How To Regain Your Social Networking Virginity

Simplifying your life on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks.


In 1990, I worked evenings and weekends doing programming for Cayman Systems in Cambridge, MA, both to earn extra money to pay off my college loans and to keep my brain from atrophying in my day job. One day, as the company was struggling with costs, profitability, and competition, I heard one of the founders say, “Well, this company is just an experiment.” Which is both a healthy attitude (for startup types) and unsettling news (for employees).

Life, as it turns out, is an experiment. We live, we learn, we change, we grow. So I view social networking as just one chapter in the ongoing experiment that is the book of life.

And just as I take more chances in life than most, I take more chances with social networking. Habit #2 of the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (book by Stephen R. Covey) is “begin with the end in mind.” With social networking, my end game (as modified by this article) is to have a network of people I know and trust, and to grow that network organically. My goal is not to have the most followers. Just like a gardener’s goal shouldn’t be to plant the most weeds, hoping for the occasional fruit.

But I certainly didn’t start out as an organic gardener.

I’m an early adopter of most new technologies. If I’m doing a thing that nobody else is doing, then I believe the world is wrong, and I keep doing the thing. Then comes mass adoption of the thing. And I don’t like feeling like one of the sheep in the herd. So if I find myself doing a thing that everybody else is doing, then I believe the world is wrong, and I stop doing the thing. Or I do it differently. Or I find a new thing. But not always. It’s complicated.

Here’s a timeline of when I’ve adopted various technologies, sprinkled with personal milestones for reference:

1984-06 – graduated from high school
1984-08 – got on the Internet (MIT Project Athena)
1988-05 – graduated from MIT
1988-07 – swam in the Arctic Ocean
1989-07 – soloed a jet in the USAF
1992-08 – wrote first book
1993-10 – registered first domain name (
1995-05 – graduated from law school
1995-08 – registered first dot-com domain name (
1997-03 – launched law firm website
2000-05 – had my first exit (Verio acquisition)
2003-02 – started blogging
2003-10 – joined LinkedIn
2005-01 – co-founded
2006-04 – joined Facebook
2008-10 – joined Twitter
2009-10 – separated
2010-10 – divorced
2011-07 – joined Google+
2012-10 – engaged
2013-10 – married
2014-04 – regained social networking virginity

Every three years or so, something new, cool, and seemingly revolutionary happens. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m pretty sure it’s not nothing, and I’m pretty sure I’ll give it a whirl.

Today, when the general consensus is that the more social networking the better, I’m announcing that I’ve taken a different path: less is more. I have scaled back my social networking, including deleting much of the content I’ve created on social networks. Here’s what I did, network by network, and why.

Purging Twitter

Twitter is a social network that is based on short 140-character updates. You can follow anyone, anyone can follow you. You can block anyone, anyone can block you. Anyone can sign up: individuals, brands, anonymous users. In 2008, Twitter and Twitter tools were everywhere. When functionality did not exist in Twitter, users (and occasionally Twitter itself) would create it. Twitter was so popular it was on the verge of becoming a protocol (like SMTP for email).

I joined Twitter in 2008. My first Tweet didn’t suck:

The URL ( resolves to a Google search URL (

Shortly after joining Twitter, I did everything that one can do on Twitter. I Tweeted, I re-Tweeted, I replied, I favorited, I created lists, I followed, I followed back. In short, I was fast-forward social networking. All Twitter all the time. In a very short time, I was listed among the “elite” Twitter users on all the sites that claimed to measure such status:


But then a couple of things happened.

First, Twitter started looking for ways to make money. And started closing off its once very open ecosystem. Twitter started focusing on what was best for Twitter, and that is not always best for Twitter users. It’s APIs became more restrictive, Twitter acquired popular third-party services, and tried to get more people to go to the Twitter website.

Second, I took a hard loook at my followers. And I realized that they were full of robots, spammers, scammers, and the like. In short, I realized that my kids would not be proud of those following me on Twitter. I was embarrassed by my followers. And if you are what you eat, then I think you are also the company you keep, including those who follow you. In short, I was a Twitter whore.

