A stranger is following you.
If this happens in a park, late at night – it becomes the stuff of pick-up-the-pace walking; as you try and stay under the secluded shafts of street light.
If this happens in a prime-time, crime-drama – it’s the opening sequence: where bit-part becomes body.
If this happens online – it’s cause for celebration. In cases of extreme joy, the trumpet/confetti emoji is used (two of them if the whole thing occurs on a Friday).
You stare at your new follower’s round, bulbous profile picture (thanks Twitter UI update) and wonder – what was it, that made you, follow me?
You decide that you must be getting wittier, or at least, better looking. Something drew them in. It was either your last (heavily-filtered) profile picture, or that one-liner about baked beans….
But what if you did nothing?
What if you were only being followed, so you’d follow back?
You know them, they’re easy to spot – a roughly identical number of followers and following. They may be a local company trying to build business, or a personal blog, focusing on self-promotion. They may be dedicated to a vague topic, (like aesthetics) that has nothing tangible attached to it.
From the outside, they look like the piped-piper with hoards of followers trailing behind them.
In actuality, it’s more reciprocal.
These accounts follow us (like the children in the story) and hope we will follow them, (like the children in the story) – but it’s never a passive exercise. At varying points, either party can possess the power of the piper.
For the Hamelin account, their piper-song is their high follower account (to encourage us to follow them). If we follow, we are then exposed to a high number of accounts.
However, we aren’t children, idly dancing into the abyss. Our piper-song is the unfollow button. We possess the power of the piper, because if we abandon them, their follower account decreases – reducing them to nothing more than a rat-catcher in a funny suit, playing an off-key tune (or whatever the Twitter equivalent may be).