The Followback Girl (or guy)


Sound familiar to anyone? For some people, social media is a form of connecting with others that they already know or as a way to share content with their friends and family, whether that be interests, accomplishments, and/or opinions. But for some, this includes taking that “sharing” one step further and using social media as a way of garnering “popularity.” Using social media to explicitly get attention by literally saying, “I follow back!” “check my blog out!” “I follow back fresh & modern blogs ONLY!” is something I personally find distasteful and one of the biggest social media pet peeves that has developed. I am looking at more specific types of social media platforms here, especially that of Tumblr, where the simple interface allows for “reblogs” and “likes” to be easily seen, and thus being main contributors to being “tumblr-famous.” There is something that bugs me about flat-out asking for attention—if you want attention, at least be engaging or more creative about it!

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screenshot taken by author 9/13/13

Of course many people like attention, and it’s natural for human beings to share what’s going on in their lives and to want their peers to be responsive. Who doesn’t like having the spotlight on them occasionally? Attention is something that I think is usually (of course, not always) granted or earned, and social media has provided many more ways in which attention can be attracted.

We’ve all seen this before—that friend on facebook that says “like my status if….” Or the blog you follow on tumblr that casually reminds observers to “follow and I’ll follow back!” at the end of every post. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting attention—but the way you go about doing it is what’s important. The same concept sort of applies to social media—we talked in class about how social media could be interest-driven or friendship-driven, depending on how the user uses that platform. With the abstract idea of attention, users could phrase their tweets, statuses, and posts in a way that engage their peers and followers, instead of actively interjecting them with demands to “follow” them.


This want for attention, as I have previously mentioned, is understandable. Most people like attention (in varying degrees of course), but won’t ever say it out loud. This taps into Judith Donath’s “Sociable Media” article we read for class.

“The relationship between an on-line persona and a physical self is handled differently in various on-line environments, often because of interface decisions built into the system technology (p.4).”

Tumblr as an interface is visually attractive and easy to use. There are only three buttons on each post: share, reblog, and like. This makes viewing/consuming, using, and interacting very simple for the audience. It also allows users to see how many likes/reblogs a post has, and the following comments below. With regards to identity, users could easily create a pseudo-name and fake information, as tumblr is typically a platform used for sharing images, videos, media, gifs, memes, etc. and it is not as profile-centric as say, Facebook. Therefore, it is easier for tumblr users to take part in the attention-seeking by being more straightforward. In the offline world, it would be strange for someone to say to everyone they meet “follow me on tumblr! I follow back.” But because they are given this cyber-distance, people are able to take on a different identity.

Maybe the idea of being “tumblr famous” is appealing to users since, let’s be real, it is highly unlikely they will be famous in the offline world. Could fame be a moving factor in the mind of the attention-seeker, even if it is restricted to online boundaries? Could this be seen as a form of taking up a different identity, as Donath talked about? These questions could be connected to the idea of self-esteem, which I believe definitely plays a role in the roots of wanting and receiving attention. It seems the Internet and social media has introduced more complex ways for identity, and what it really is. As Preston Waters discussed in an article featured on, we are becoming a “generation desperate for attention,” where your online image is greatly influenced by other’s online opinions, even if those opinions may not hold true offline. People begin to model their online personas in the way others want to see them and also in ways they want others to perceive them. And with many attention-seekers, it is the number of likes, the number of reblogs, the number of followers that help them feel more secure, more liked.

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Her blog > your dreams 
Screen shot taken by author 9/13/13

I think most—if not all—people try to give off the best versions of themselves on social media. The fact that you can create means you can edit. And that’s one of the features of social media that people reciprocate to, is it not? The asynchronous facets of social media allow people to be able to more carefully edit their online selves. And you can edit yourself to be super outgoing, a world traveler, or a comic book fiend, even if in offline mode you’re not. Self-esteem certainly plays a role in how people present themselves on social media, and I think that could possibly tie into part of the reasoning behind why some users blatantly ask for attention.

A little self-promotion doesn’t hurt. Heck, even basking in the glory of your 15 seconds of fame is fine with me. But no amount of CAPS, words in bold(and alternatively CAPS AND IN BOLD), or number of hashtags flashing in my face telling me to “follow” you will actually get me to do so.

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Classic Example. Screen shot taken by author 9/15/13


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