Why Didn’t Jerry Follow Me Back?

Jerry Grey
15 min readSep 24, 2022


Back in 2021 when I first wrote this, it had been a surprise to me that someone tweeted, I think (hope!) gleefully, that I’d followed them back and I wondered why. Then it occurred to me that I only follow about one in five, or 20% of the number of people who follow me and I thought it was probably a good time to explain why. Now, it’s a good time to update it.

I do have two accounts @jerry_grey2002 which is my main account and @jerrystakechina which is smaller, my purpose originally was to create one account to cover society and my travels. For reasons which will become obvious if you continue reading, that account, Jerry_ grey2002, became quite political. It is the larger and older account but will, from now, be a lot less political than the other. Jerrystakechina will be more political in future. My purpose in this is to, hopefully, maintain the interest of people who love China but are not interested in one aspect of life in China which I consider is vitally important while understanding itdoesn’t interest a lot of people: that of the anti-China narrative. It’s very hard to separate the two so, if you’re one of those, please bear with me and allow me the odd slip into politics from time to time.

First of all, I’m totally amazed at the number of people who follow me, if you’re one of them — thank you.

I started an account in 2015, but didn’t use it after that first day until 2020. so, for about 5 years, I had only two followers, my younger brother and a friend who was with me the day I opened the account. Early 2020, I was locked down due to Covid-19 restrictions and decided to reactivate the account. I had a lofty goal of reaching the same number of followers as another brother who had over 600. I now have over 72,000 and am still wondering why and what it is that I say or do which is of such interest to so many people. I started by tweeting some photos and short stories related to my bike riding, I ride a lot around the city I live in, Zhongshan in Guangdong but I’ve also ridden across China four times and that is of interest to some people.

Nowadays, I focus more on the aspects of China that are misunderstood and I’ve developed a much larger audience than I expected, many of those people follow me on both accounts so The smaller account, JerrystakeChina, will be more for those people. When I started I tried to follow everyone back but it became unmanageable so I made some changes to how I decide.

I do try to look at every new follower but sometimes that’s hard, in one week once, I had over 4,000 news followers, that’s an average of nearly 600 in a day, it takes 10 or 20 seconds to check each one, sometimes longer. Now, even with 200+ a day, I’m finding it takes many hours just to do nothing other than look at new follower bios. So, if I haven’t followed you back, this could be why, I just didn’t see you; if that’s the case, please interact with me and I’ll notice you, I do keep on top of my notifications.

The first day that I tweeted photos of riding through Xinjiang, my account started to take off. Some of it was because many people didn’t believe me and challenged me and of course, what they didn’t realise was that challenging me and interacting with me improves the algorithm and causes more people to see me, so, despite doing what they could to sinlence me, they were, in fact, improving my prospects of being seen. However, given the amount of media stating that Xinjiang is hard to get to, it’s hardly a surprise many people don’t believe I’ve been there several times. To those people, I suggest you read a little more carefully, the articles describe the remoteness and the distances to get there and even, in some cases, the distances inside Xinjiang, which is pretty big (it takes several weeks of cycling to travel from the East at Xin Xin Xia to the West at Khorgas and that’s pretty much a straight line, it would take years to see it all on a bike) It’s definitely not a closed off or secretive region though. Although I’ve often seen Xinjiang described as “secretive” that’s pure sensationalism designed to make you believe. It’s geographically a long way, it takes 5 hours to fly from the East Coast to the Capital Urumqi but anyone with a valid Chinese ID or visa to be in China can go unrestricted — I’ve had journalists tell me that when they go, they get followed. Whether that’s true, or just their imagination, I’ll never know but I know for a fact, we were never followed — it’s hard to follow someone when you’re riding through the desert, not a tree for 500 kilometres and it’s 180 kilometres to the next building!

Others followed me on Twitter because I was providing a glimmer of hope that the narrative of Xinjiang could finally be challenged, or even debunked — it still hasn’t been completely debunked because there are so many media outlets and politicians simply lying about it. Even the reecent (Sept 2022) UN report from the office of the High Commissioner was laced with doubts and remained unsigned by the outgoing High Commission and was released with no press conference and no author attributed; seems there might still be doubts even in the Human Rights Council Office! Anyway, my (and many other’s) posts have certainly put a tiny dent in the level of belief and hopefully started some critical thinkers on the path of realisation.

