J.P., I don’t know who told you that “The rule is that when someone follows you, you should be polite and follow them back.” That’s crazy-talk. If you’re using Twitter mainly as a platform for self-promotion and are trying to build as big a circle as possible, following back and interacting might help, but there’s no reason you have to do that.
This is something that a lot of people don’t seem to get: Different people use Twitter in different ways. It was originally conceived — and is legitimately useful — as a way to let your friends know which bars, movies, etc. you’re going to so you can meet up. Since it’s also fun, if not exactly “useful,” for sharing amusing observations and bantering back and forth, people naturally started following people who they don’t know personally but do find entertaining or interesting. This means that, depending on what you choose to do with it, it can also work as something like a platform for very short blog posts, or like a message board. (I know a few writers who have two Twitter accounts — one “locked,” for friends only, and one publically accessible. I resist this because I don’t want to keep track of two accounts, and I kind of want to meet anyone who would actually bother to stalk me.) Because Twitter has several different uses, anyone who says that there’s a correct (or “polite”) way that you must use it doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
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