The unfollowing and blocking. In the summer of 2009, after peaking (bottoming out?) at 27,035 followers (or so), I decided to unfollow everybody to see what happened. Twitter does not make it easy to unfollow everyone. Twitter doesn’t want its network to have fewer connections, Twitter wants more connections. But I was determined, and two months later, I was following zero users. About 43% of my followers unfollowed me. Many of these followers were using third-party services to auto-unfollow. Just like SEO experts try to game the system by tweaking variables on web pages to get higher rankings in Google, Twitter experts try to game the system by having the “right” ratio of following/followers, the “right” number of Tweets/day, or whatever stat is believed to be important.

But many of my followers didn’t care, because they were not real followers. Many of my remaining followers (about 14,000 of them) were still robots, spammers, scammers, and the like. Unfollowing them didn’t make them go away. So I began the even slower task of blocking the bad ones. Twitter really doesn’t want you to block users and limits you to blocking 100 users every 24 hours. You can’t even find which users you’ve blocked and when! The larger your network, the better for Twitter.

On 2013-01-13, I had 14,341 followers, and I started blocking the spammy ones at the rate of about 300/week. On 2014-02-19, 401 days later, I had 605 followers. I had blocked at least 13,736 users. In other words, I determined that 95% of my Twitter followers were spam.

Spam, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. I consider an account spam if it acts spammy. There are many ways to act spammy:

  1. having a bio with spammy words
  2. having no bio
  3. having no photo
  4. Tweeting spammy Tweets
  5. sending spammy direct messages
  6. favoriting Tweets in a spammy sort of way
  7. re-Tweeting spam
  8. creating lists like a spammer
  9. spam spam spamity spam

Anything that a real user can do on the Internet, a spammer can do. And Twitter brought its spam problem upon itself. Because it is so easy to create a Twitter account, real users can signup and start Tweeting quickly. But so can fake users.

So I purged everything I could on Twitter of spam: followers, following, lists, direct messages, favorites.

Deleting old Tweets. Twitter lets you download an archive of your Tweets (under Settings -> Account). This is the only practical way to view/search all of your past Tweets. Twitter doesn’t want you to delete your Tweets. The larger your network, the better for Twitter. So when you get your archive, you can view your old Tweets, but you have to make a real effort to view them online, where you can delete them. As far as I can tell, there is no limit to the number of Tweets you can delete in a 24-hour period.

I reviewed all of my old Tweets and deleted those that had no long-term value. Many referred to services that no longer exist, had URLs that no longer work, or that I’d forgotten about, such as (FriendFeed), (Seesmic Ping), (a URL-shortener service that was much more popular before Twitter launched its own), and (a photo sharing service that was much more popular before Twitter launched its own).

Here is a snapshot of my Twitter usage from 2008-2013.


My most loquacious month was March 2009, with 952 Tweets. Yowza.

It’s not a surprise to me that my Twitter use peaked from 2009-2010, the same time I was going through separation and divorce. I was pretty lonely during that time, and Twitter was a good companion. I’m also embarrassed at lots of my older Tweets. I was always opinionated, often grumpy, sometimes mean. I sincerely apologize to those I hurt or offended. So I deleted 95% of my 12,500 Tweets. On 2014-03-20, a month after I’d finished blocking my spammy followers, I finished deleting old useless Tweets.

In summary, on Twitter, 95% of my network was spammy, and 95% of my Tweets were not worth saving.

Purging LinkedIn

When LinkedIn was launched in 2003, I don’t think anyone referred to it as a social network. It was really an online business networking service, where professionals could post their resumes and (re)connect with colleagues and classmates. If Twitter is the hare of social networking, then LinkedIn is the tortoise. Bet on the tortoise.

I joined LinkedIn in 2003, and it is my only social network that has steadily grown each quarter.

LinkedIn allows users to post status updates online, but unlike the other social networks, LinkedIn does not save updates for more than a few weeks. I only recently learned this, and, as a result, I’ve stopped posting updates to LinkedIn. You can also customize what updates you see on LinkedIn (Home -> All Updates -> Customize). I turned off everything and now see only 4 (default) top updates of breaking news stories. It’s like an information diet.

