My Twitter follower number as of this morning at 5 AM.
29,015 people around the world who are not all people I know. Who are not all my mother. I have not paid for those followers. I have not asked people to follow me. I have not used a service nor any strategies to get that many. I have, however, been tweeting for 6 years.
29,015 people read what I tweet. That is a good sized town.
29,015 people care about me and my words. Or so it seems from the number.
29,015 people and I know why it is easy to get a big head. My students tell me I am famous. I laugh and tell them I am “Googleable” and that there is a big difference. And yet, in their eyes I carry power. In some other people’s eyes, my words seem to matter more because look at how many people follow me. Surely they cannot be wrong.
Yet, that number does not tell the whole truth. That number easily inflates an ego, makes you think somehow that your words or ideas are more important than someone who does not have as big of a reach. That you cannot make mistakes. That the world is indeed a stage and all of those others are an audience waiting for your wisdom.
That little number, or likes, or favorites, or shares or whichever tool that can now seemingly measure our influence can really mess with our own sense of self importance. And I see it happen, I see people create a divide of those who have many followers and those who have not. As if a large number of followers somehow makes you a better human being. A better educator. As if your words should carry more power because they have a larger audience. That because you are connected and people respond to you, you are better than the teacher who is not connected, or who is not at your level of reach.
It is so easy to lose sight of what it really means. I see people use their platform to promote themselves rather than keep it about the kids. I see lines of popularity drawn in the sand, conversations not being had because we do not want to bother someone who seems more important. I see hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and completely forgetting why we got on Twitter in the first place; the kids. The chance to make the world better. The chance to become better. As if once you reach a certain follower count, you have somehow figured it all out.
But the truth is, we are not as important as our follower count can make us feel.
We are not better. We are not perfect, nor are we always right. We do not know all of the answers on how to solve education. On how to be the best teachers. We have ideas, yes, we have thoughts, yes, but we also need to remember that our words only matter if they help kids.
29,015 – writing the number makes me cringe. Because it is not about that but others may say it is. That I am important, because all of those followers cannot be wrong. I am humbled by the trust that others put in me and reminded of why I tweet. It is not to get a book deal, a speaking gig, a trending hashtag, or anything else that may be bestowed upon some with large follower counts. I tweet, write, connect because I realized that I could not keep on teaching the way I had and I needed to find others who could hep me. And I found them and I am finding them as I grow.
I wish our counts were private, then perhaps we would all go back to feeling equal. Then perhaps we wouldn’t think that we somehow deserved more attention than others. Perhaps we can pretend and remember that we are all just educators trying to make a difference for the very children we teach. And that is the real reason I connect.