Why I Declared (Twitter) Bankruptcy

This is an article about declaring bankruptcy on Twitter. Not the other kind. Act accordingly.

Five years ago, the maximum number of starred emails I allowed in my Gmail inbox was 100. Over time, that has creeped up.

And up.

Now, I regularly work hard to keep the number of unread or starred messages staring at me under 500. Any productivity expert would call it a sad, sad state of affairs.

On Twitter, things aren’t much brighter.

I used to think I needed to follow less than 100 people to truly stay engaged. I want to know what my followers are doing, I said to myself. I simply can’t really know them if I have too many, I reasoned! But then my rationale softened, and my numbers rose along with it. When I realized I was following 700 people a few weeks back, I knew it was time to do something. So, like a normal Twitter user, I tried to edit down my following list. I tried hard. I’d unfollow ten people, twelve people even, and then feel badly about it and follow them back all over again. I clearly needed to do something more drastic.

And so I did.

As a birthday present to myself this week, I declared Twitter bankruptcy. And I think you should to.

What is Twitter Bankruptcy

Like regular bankruptcy, Twitter bankruptcy comes with a resigned feeling of giving up because you feel you have to.

For me, I realized I had to when I started avoiding my main timeline. You know, the one where you Tweet. Contrary to popular belief, I proved once and for all that you can still be a very active Twitter user for a few weeks while almost entirely ignoring your overloaded timeline.


I hid myself in my lists (I have about 50  20, but it feels like 50!) and @reply streams, sleeping as I avoided the panic-inducing influx of everyone writing clever things I wanted to read constantly.

But, as with all “regular” bankruptcies, declaring bankruptcy is also an act of hope. Hope for something better. A clean slate. Square one. I wanted my timeline back, and declaring Twitter bankruptcy offered me the glimmer of hope.

How to Declare Bankruptcy On Twitter

You, too (!), can declare Twitter bankruptcy in 3 simple steps. Ready?

  1. Stop following everyone. Everyone. Preferably, you make yourself manually unfollow the vast majority of the folks (as I did) so you can remind yourself of all the interesting, smart, witty people you were actually following that you forgot all about.
  2. As you unfollow, make sure to keep a list of the folks that you will want to hurry up and follow again.
  3. Get your numbers to zero, and then stop. Breathe. Take an hour, or a day (or two, like I did). Take a screenshot while you’re at it.
Do you need a second look at that?
I think I do.
What Happens After Twitter Bankruptcy
After bankruptcy, you’ll love Twitter more than ever. You’ll see things with new eyes. You’ll remind yourself of all the awesome people you forgot were right there, saying witty, snarky, and funny things at all moments of the day.
And you’ll want to follow them (some of them) back.
Just like I do.
Tomorrow, I’ll be refollowing my favorite followers once again, and live-tweeting as I do so. I can’t wait. (It’s my birthday present to myself, after all.)

Here’s a preview of the folks I’ll be live-tweeting about tomorrow — my “Top 30”

P.S. So would you consider declaring Twitter bankruptcy?




Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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34 thoughts on “Why I Declared (Twitter) Bankruptcy

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article about twitter bankruptcy.

    The crazy thing is now we are 3 years later, and it even has more exploded.
    I hope, I can utilize some tips you gave me because having to much people/e-mails/followers can drastically lower your productivity each day.

    Thanks Claire

  2. Jungian synchronicity? I declared FB bankruptcy the same week. We are lucky in a way; just old enough to know the world before Internet; just young enough to think social media will really transform the world. Peace. -MC

  3. Such a timely post given that I went through a kind of “Twitter bankruptcy” of my own this past week. Even so, as I move from my alter ego (@socialcitizen) and start anew as @KDS, I’ve found it to be an almost cleansing feeling. I’m remembering what I loved about Twitter from the start (nearly four years ago for me) – which is the value I placed on following, learning from and sharing with some of the brightest and most talented, do-gooding folks I know and have come to know. It’s been fun being on this Twi-journey with you, Claire – thanks for reinforcing the value of a clean slate!

  4. Here via a twitter link. Funny, I’ve thought of doing the same thing. Of course, I usually follow no more than 400 because I’ve always been somewhat strict about only wanting to follow whom I should like to read, but I nearly did this the other day, anyway. Luckily, I can mute people I don’t want to see on my twitter app, so my latest cull was only about 50 people/news things.

    The odd thing is, I’ve been operating under the recent premise that if I add more people, then I’ll feel less tied to twitter because I won’t want to read it as much–and that’s only worked to some extent.

    Okay, not really much of any extent.

    However, you have given me food for thought and, perhaps, a modicum of bravery should I feel the need to take that final step–although since I follow so few (relatively speaking), I do worry about hurt feelings. Brava!

    • So what’s the point of muting? Why not just unfollow? Because you worry about hurting feelings (I see that — I did too!)