Some of them follow because they want to ridicule or criticise me, that’s ok, if anyone wants to challenge or debate what I put on Twitter, I have no problem at all. I stand by what I tweet. For me, RT’s are usually endorsements of how I feel — I’m not sure if people realise when they place the words: “RT does not equal endorsement” in their bio that they are giving themselves barely minimal legal protection against future litigation caused by someone taking offence with the original tweet — an amplification of that tweet, is an endorsement, if the original is found guilty of libel/slander/defamation, would mean that any subsequent amplification is as guilty as the original; liability damages may be vicariously passed to the “RTer” ro, be careful and mindful of what you RT, I certainly am and never RT an insult or an unsubstantiated allegation, unless it’s posed as a question.

I write a lot about China, I live here, have done for 18 years, I’ve worked here for 15 of those years and am now retired and live in a property I own. Life is good, it’s much better than I could find in the country of my birth, England; or the adopted country Australia, whose passport I hold. Because my life is good, because the government, at all levels has been fair to me and because living standards and facilities in China have improved every single year that I’ve been here, because this is the safest, and many would be surprised about this, the cleanest environment I’ve ever lived in. I like it. I’ve travelled to almost every province and region, sometimes for work, sometimes on a bike for recreation. I’ve also been actively involved in charity and poverty alleviation and have travelled to places where running water, electricity, windows in the walls, fitted doors and solid floors were considered a luxury until just five or six years ago.

So, while I recognise China isn’t perfect, I also submit to the readers that it’s a close as we’re going to get in terms of policymaking, governance, lifestyle improvements and opportunities. Obviously then, I tend to have nice things to say about China. This stance brings me lots of followers who support and agree, but it also brings lots of detractors who assume I’m lying, paid, coerced or even in fear of some aspect of government control. That’s usually the attitude of people who’ve never visited China.

Those people who criticise me come from, or hold a point of view that doesn’t have nice things to say about China. For the most part, I don’t follow these people back. I do engage in discussions and debates, but I will block anyone who is rude, or attacks me personally rather than my message. I need to do that, in order to keep sane — I do have a short fuse and a block is the appropriate response given that I try hard not to be insulting, rude, impolite or profane in writing. All of these things, would, quite rightly get me, at least warned, possibly suspended or, in really serious cases have my account deleted — to date, I’ve never received any warning, suspensions or ban on Twitter, so, I think I must be doing something right.

Most of the people who do follow me and interact with me hold similar points of view, they approve, even if only broadly, of what China is doing, has done and continues to do. These are the people I see and follow back. Some might say I’m creating an echo chamber of agreement and they may be right. But what is Twitter? It’s not a political platform, it’s definitely not a free speech platform, it’s a form of entertainment — why shouldn’t I be entertained when I’m on it; and, having a lot of free time, I can be on it several hours a day. So, I want it to be positive and in agreement rather than adversarial all the time.

Which brings us to who I don’t follow…

One of the criteria I have of not following back is those accounts who have no tweets at all — what’s the point in following a number? If you’re one of those people, reading this and thinking to yourself: “I followed this guy on my first day or two on Twitter and now I’ve got loads of tweets”, please feel free to direct message (DM) me, or mention me in a Tweet, I’ll take a look and follow you back if you don’t fall into one of the next few categories.

If you only tweet in a foreign language, I’m sorry, my timeline (TL) has a lot of Chinese in it and I don’t have the time to translate every tweet, no matter how interesting it might be. So, since it’s China I’m most interested in, I tend not to follow languages other than Chinese. I have a lot of Pakistani, Ethiopian and Slavic languages, not sure why but also a lot of Spanish language following me too, mostly from South America. If the language is mixed with English, I’ll often follow back but if I scroll down the first few tweets and only see one language I can’t read, then I usually won’t. I know this is causing me to miss a lot of information and perhaps miss some interesting articles and I do feel some guilt about the fact that I’m so ignorant I know how to read in only one language — I’m sorry, especially to those people who have polyglot skills. This reason is brought about by my own ignorance and I accept that criticism, especially living in China, I ought to at least read Chinese but sadly, I’ve never learnt, I am functional when it comes to speaking the language, although definitely nowhere near good enough to engage in political discourse.

