The Self-Selecting Audience

Merlin Mann, from a podcast interview in 2009 (transcription mine):

“But the truth is, I've been able to attract a pretty broad audience for what I do by being very specific about who I wanna reach. And there's a funny self-selecting bias to that that delights me.

I love when I post something on Twitter and a bunch of people unfollow me. It delights me. Because that...that is the sound of my audience getting better.

Absolutely spot-on. I feel like this is a good reminder not to take it too personally whenever someone unfollows you on [your social network of choice].

If you're a socially anxious person like me, I totally get it. It's tempting to watch your follower count like a hawk, hoping against hope that it won't go down even by one number. Whenever it does, you take it personally and wonder what you did to drive them away. This is especially true for people you respect/admire — I've had a couple of my heroes unfollow me in the past, and I'll be honest, it hurts.

The thing is, everyone has their reasons for unfollowing someone else, and they might not be what you think they are. Maybe it wasn't something you specifically did or said — maybe they just felt overwhelmed by their feed and had to prune things a little. Maybe you did inadvertently offend them, but so what? It probably wasn't going to work out anyway.

Don't spend a lot of time fretting over what anyone thinks about you, and especially stop trying to please everybody. It's just not possible. Your self-worth is not dependent on your follower count, your RSS subscriber numbers, your Klout score, or whatever other metric you might be paying too much attention to.

“I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Bill Cosby

Just keep doing the thing you love, and if someone's interests align with that, then you'll be on the road to building a group of friends – or audience, if you want to call it that – that will really matter to you and support you in the long run.

Readers should note that, while I hope this stuff helps other people somehow, these kinds of posts are often letters to myself just as much as they are to the rest of the world. Don't confuse me as trying to be some kind of Life Guru™, because I'm still trying to figure all this out too.