The Fallacy of Social Media Reciprocation
You are not entitled to attention.
You are not entitled to a follow-back on Twitter simply because you follow someone. You are not entitled to blog subscribers or comments simply because you publish stuff. You are not entitled to clicks to your junk or signups for your newsletter or any thing of the sort.
In fact, you are not entitled to anything.
The web is not a democracy, nor is this an egalitarian society. Giving of attention when it's such a precious commodity is not something to be done in some empty gesture of validation, and as the attention giver, I and only I will decide how I'll approach my connections online. My reasons aren't yours, nor should they be. You don't decide the value in paying attention to you, I do. This black-white, good-bad, hard-and-fast-rules of engagement stuff is ridiculous at best, and pathetic at worst.
If you honestly need someone to follow you or friend you on a social network to find self worth or acceptance, it's really time to re-evaluate your priorities.
Moreover, if the precedent we're setting is that blanket reciprocity should be the standard, aren't we bound to inundate ourselves with countless connections that have no enduring meaning, purpose, or substance to us other than some initial handshake gesture? That's a plainly ridiculous way to set etiquette standards for communities that, by their very nature, are adaptable to the needs and methods of many different types of participants.
There is no inherent value in a superficial connection, but only in how that relationship becomes substantive later. That means too, my friends, that the follow you have so self-righteously given and for which you are demanding reciprocation has no value either until someone recognizes it for themselves.
Some are very stingy with their attention, and for perfectly valid reasons. Some, like me, are more liberal with their connections for equally valid reasons. I am so utterly sick and tired of the whining and complaining of unreturned follows, of self-righteous criticism of those who do the opposite, of the "wrong" people getting attention when there's *clearly* someone more deserving (ahem), of someone not replying to a comment or a tweet or a Facebook wall post. Enough already.
If you find something interesting, useful, entertaining, or valuable, give it your attention. If you don't, don't. If someone makes that choice for themselves and their assessment doesn't agree with yours, tough. Discuss and learn to understand their reasons if you like, offer them yours and make your case, consider both sides...but get over it already.
Attention, friendship, and all of the bits in between are earned. And they are in the eye of the giver. So as you navigate the social networks and communities on the web, realize that the value exchange does not hinge on some ridiculous idea of reciprocation. Instead, it's in the interactions and the contributions and the discussions, many of which can happen without explicit gestures of connection whatsoever.
Perhaps instead of griping about others' refusal to pay you attention you should instead evaluate the insipid nature of your pandering, your disagreeable personality, or your lack of contributions to your communities in the first place.
Because if your motives are sincere and your participation worthwhile, the rest somehow takes care of itself.