To List, or Not to List

Everyone’s all atwitter (forgive the pun) over the service’s new Lists feature.

It is, if you will, a glamorized, organized version of the site’s ubiquitous “Follow Friday” meme, in which users recommend people for other users to follow.

Some seem to regard the Lists function with a combination of fear and contempt: that it will turn into a popularity contest of sorts; that the number of Lists on which one appears will become the new success metric.

However, I’d urge a second thought about spurning the feature, for these reasons:

1) It’s a tremendous educational tool. Think of those you admire who you follow on Twitter: artists, authors, experts, executives, journalists. We’re all lucky that (as fans, students, colleagues, competitors, whatever) we can – with a click – have access to a curated group of people they think enough of to add to a List.

2) Leave aside the potential clique-ish-ness of Lists, and think big. Think about making more connections in your world. For whatever your hobby, cause, or career, wouldn’t it be nice to find a List – or multiple Lists – of people you can follow, with a click, who share that interest? And who, once you follow the List and interact with those on it, may choose to follow you back?

3) Conversely, think about advancing your own hobby, cause or career. Do YOU follow a group of Tweeps because of their  field or area of interest? It’s probably taken you some time to cultivate that list. Share your expertise with the rest of us. It’s a generous thing to do, and it makes you look good in the process.

4) It makes it super-easy to do Follow Friday. Want to recommend everyone you follow who has a food blog? Those tweeps who share your love of horror films? Your collection of food trucks operating in L.A.? Make a List of ’em, and Follow Friday the list address. No more worrying about forgetting someone, or about not having room for all the names.

One thing I’d like to see added to the feature: a brief (140 character, if need be!) explanation field so that one can, beyond the name, add some context to one’s Lists.

Will Lists cause some social fallout? Inevitably. Maybe someone you follow, whose blog you DON’T admire, will be put out at being excluded from your List. You may have to choose between 100% integrity on your List, and keeping the social peace. But in this way, online social life simply mirrors offline social life. We don’t all get invited to the party. We don’t all get the gig. That’s how it goes.


In the end, everyone should use Twitter the way that works best for themselves. You don’t have to create any Lists, and you don’t have to follow any, either. I just wanted to state some cases for why Lists aren’t necessarily evil.


  1. what an insightful and well thought out post. You raise many points I had not even considered. Personally I was going to keep well away from them due to terror of offending people – had recent trauma regarding offending a blogger because I forgot to put her on my blogroll due to crap housekeeping – so this is just one more way to stress myself out (same for follow friday)
    However, I love what you have written and if I ever manage to get a bit more focused about my Twitter life I may reconsider the list thing and it will be because of your words. xo

  2. I think you’re spot on! I won’t be using them – I use twitter to enhance my life socially but for many, especially students, researchers etc who find it useful to follow thousands of people.. it must be a very useful and timesaving tool.
    I just like to chat to the lovely gang I’ve found. It’s the simple pleasures for me!
    Well put, Wzzy!

  3. Darling Wzzy:

    You make excellent points. I will not be making lists as I am not very organized and also I have such a small following list that I only follow people that I really enjoy. Am I missing the point – I hope not. xx

    1. You’re not missing the point; you might find others’ Lists that you want to follow. Or you may end up with a fabulous collection of people we should all be following. I know Lists won’t be for everyone; I’m really just trying to get people to think about them before they pass judgement or decline to participate. xo

  4. really insightful. you are right, inevitably, people will get upset, and yet it is a good way to find people with a one-click button- like fashion bloggers or foodies for eg. but when people start labeling lists “friends” that will cause some problems, ouch!

  5. As always, Wzzy, a smart, cogent insight into a potentially baffling issue. I’ve been waffling about whether/how to create lists—and worrying about possible hurt feelings in the process—but your reasoning is flawless. Thank you.

  6. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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