There is, of course, spam on LinkedIn, but not very much. Some users, especially those with 500+ connections and those who tag their profile with “LION” (which stands for “LinkedIn Open Networking”), will send you spammy messages, but you can easily mark such messages as spam. And if you’re connected to a spammy user, you can remove LInkedIn connections as well. LinkedIn makes it difficult to disconnect, and I’m not sure where this URL exists on their site (I’m a bookmarker), so here it is:

Removing LinkedIn Connections

I rarely give spammers a second chance (unless their account has been hacked). Once a spammer, always a spammer.

Purging Google+

Launched in 2011, Google+ is Google’s third or fourth (depending on how you’re counting) foray into social networking. It’s pretty darn good. Because it’s the newest of my social networks, it was also the easiest to purge. I didn’t have to delete many updates. And I pretty much only connect with folks I’ve met in person.

One nice feature about Google+ is that it is easy to identify whether (and, if so, how) a new follower is connected to you. From the Google+ “Added you” page (Home -> People -> Added You), you can click through to each new follower’s profile and see if you know people in common. The more popular Google+ gets, the more spammy followers you’ll get.

I opted to remove most biological info about me from Google+, since those who have my email address will be able to find me, and since I’ve been at my current job for well over a decade. I’m not sure how helpful it would be to reconnect with someone I worked with 20 years ago. Besides, I feel that my social networking resume belongs primarily on my website, secondarily on LinkedIn. I really don’t want or need to maintain more than a couple versions of my bio and work history online.

Purging Facebook

When Facebook launched in 2004, it was a closed network that was available only to certain Ivy League schools. Since MIT was among one of the early “in” schools, I was able to join Facebook earlier than most in the spring of 2006. Later that year, Facebook opened up to the world.

Facebook, like Twitter, was difficult to purge. Twitter lacks a good way to view and edit all of your content. Facebook has timeline review, which is just barely functional, especially if you’ve been posting for a few years. Nevertheless, if you are patient, you can go to the Facebook activity log (Home -> Profile -> Activity Log) to delete, hide, or highlight content in all sorts of categories (your posts, posts you’re tagged in, posts by others, posts you’ve hidden, photos, likes, comments, about, friends, notes, music, news, video, games, books, products, following, groups, events, questions, search history, and apps).

I noticed that a few events that were created before Facebook’s latest events interface did not show up under the “events” section but did (if you were patient) show up under your timeline. I found events (with photos and videos) that I had long since forgotten about and deleted most of them. Similarly, I have a couple of “phantom” likes: pages that I liked that later merged with other pages, and I cannot unlike the page because the original URL no longer exists. As such, my like count is not zero; I’m assuming Facebook will eventually fix this bug.

In any event, I deleted most of my content, unliked everything, and deleted most of my biological info (as I did on Google+).

Purging Websites, Email, Newsletters

I removed the numerous (and colorful) social networking icons from my email signature and replaced them with this:

Patents, Trademarks, Boston

The above simplification was based on a LifeHacker article about minimal email signatures.

And if you have ever called my cell and gotten voice mail, then you know it sounds a lot like the above looks: “My name is Erik Heels, and this is my voice mail.” That’s all you need to know.

Each month, I review email from 10+ years ago. I star and save the good stuff, I delete the rest.

On my website and blog, I removed the social networking plugins that added those “share to Facebook” (and the like) links to each of my posts.

I removed all SEO plugins from my WordPress blogs. I think SEO is largely deceptive. If you write one title that is visible on Google, and another title appears on the website, how is that better? Besides, my business is B2B, not B2C, with my website/blog being used to validate a referral, not generate a lead. Most SEO consultants will tell you that I’m wrong, but consider the source. SEO works best for SEO consultants. You want good SEO? Write good content, good SEO will follow.

I also had to remove the newsletter signup pages from my blog and website because my newsletter signup forms were being spammed! Besides, I don’t publish my newsletter very frequently. And I don’t really want to use one service to promote another. It’s quite annoying to follow someone on Twitter and then get an auto-DM saying, “Follow me on Facebook too!”

I want to use my website to drive website traffic.

