I keep a list of people's names, drawn in lipstick.
Actually, Twitter keeps it for me, and it's not really their names, it's their handles. Confuses the heck out of me when they change their display name and their picture, but I hope it makes them happy.
I keep a list because 95% of my followers have never talked to me. I don't know who they are, or what their dreams are. I don't know if they've read my book, or if they liked it. They're like the people sitting across from me on a city square, eating their lunch, maybe watching me spill ketchup in my lap but not offering me a napkin, and that's fine because social media is mostly watching interesting weirdos who can't keep their pants clean.
But every once in a while, a stranger will like a post, and I'll take a look at their feed and I'll like or retweet what I laugh at or think you would like. It's a nice little acknowledgement, but we'll probably never meet again.
If they do it a couple times, I add them to the list.
I have a pretty busy life - time is never abundant - so I pretty much never look at the main feed. Those 15 retweets of that thing you're selling? Didn't see it. I check on my friends. These are people I've been social more than once. I know stuff about them. They matter.
They're people like Somer, who always posts things I want to eat when I can't have them and tells great one-liners, or J.L. who wanders America taking kicking pictures and being profoundly human. They're G.S. and Andy, who write great sci-fi books (Andy mostly breaks--repurposes--things) and are still madly in love with each other after years of marriage, or Tim, who's just a dude, I guess, but tells a great yarn and is also incredibly sharp when it comes to being an indie author. They're about 200 in all, those are just some of the more public personalities.
I'd say that 99% of my social media enjoyment comes from people on that list. Many of them have not read my book, and I'm cool with that, because they know me. They interact. They care. They may not be songbirds, wombles, cats, or bears as their profiles might suggest, but they take time out of their day to see how mine went.
It's why I don't auto-DM people. It's why I write a different email to every person who joins my mailing list, and if they answer, so do I. I think it's important. When the robot invasion comes, it's the only way we're going to be able to recognize the real people.
I guess the point I'm making is that if you're spectating, you're missing out. Can I talk to 200 people every day? No. Can I take a meaningful peek into their lives once in a while and cheer them on? And is it worth it? Absolutely.
So if you're passing through Twitter, give this guy a napkin and start a conversation. He's friendly, and they're just ketchup stains, honest.