Twitter and the delicate art of unfollowing

Engaging in in-depth study of my field as the “anti-social media expert”, I came across a website run by your friendly neighbourhood troupe of social media experts. Besides the usual treasure trove of must-know specialised advice on this site were a number of articles on how and when to unfollow people on Twitter.

Amongst the sage pieces of advice given to the hungry for social media knowledge masses on this website were that one should “institute a following/unfollowing policy for your followers,” what should be included and how to publicise said policy.

Not to disrespect these experts, but I felt they missed the point somewhat.

Unfollowing can be an affair fraught with anxiety over the dreaded question: “Why’d you unfollow me?” However, our experts failed to realise that the best way to evade these situations is to know whom not to follow to begin with.

As such, here’re some helpful tips on whom not to follow:

The Siren To Your Loins
The call of your loins is a strong one, and one we should be grateful for, for without it there’d be no evolutionary darwinism and humanity would’ve never developed to the heights of Stephen Hawkings or Justin Bieber. Online though, it’s a different matter. Despite how perfect a depiction of the human form an avatar may be, the chances of your loins meeting theirs are miniscule. In addition, this is the online world, where the visual chicanery of Photoshop is rife.

However, if that avatar is true, you’re most likely to be made to feel guilty as you lounge on the sofa in sweatpants stuffing your face with Cheese Curls while they happily tweet, “off to the gym”, yet equally jealous knowing the results is why you followed them in the first place.

The crazy eyes of the internet feature an excessive use of exclamation points and a love of CAPS. Thankfully, most, but not all of #TEAMFOLLOWBACK do us a favour and say it outright in their bio that they’re part of this ‘team’. Of course, you’re not always aware you’re being followed by a member until you get an indignant tweet asking why it is you haven’t followed them back? For like members of any religion, Scientologists, Christians or Apple users, #TEAMFOLLOWBACK just doesn’t understand that you don’t believe in what they believe in. As @YUCKYBOT put it:

“Irony is #TEAMFOLLOWBACK not realizing that #TEAMFOLLOWBACK is the sole reason people aren’t following them back.”

The New Squeeze
The joy you feel for someone you care for when meeting the person they’re ‘sorta-kinda seeing is a true and good joy. A joy you follow up on by immediately checking them out on Facebook. This is good as it’s your duty to ensure that those you care for are not about to date an axe-murderer, but we know not to friend them as that’s too personal, too soon. However, Twitter deceptively gives the impression that it is a far less personal platform than Facebook, so we see them on Twitter, and gaily click ‘follow’ and, good tweeters that we are, we engage with gusto.

When a week later, what was a “sorta-kinda” relationship is now a “never-ever” and you’re left with the awkward situation of having to abide by the rules of Friendship 101 and unfollowing as you try to extricate yourself from the new friendship you’ve precipitously developed.

The Co-Worker
Horror stories abound of the dangers of mixing work with Facebook. They’re generally of the “I-didn’t-think-of-my-boss-when-I-posted-that-picture-from-the-wild-party-the-night-before-the-big-presentation” variety. Thankfully, most people now know better than to do this. However, when it comes to Twitter, falling for that fallacious notion that Twitter is less personal, many announce the brilliance of Twitter, calling on co-workers to join up and follow them — only inviting the future awkwardness of having to unfollow Dawie from Accounts.

All tweeters know the righteousness of going forth and spreading the glory of the gospel of the Twitter, in this instance, it is ill advised. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you’d be best advised to follow what your antiSocial Media Expert did when last gainfully employed. Lie. Deny all knowledge of Twitter. If necessary – as was for me – call Twitter a filthy heathen rumour and say the reason you’re always on your phone is that you’re ‘mixing-it,’ for unless you’re happy to join the accursed of Twitter and actually lock your profile, unlike Facebook, they will follow you, which you cannot control.

The Family Member
Whilst it may seem like a good idea to follow distant cousin Siphokazi on Twitter as you’re already friends with her on Facebook, it’s not exactly the same thing. Sure, both Twitter and Facebook allow you to remain in contact with each other, however on Facebook, ‘remaining in contact,’ is something done every couple of months whereas on Twitter it’s more. Cousin Siphokazi may be tolerable in the quarterly sessions on Facebook, even more so when she shows up for Christmas every other year, however when every third tweet in your timeline is from her, you get a crash course reminder in why absence makes the heart grow fonder and choose to unfollow her at your own peril.

Fact is, though those of us who tweet when non-tweeting acquaintances say, ‘but you’re talking to strangers over the internet,’ always reply, ‘you get to know these people,’ they are correct; as such, when you unfollow them the awkwardness is limited to Twitter. However, that discomfort and awkwardness will be far more amplified as our last three examples are people whom you know in real life; people whom can embarrass you in a face-to-face setting.

Whether it’s bumping into your friend’s ex at a dinner party or it’s Dawie from Accounts always looking at you askew in the cafeteria or cousin Siphokazi at Christmas continually ignoring your requests for the mango-peach salsa; any awkwardness when it comes to the real-life confrontation between Unfollowers and the Unfollowed is to be avoided at all costs.

Instead of having to read pages of invaluable advice from social media experts on how to unfollow, take this tip from your trusted antiSocial Media Expert; if ever there’s a doubt of whether to follow or not to follow, there is no question.



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