I want to use my newsletter to drive newsletter subscriptions.

I want to use each of my social networks to grow each of my social networks.

I want to garden organically.

Going Forward: What To Write About

I write primarily about law, technology, baseball, and music. Going forward, I am limiting my posts to those that cover at least two of these categories – or one in depth. More signal, less noise. My recent blog post about Shane Victorino’s intro music is a good example, as it is about both baseball and music.

One thing I noticed about my old Tweets: many were about Twitter.

Many early Facebook posts were about Facebook.

Early Google+ posts were about Google.

And that’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, they like it!

But I can tell you this definitively: Apple, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter don’t need the press. If you can avoid writing about them, then your content will be better. And, yes, I’m aware of the irony. This may very well be my last post on this topic. I feel I owed an explanation to those who may have been wondering where I’ve been, and an apology to those I hurt (sorry).

My Following/Blocking Rules and Content Rules For All Social Networks

As far as who I follow, who I don’t follow, and who I block, it’s pretty simple:

  • I follow people I know and trust. You know who you are.
  • I don’t follow brands (not even my own). I want to connect with the people behind the brands.
  • I don’t let brands follow me, unless they are directly connected to me (like my own companies).
  • I block anyone who acts spammy.

In terms of what content I post where:

  • I use LinkedIn for my resume.
  • I use YouTube for videos that contain original music and videos that do not contain music.
  • I use Facebook for videos that contain music (except original music). Facebook does copyright fair use way better than Google/YouTube does.
  • I use Facebook for photos, so I can easily share pics with those who are not on Facebook. At least until Facebook eliminates this feature.


At some point in our lives, we start valuing our space more than the things that take up that space. That’s partially why my parents initially downsized from a house into a condo. But just like there is no house that is ideal for all, there are no universal social networking rules. There is no right, there is no wrong. You don’t have to over-think it (as I admittedly may have done), but you should definitely think about it.

A parting exercise. Go to your Twitter followers page. Scroll down to the middle. Take a screen shot. Do you like what you see? You’re looking in the mirror. What would the king of pop do?

You can’t plant a garden and reserve a spot for weeds, the weeds always win.

Erik J. Heels is a patent and trademark lawyer for Boston startups, Red Sox fan, MIT engineer, and musician. He blogs about technology, law, baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll at

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LawLawLaw 2013-07-18

A newsletter by Clock Tower Law Group founder Erik J. Heels about trends in technology, intellectual property (IP) law (patent law, trademark law), baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll.


My name is Erik Heels, and this is my LawLawLaw newsletter: subscribe at

LawLawLaw is about technology, law (mostly patents and trademarks), baseball (mostly Red Sox), and music (mostly rock). Besides being an attorney, I’m good at spotting trends, connecting people on social networks, fixing things, building treehouses, and a handful of other things. I try to keep LawLawLaw short (fail), relevant (win), and timely (draw).

Change is constant. In technology, law, baseball, and music. Well, perhaps the pace of change in baseball is not as great as in the other areas, but you get my point. When faced with change, I choose to adapt. But many do not. For example, I’ve been using Google Reader for years to compile this newsletter. But Google decided to shut down Reader, so I’ve had to go elsewhere for my feeds.

Thanks for reading!

Do not taunt happy fun ball.


Clocktower Law Group [Patent Law | Trademark Law]
2 Clock Tower Place, Suite 255, Maynard, MA 01754
phone: 978-823-0008 | fax: 978-246-0256
Email Blog LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Google+ 

“The person who says ‘it cannot be done’ should not interrupt the person doing it.” – Chinese Proverb



Technology, Law, Baseball, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tech Stuff

Trending down: old-school TV coverage of the Olympics, Newsweek in paper, typewriters, tape recorders, Google Reader.

Trending up: Facebook search, Android (but not for me).

    * Powering Down Google Reader (2013-03-13)

    * Android Is Popular Because It’s Cheap, Not Because It’s Good (2013-01-22)
    America’s most popular restaurant: McDonald’s.

