essentially business, and life, are about being here to serve, not to self-actualise.  The lesson is that most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.

That can mean lots of things but generally, if we focus, not on Twitter lists, but on serving others, helping, creating value, then we are going to win.  As self-help chap Zig Ziglar says “You can get everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people to get what they want”.  And recently, I heard Professor Srikumar S. Rao say "in a me centred universe you'll have more than your fair share of anxiety".  You'll find more of what he said here.

So, let's try to be a bit less selfish.  This might help

2)  If we build lives based on our inner values, a sense of meaning and purpose, we won't be pushed around so much.

If our goal is just to get external recognition or approval (eg. being in the "right" Twitter lists), we are on shaky ground.  We may get it, but it won't last, it seldom does.  It blows hot and cold.

Personally, I love it when people like my stuff.  It's great when they say how much they've benefited from one thing or another, and I do feel good when people say nice things about me or the projects I'm involved in.  Of course, it's great to be included in so many Twitter lists, especially ones created by great people who put me in with some of the most interesting world-changing people! 

I acknowledge that, but I know it's not enough, and nor should it be!  And no disrespect or ingratitude to anyone, in the scheme of things, I really don't care if I'm on your list or not, even if you are one of the most impressive thought leaders on the planet right now!

So, to be truly successful, our sense of meaning and purpose must be far bigger than our capacity, or need, for external approval, and we must try to keep it that way.

3)  Lists (approval) might make us subjectively happy for a moment, but there's a much greater experience, and it comes through finding, and serving, something much bigger than ourselves.

It's not so much "what" that thing is, we just need to have it.  It may be something good, or bad, the effect is the same, it gives us meaning.  Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a founder of the "positive psychology" movement describes the ultimate state of human happiness as "knowing your highest strengths and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are".   

Once we have that, we're on our way folks!  Being on or off a list will make no difference at all when we are that clear.  We can focus on this higher meaning and nothing will be too big a challenge.

4) Surprising things, people, resources can appear and help us get where we want to go, even if the people we think we need most don't know us or care about us!

It's great when the people with power to help us decide to do so.  It feels good when a respected leader in our industry or area of interest knows us and acknowledges our greatness and contribution with a place in their list called "top 100 potato growers in the world". 

Whatever!

Don't you know, with all this digital connectedness, we can forget their list, or anyone else's, and help people around us.  Sooner, if not later, someone will see that and do something good for us.  Our skills, talents, ideas, love, kindness, friendship, can be discovered and appreciated by zillions of folk all over the globe, regardless of anyone's subjective approval of us!  Point made!

5)  Let's build our own lists.

I don't mean a Twitter list!  I'm talking about something much more helpful and important.

Let's build great lists of positive stuff that'll keep us on track even when the external signs suggests we're having a tough time.

A few ideas our own lists could include:

*  Stuff that matters to you most.  Outline a picture of the direction you want your life to take.  Note what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.

*  Great qualities you naturally have that'll help you on your way.  You are kind, caring, a good people person.  You're great with kids, fab with figures, whatever.

*  Someone, somewhere, cares about you, no matter what.  Make a list of those caring people (if you can't think of anyone, that's a shame, but if you really can't, then focus showing your care to someone else). 

*  List people you really care about, you don't have to know them personally.

*  You've beaten the crap out of problems in the past, you can do it again.  Make a list of your wins and how it felt.

*  Think of things that have worked well for you, given you strength, made you grow.  Write them down.

*  Say thanks to the most important people in your life right now.  Write down who makes the biggest contribution to you and think of a way to let them know you appreciate it.

*  Ignore the small, irritating stuff, and focus on creating lists around the big stuff that matters (or the small stuff that matters).

Those were just a few examples of where we might start.  But I promise you, if we put this Twitter list thing into proper perspective, we really will stay cooler than a Siberian sunbather, and we might even be happier too.

I love it that you bothered to read this post.  I hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful, thanks!  I always like to know what you think.  What's your attitude to these lists?  Are they another status, or lack of status, symbol?  What have you discovered about having a big vision or sense of meaning and purpose>  Any tips?  See you in the comments.  Much love, Ian.

Your comments:


1-2
Robin Houghton says:
01/11/2009 18:03:11

Nicely put. There's always a rush to try out new functionality, so I'm interested to see how people use Twitter lists. I can see the potential for 'status anxiety' as well as the problem of 'negative lists'. Apparently you can remove yourself from a Twitter list by blocking the person who created it. Not everyone wants to be on a list. http://www.eggblogg.co.uk/2009/11/list-mania.html
Bryce Redford says:
01/11/2009 16:47:37

What can I say - great stuff! :-)
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IAN ASPIN

  • Ian AspinLocation: Lancaster Lake District, UK
  • Bio: I’m passionate about my work:TV journalist, producer, presenter, business ideas person. I care about: family, friends, helping people, finding meaning, running