This article was written by Sune Auken
Though it has spilled over into numerous contexts, the present blog being one, #FBPE has its original function and its discursive core on Twitter. Indeed, the name Follow Back Pro EU, indicates a social action, the “followback” that is defining for Twitter and a few other social media-platforms, notably Instagram. For the uninitiated: the reach of a Twitter account is to a large extent determined by its follower-count, because the followers are the ones that initially see your tweet in their timelines, and who can thus help you disseminate your message to a larger audience through interactions: likes, comments and—most strongly—retweets. Thus, the basic idea of a followback-scheme is that people who share central convictions (in this case a support of the European Union and a willingness to oppose the rise of the extreme right) band up and reinforce each others’ messages through follows and followbacks, and through the social interactions that follow from these connections. If you carry the tag, and another person who also carries it follows you, you are supposed to follow them back; the act known here as a followback.
In principle simple. However it doesn´t always work that way. Spread across the #FBPE-community on Twitter, you sometimes hear the cries of engaged participants who have followed a lot of #FBPE-accounts, sometimes thousands at a time, only to see far fewer followbacks. The frustration is understandable, and in the best of worlds the followbacks would come with little delay. When they don´t come, you may grow frustrated with the whole idea. But despair not. There are ways to mitigate that frustration. This post offers a little advise and a few reflections on how to move along as an #FBPE-account.
First, it’s a followback-scheme; if accounts don’t follow you back you are free to unfollow without further ado. That is all by the book. My experience is that approximately 30-40% of accounts follow you back within a few days. That’s not a problem, unless I keep being a follower of a lot of accounts waiting for them to follow me back. So, I just unfollow at a regular pace. At any given time I will have a few 100 extra #FBPE-accounts on. If they follow me back, fine: we are set. If not, no biggie I just unfollow.
This follow><unfollow-routine can take some time, but there are automated ways of finding accounts who don´t follow back. Personally I use Unfollowspy to track and unfollow. It allows you to unfollow 100 accounts a day, so it’s fairly efficient. By itself, the program posts on your wall, but the settings can be changed to avoid that.
Like other Twitter phenomena that rise to prominence; #FBPE has drawn the attention of a number of trolls and bots that seek to prey on the tag carriers by flying the tag and then using the attention against the true carriers of the tag. Those, you should block and then call out (in that order—You don´t want to give them a heads up!!), so that other #FBPE’ers can get a chance to preemptively block them too. If they are somehow abusive, as they often are, report them as well. You should feel quite comfortable doing this. Blocking and reporting trolls and bots is not an assault on free speech, it’s simple SoMe housekeeping; you don´t want to further their sordid agenda, so you cut off their reach. They are either bad faith actors (trolls) or automated representatives of bad faith actors (bots). You wouldn´t think removing a virus on your computer infringed upon the right to free speech of the virus creator; and for good reason, too.
Beyond that, a tag like #FBPE has a few “follow parasites”. #FBPE-marked accounts; people who carry the tag, but don´t actually follow anyone back. They don´t worry me much as they don´t disturb me the way trolls and bots do, and since I unfollow at a regular pace, they will not have me as a follower for long. In fact, I think the follow parasites are rare, and most lacking followbacks are lack of time, or lack of attention. I have repeatedly found 15-20 accounts I had neglected to follow back – some for weeks. I would rather they unfollowed, we can always connect later. Unfollowspy can help with this too, though personally I am sometimes less diligent on this point. Sad, but true.
Two more minor points: For some finding new #FBPE-accounts can be tiring. I believe the simplest way is actually to open up an #FBPE-heavy account’s follows-list and start clicking; mine (@genreresearch) will do, Paul O’Connor’s (@POCX100) is better. For now, I recommend the follows list, not the follower-list as it has the—admittedly—marginal quality control that somebody else from the #FBPE-community has found the account worth a follow. If you find an #FBPE-er following a troll or bot you may consider letting the person know, but that’s at your discretion. Most of the #FBPE-account holders will prove to be intelligent and quite frankly very nice people, so you will meet new wonderful people along the way. If somebody makes your blood boil or get you down; well again: the block is always handy.
Second, a few very prominent accounts fly the #FBPE-tag but don´t follow back. That may frustrate some, but for me it’s absolutely fine (see my short discussion with Mike Holden (@MikeHolden42) here). These accounts do theirs by giving prominence to the tag and the, very broad, political understanding it represents. That is a huge service, and such accounts should not be derided—or unfollowed—for the lack of followbacks. One big account that actually does the followbacks, is Mike Galsworthy @mikegalsworthy. If you don´t know him. Go and know him. He is an absolute pleasure. Moreover, keep in mind that there are FANTASTIC remainer accounts, (for instance Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodiaspora)), that don´t fly the tag. Follow them anyway. They are our standard bearers and should have as much weight, as the #FBPE-community can offer them.
So, if you are pro-EU and worried about the rise of the right, #FBPE is a wonderful opportunity to do some good and to meet kindred sprits. Don´t get frustrated; learn a few of the tricks and you will find yourself in repeatedly informed, amusing, pleasant, and highly engaged company.