    * Facebook Announces Graph Search (2013-01-15)

    * Putting The Cassette To Bed: Sony To Discontinue Handheld Tape Recorders In 2013 (2012-12-09)

    * Final Typewriter Made In UK (2012-11-20)

    * After 80 Years, Newsweek Cuts Print Operation (2012-10-18)

    * The Disappearing Web: Information Decay Is Eating Away Our History (2012-09-19)

    * Alan Wexelblat: The Last Buggy-Whip Olympics (2012-07-30)
    We hope.

Patent Law Stuff

Like many patent law firms, we were very busy on Fri 2013-03-15, the last day under the (now old) “first to invent” patent system, as the U.S. transitioned to a “first to file” (actually “first inventor to file”) system the next day ( In the name of harmonization. But beware of the names of things. We won’t really know the full effect of this patent “reform” until the new laws have been vetted by the courts. And the courts don’t care about the real world (see quote below). But don’t you think they should? I personally think that harmonization for the sake of harmonization is a bad thing. China is the world’s most populous country, but I don’t see folks rushing to harmonize U.S. human rights laws with China’s. In any event, change is constant. Our updated advice:

FILE BEFORE LAUNCHING. As of 2013-03-16, The U.S. is a first-inventor-to-file system (replacing the former first-to-invent system). As such, you should file your patent application BEFORE you launch (where “launch” is defined as sale, offer for sale, publication, or public use) your product/service/improvement. This is the safest way to protect U.S. and foreign patent rights.

IMPROVEMENTS. Improvements should be considered new inventions. If you file a patent on an invention and later make improvements to the invention, then the improvements may be separately patentable as separate inventions. As above, you should file patents on improvements BEFORE launching.

    * Don’t Write This Letter to the Patent Office (2013-04-26)

    * US Patent Law Changes To First-To-File (2013-03-16)

    * The New 35 U.S.C. 102 (2013-03-16)

    * Beware Of Patent Reform (2013-03-06)
    Goodbye first-to-invent, hello first-inventor-to-file.

    * Best/Worst Line From Today’s Supreme Court Oral Arguments In Already V. Nike (2012-11-08)
    MR. DABNEY: Your Honor, in the real world, a business competitor…
    JUSTICE BREYER: No, I’m not interested in the real world. I am interested in the record.

    * Top 10 Things BigLaw Patent Lawyers Don’t Want You To Know (2012-09-26)
    And won’t tell you. Srsly.

    * Apple v. Samsung: Apple Wins $1.05 Billion Verdict (2012-08-27)

Trademark Law Stuff

Clocktower continues to help companies with naming, renaming, branding, and rebranding. What you want, of course, is the trifecta: the trademark, the domain name (dot-com), and the social usernames (primarily Facebook and Twitter). Our advice is not to fall in love with any particular name or brand. And be willing to change. It is usually easier to switch than fight. Those of you who remember the 1970s may recall a cigarette company that used the exact opposite phrase as a trademark in its advertisements (!). But trust me about the whole fighting-vs-switching thing. And don’t smoke.

    * Ron Paul Doesn’t Win And Is Guilty Of Reverse Domain Hijacking (2013-05-24)

    * Yankees Win! TTAB Sustains Opposition to “BASEBALLS EVIL EMPIRE” (sic) on Confusion and False Association Grounds (2013-02-21)
    So the Yankees admit they are evil in order to oppose ‘evil empire’ trademark. Got it.

    * Colors As Trademarks: The Gloves Are On In This Baseball Brawl (2012-07-11)

    * Louboutin Wins Trademark Rights For Red Soles, As Long As They Contrast (2012-09-05)

Other Law Stuff

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -Lord Acton

I teach my children to have a healthy respect for government. And a healthy disrespect. I still believe in the rule of law, not in the rule of man. But lately it’s been more difficult to distinguish actual headlines from the headlines in (satirical publication) This, too, shall pass.

    * ACLU Sues Government Over ‘Dragnet’ Surveillance Of Americans (2013-06-11)

    * Mississippi Finally Gets Around To Ratifying 13th Amendment (Abolishing Slavery) (2013-02-18)
    Better late than never.