If your entire content is about cats — I’m sorry, I have no interest and don’t enjoy cat videos, photos or even the presence of cats. It’s personal, I like cat people, but for some physiological reason I can’t explain, I don’t even like to be in the same vicinity as a cat and will not go where there are a lot of cats. Something is wrong with me, I know but it affects some of my followers and I apologise, it’s not you, it’s your cat(s) ☹. I don’t have the same issues with dogs!

If your entire content is about God or Jesus, I’m not interested. If you’re a believer and mention it, I’ll scroll down the TL to ensure there’s other aspects that interest me and often follow back — I grew up in a large family with parental God-botherers and whilst I sincerely respect your right to do so, I do not believe in God. My personal belief is that we have a conscious, it helps guide us to do the right thing, it gives us guilt if we do the wrong thing and provides a moral compass for us. If there is a God, then He/She/It is inside us all, we don’t need external stimulus and I certainly don’t need to be told when to sit, stand or kneel to seek in a building that smells of burning spices for guidance on what I know I need to do. Again, nothing personal, many of my friends are very religious and I accept their belief is just different to mine. So, feel free to believe, I do follow many believers but don’t follow zealots who have nothing but God to talk about.

If your account is only about football, or even worse, basketball, I’m not interested. I played football as a kid, I loved it, but have no interest whatsoever in sitting down with beers and watching a game on the weekend. I’d rather be out doing something and I’m definitely too old to play. I do enjoy some sports and don’t have a problem following others who do too. References to football or basketball, don’t mean I won’t follow you but if the entire TL is about a single sport, then it doesn’t interest me enough to put into my TL, unless it’s cycle touring — by that I mean travelling, especially through different countries, on a bike, not racing like the Tour de France. I love cycling and will often follow or follow back fellow cyclists.

If your account is photos naked bodies or videos of sex acts, I won’t follow back. Not because I’m a prude, I actually enjoy viewing and watching if it’s beautiful, I don’t enjoy watching most porn as there’s no beauty in that. The reason I don’t follow you back is because I am attempting to be a serious contributor to the site and following porn accounts tends to give detractors some ammunition against my message — imagine I’m talking about alleged genocide in Xinjiang and someone replies with a: “this you?” message linking me to a porn site — there are people who have nothing better to do than troll a person’s followers and following in order to belittle them. Hard to believe but true and I don’t wish to provide them ammunition!

Cryptocurrencies hold no interest to me, but even less so since I followed a few in the early days and they immediately DM asking me to invest — I don’t have investment money, I’m living on a small pension and as, a 64 year old guy, I certainly don’t need some 24 year old geek telling me I’m foolish because this epheria, cryptocoin, dogecash or whatever, is the next thing to make me a millionaire — if it is, then you don’t need my money to get rich, go ahead and make your money, I won’t feel jealous of you, I won’t feel disappointed because I didn’t do it. I’ve made all the investment I’m going to make in my life, my wife and I own two properties, I have a pension in the UK being paid out now and an even smaller income, I also have some spare cash for that rainy day, but not enough to invest in your schemes — sorry.

There are some accounts I have no idea what they are. I think they may be gamers or coders, I read the first few tweets and am totally confused by why this person might follow me, but even more confused by why anyone would follow this account — perhaps it’s just my ignorance, but if you are one of these accounts where all your tweets looks like: “qwaty.lu-54/se” or something like it, then I won’t follow you. If every one of your tweets is a screenshot of some monsters, soldiers, or bombsites you’re proud of, then that’s great for you, but again, your games may be fascinating and addictive to some, but hold no interest for me. Games interspersed by news or commentary, I’m happy to follow back.