      • My feelings were hurt, and I was annoyed that one of your reasons was “ugly” tweets, but then you sent out an email with black background and grey text that was very ugly, not to mention hard to read. I did get some helpful advice from your mailing, but wanted to unfollow and unsubscribe out of revenge. I think it will blow over. 🙂

        • HA!

          Truly funny. Yes I’ve heard from a few folks of the mysterious black screen but can’t replicate to fix it on my end…#lesigh for ugly things….;)

  5. Heh Claire… and well done.. I stop following everyone approx 2 years ago.. all 19,000 people as just like you and so many others i also thought it was rude and not the done thing to not follow people back. In reality this is a terrible piece of advice… you miss all the nuggets, all the top links and most of all building great relationships with people….

    I now only follow 140 people.. that is my max… but those 140 are special to me. All of them would know me if i contacted them, they all provide me with something… ideas, info, fun, laughter, links, tips, inspiration and so much more…

    I always tell people that you should treat your twitter stream as a hugely valuable commodity.. Imagine if twitter charged you $5 per person per month to followm people… I doubt people would follow 10,000 then heh?

    The main thing is that I engage with anyone and everyone that @markshaw me….I get no dm spam or nonsense, have a twitter stream that is pure gold dust and it works for me…


    Mark Shaw

    • Hey guys…I respect your right to do absolutely anything with your Twitter stream that makes you happy. But that being said, I struggle with this a lot. The thing I like most about Twitter is that I have access to people I never would’ve been able to talk to without it. It brings us all down on the same playing level (where we should be…we all eat, sleep…). It frustrates me when I see terribly lopsided numbers like that because it seems to indicate that someone wants to simply pump out their message without really caring about those who follow them.

      I realize that higher numbers make it very difficult to keep up with important relationships, but, respectfully, I submit that it seems a little uppity to me. Why be on Twitter if you’re not going to follow people back? It just makes it seem like it’s all about you, and I’ve found that Twitter works best when I make it all about how I can serve others.

      I don’t automatically follow back everyone who follows me (no autobots thank you!). But I do follow people back who take the initiative to talk to me. It lets me know that they’re interested in relationship…and that’s why I’m on Twitter.

      I would love to hear your thoughts friends 🙂 Not trying to be disrespectful…just wanted to add my thoughts!

      • I agree with you Brooke. There are enough tools out there to organize, categorize and sift thru our followers tweets that we don’t need to resort to unfollowing people. I only unfollow if the person unfollows me or if I find their tweets offensive, automated, spammy, or repetitive with no worthwhile content or positive interaction. I follow most of my followers back after first reviewing their timeline & profile. I run ” Lazy Unfollow” app to periodically purge my account of non-followers or inactive accounts. And I try to maintain a level of personal interaction with my followers and focus on different lists & types of content. I value each & every one of my followers.
        Every individual is unique and worth listening to. Sometimes we must listen to the message rather then focus on the messenger. That is when lists come in handy…I can still get the content without following someone who doesn’t followback or rarely tweets his pearls of wisdom

  6. I did something similar not too long ago. But rather than starting from zero and adding people back, I did one of those “auto-populate” lists for about 6 months to find out who I was talking to – then took away anyone that wasn’t in that list of people I talk to.

    While I probably did it a more time consuming way, I think it was still the best thing that I did. Right after I did that, I got rid of as many other lists I had created that I don’t follow anymore.

    Such a feeling of relief over it all. 🙂
    (ps… hope to meet you at BlissDom, very excited!!!)

  7. Brava! brava, bravisima! I have been trying to figure out how to re-engage myself on FB now for over a year. I never got any sleep and literally got sick unto death. I find that on Twitter, I can stop in for a quick read and snark and then disappear. But, I am giving your post serious thought. Thank you, and Happy Birthday!

  8. Wow, how much time has this taken you so far? I imagine it would take me hours, using your manual method. Also, any worries about misplacing a valued tweeter?

  9. Is it sacrilegious to ask “Mz Twitter” if the problem can’t simply be avoided by using Tweetdeck or the like? Because then, really, even if you’re following a bajillion people you can create that fresh “starting from zero” feeling with tailored lists.


    • Concur with Lisa-Jo. I follow anyone who I’d like to be able to DM me but only read the tweets in the lists that I’ve created, plus @ replies and DMs. And, even then, I don’t get obsessed with reading every tweet that crosses the wire.

      • I totally see that — but I found myself essentially having to just go to someone’s Twitter stream to find out ANYTHING about their lives of late simply because I wasn’t seeing SO MANY of my tweets in my main stream;)

    • Yes! I definitely worried people would feel hurt. I’m hoping that my blog posts today (and tomorrow) will help them understand why I think it’ll make me a better Twitter user (and follower!);)