    * Google, Facebook, Amazon [Finally] Form New Lobbying Association to Protect the Internet (2012-09-12)

    * The UN Declares Internet Access a Human Right (2012-07-06)
    But Finland did it first.

    * Wikileaks Founder Gets Asylum (2012-08-16)

    * Russian Punk Band Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For ‘Hooliganism’ (2012-08-17)

    * Amazon Hires Privacy Counsel (2012-09-01)
    It’s about time.

Baseball Stuff

My buddy John started offering me some of his season tickets after the 2008 ALCS (see my ALCS Game 5 post) and the start of the 2008 recession. The 2013 season is the 5th in which I’ve bought multiple games (4 in 2009, 6 in 2010, 6 in 2011, 9 in 2012, 10 in 2013). I buy more tickets each year, because I’m in it for the long haul! So while many gave up on the Red Sox after the “Valentine era” (is that a thing?), I did not. I’ll be a Red Sox fan for life! This has been a challenging year for Boston (due to the events of 4/15), but Boston will survive!

    * Red Sox Player David Ortiz Declares During Pregame Tribute: “This Is Our F*cking City!” (2013-04-20)

    * Red Sox Sellout Streak Comes To An End (2013-04-11)

    * Opening Day: Red Sox 8, Yankees 2 (2013-04-01)
    Not an April Fools’ Day joke.

    * Zero Named to Baseball’s Hall of Fame (2013-01-09)

    * MLB buys Domain Name For $1.2m (2013-01-08)

    * Red Sox Officially Name John Farrell Manager (2012-10-21)

    * R.I.P. Johnny Pesky (2012-08-14)

    * Dodgers, Red Sox Complete Blockbuster Trade (2012-08-27)
    Gone: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto. It’s officially a building year.

    * What Cricket Looks Like To Americans (2012-07-19)
    A little wide.

Music Stuff

Music remains awesome. You just have to look a litter harder to find the good stuff.

    * Hype Machine Time Machine Takes You Back to Rediscover The Best Tracks of Years Gone By (2013-01-28)

    * R.I.P. Dave Brubeck (2012-12-05)

    * The State Of The Music Industry (2012-07-31)

    * Internet Archive Enables Over 1,000,000 Torrents Of Books, Music And Movies (2012-08-08)

    * The History of Rock N’ Roll In 100 Riffs (2012-09-02)

In-Case-You-Missed-It Stuff: Clocktower And Its Clients

Clocktower has been very busy. As have our clients.

    * Beware Of Patent Reform (2013-03-06)
    Goodbye first-to-invent, hello first-inventor-to-file.

    * ‘Game of Thrones’ Facebook Game Opens to Fans (2013-02-25)

    * My New Website/Blog: Local, Social, Mobile, Good Enough (2013-01-17)
    Arguably one of the websites we’ve seen today.

    * 10 years ago, I switched from MS Office to OpenOffice (2013-01-04)

    * Drawing That Explains Blog (2012-10-02)

    * Top 10 Things BigLaw Patent Lawyers Don’t Want You To Know (2012-09-26)
    And won’t tell you. Srsly.

    * Shareaholic Raises Oversubscribed $3 Million Series A (2012-07-13)

    * Clocktower’s Winning Clients (2011-05-24)
    $2 Billion In Angel/VC Funding + 10 Acquisitions By Public Companies (and counting).

Random Stuff

Res ipsa loquitur. Or whatever the plural of “res” is.

    * When Your House Is Burning Down, You Should Brush Your Teeth (2013-01-08)
    A true story about a cat.

    * CEO Autobiography: I was ridiculously lucky. The end. (2012-12-30)

    * Why isn’t the sky violet? (2012-12-10)

    * Disney Buys Lucasfilm, New ‘Star Wars’ Coming in 2015 (2012-10-30)

    * Mash-Up: Office Space vs. The Matrix (2012-07-22)

    * At 40, Atari Gives Eight Class Video Games To Everyone For Free (2012-08-30)


The LawLawLaw newsletter, available at, is a publication of Clocktower Law Group. The opinions in LawLawLaw do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Clocktower Law Group, its employees, or the author. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might enjoy it. Send content/subscription questions to Thanks!