Twitter recently changed one element of their service. In their words:

We’ve also placed limits on the number of people you can follow. The number is different for everyone, and is based on a ratio that changes as the account changes. If you hit a follow limit, you must balance your follower/following ratio in order to follow more people- basically, you can’t follow 50,000 people if only 23 people follow you. Based on current behavior in the Twitter community, we’ve concluded that this is both fair and reasonable.

Now when I first read this, I assumed this was indeed fair and reasonable. From their example, it seemed like this would only kick in if you had a huge discrepancy in the number of followers to the people that you were following such as their 50,000 to 23 example. It seemed like a good way to combat spam and I was all for it.

Until I was limited.

I was trying to follow what would have been my 2,000th person and I was told that I was not allowed any more followers. But instead of their 50,000 to 23 example, I was only trying to follow one more than 2,000 people while I had a little over 1,600 following me. Now, not to nitpick but this seems a little unreasonable and unfair. I am clearly a real human Twitter user, I interact with the community and I have a decent number of followers. I am not something with 2 tweets about Nokia spam who has 3 followers. How is my following another person wronging the community?

And I know I am talking about myself so I am not exactly unbiased by we are talking about a difference of less than 500 followers and you cut me off? Um, hello? Shouldn’t we set that range a little bit farther apart?

Here is where this gets extra dumb. You may say to yourself, if you are following 2,000 but only have 1,600 following you, just unfollow the people who aren’t following back. But, you see, I can’t. Most of the people I am following who aren’t following back are my favorite celebrities, authors or the big websites like CNN. Those are some of my favorite things to read on Twitter so I am not willing to get rid of those.

By tying the number that you are allowed to follow so tightly to how many follow you, essentially, Twitter is almost forcing you to only keep followers that follow you back. After all, if I am only allowed 2,000 and I follow CNN who isn’t going to follow me back, I have just wasted a spot that might have gotten me a potential follower which, in turn, would have gotten me the ability to follow more people. It is basically creating a heavy bias against Twitter users who don’t automatically follow back but most of the biggest users don’t follow back. So following accounts like Oprah, CNN, the White House, etc will actually hurt your ability to get more followers. What a dumb double edged sword!

So now, since I am unwilling to give up some of the big users that don’t follow back, my only choice to reduce my number of followers is to delete some of the non-follower backers or delete some actual followers. So I went through and got rid of every Twitter account that was basically a repeat of something I already subscribed to via RSS and then, when that still wasn’t enough, I started to delete followers that looked like they might not be of interest to me. I tried to just do the ones that looked like weight loss or other spam but I am quite sure I probably lost some real users in the shuffle.

So, I got myself down to 1,700 something but, of course, quite a few of those people that I unfollowed automatically unfollowed me. Now, they may have been spammers so you would say Good Riddance, right? But now, I just lost a little more following power because, no matter who they were, they were following me and their departure neuters my following power a bit. So now I am even farther away than when I started of being about to follow more people.

This seems like madness. I understand the sentiment behind it but it seems like they went a little overzealous with the coding. What should be a policy to stop spammers is instead behaving like the hall monitor that was given too much detention power.

My biggest concern is that I try to automatically follow back everyone who follows me and then I just unfollow people that spam or annoy manually so I try to give everyone a fair chance. The downside to this is that I keep rehitting my limit every few days and so there is going to come a point where I will no longer be able to follow people back because I am over my limit. I feel like this loses me follower goodwill and the potential of meeting an interesting person both.

Have you been limited by the new follow limits? Tell us your tale below. Even if you haven’t been harmed by the new limits, what do you think of them?

Oh and, if you are willing, please follow me on Twitter. It’s the only way I will ever be able to follow more people at this rate!