Instagram or YouTube users — if all you’re ever going to tweet is a link, I have no idea what it is you’re linking me to I’m not going to follow you. If you put a photo or clip, or even a few words of description, then I may find that I’m interested, click on your links and follow you back, but if all I see is link after link, with no other information, it’s not going to work — I don’t think I’m alone in being too busy (or too lazy) to click on links I when I have no idea where they will take me.

I have an instant block on people who follow me with nefarious intent — It’s actually happened, some HK people decided that being pro-China means I’m anti their movement. They may be right, but I simply don’t know enough about the HK issues to make judgements on who is right and who is wrong, I do however tend to take the side of the group less prone to the sporadic violence and targeted racism we saw in 2019. I was once targeted by a large group of these and spent over an hour blocking them when it was pointed out that one member of the group was calling on all the others to report me — for what, I’m not sure, but it included some very important names from the HK narrative and now they wonder why they are blocked without ever interacting with me.

Same goes for people who add me to lists — if you want my input then follow me and interact with me, put me in a list, I’ll look at the list, if I approve, you’re ok, if I don’t like the content, you’re going to get blocked. Your list will need to survive without me.

If someone is following me with a profanity in their name, they are unlikely to be followed back, simply because I love the English language and see no need for expletives. Not that I don’t use them, of course I do. However, I feel the written word is a permanent record of our thoughts and try not to use profanity in writing. Over a beer with my friends, I’ll cuss along comfortably.

Businesses are another thing I won’t follow, not that I have no interest in your business, I wish you every success but I don’t want to be inundated with thousands of tweets every day for products I don’t use. It’s bad enough having advertising invading every aspect of our daily lives without inviting you in to offer me your products in my tweeet-scrolling.

Dating is not what I came to Twitter for. Everyone who knows me and people who really follow me have seen that I spend a lot of time with my wife. We enjoy each other’s company immensely, we’ve cycled across China together, we holidayed in many places both inside and outside of China together, we’re lost when we aren’t with each other and call or video chat with each other every day, and text each other often when we aren’t chatting. In other words, I got lucky and found my soul mate, I sincerely hope you will find yours and, when you do, you have the sense of companionship, love and fulfilment I have with my wife and best friend of the last 17 years. Of course we have our ups and downs, but the ups are well in excess of 90% and so the downs aren’t worth worrying about. If you’re looking for dates, please don’t look in my direction.

I don’t like seeing a TL which is completely full of one person’s photos, if it’s your TL and you’re constantly posting photos of yourself I assume there’s some kind of problem, either you’re narcissistic or you’re insecure, if you’re insecure, I hope some time in the future you can overcome it. If it’s narcissism, then you need help and I’m not the one to help you and sadly, you probably don’t realise you need the help at all and, if it is narcissism, you won’t be reading this anyway so, if you are, you’re probably ok.

There’s one other aspect I’ve noticed and that is the indirect approach through DMs. My DMs are open as I do want to interact with people who want to interact with me. I got hit over a short period of time by some veryin “interesting” accounts. First of all it was girls looking for sex, I declined all of them and deleted a lot I didn’t bother to reply to. Then it was bondage sex, several approaches in a short period of time, again, all of which were declined, after that it was gay sex, once again, all declined. The few that I interacted with send me very revealing photos and asked me to send photos to them — something I’ll never do. I have one friend on a different social media who was enticed along this path and then “exposed” as a pervert, which he isn’t and wasn’t but it’s quite apparent to me that Twitter isn’t the place to be offering those kinds of opportunities which may, or may not be traps but certainly not one in which I’ll ever fall into.

One thing I often do when I have a tweet which goes over a few “likes”, is to scroll down the likes and see if people are following me, this way, I can often catch the people interested in what I’m doing but whom I missed when they first followed me. It might take a while to notice but I will eventually notice everyone who follows me and likes my content.

I think I covered everything but once again, let me emphasise, if you are following me and I haven’t followed you back, you’re still able to DM me and we can discuss, debate, argue, agree to disagree as long as we remain civil.



Jerry Grey

I’m British born Australian living in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write mostly positively about my China experiences