This month, it has dawned on some people that it's possible to be rude on the Internet. Don't care for tenderly served personal revelations on Twitter1? Ticked off by an eager attempt to amuse you with a timely joke? Unfollow with impunity, these monsters advise, citing a sense of euphoria or "joy" after hitting the mute button on a human being (or its parodic equivalent).
But what if you're not the executioner—silencing avatars with an insouciant tap of gorilla glass. What if you are The Unfollowed? How do you process this unburdening when the burden is you?
Have had two serious unfollowing shocks in the past 24 hours and am reeling
— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) January 14, 2014
Step 1: Be vigilant.
Stay alert (by getting alerts). Not one lick of this matters, not for one taste bud's length on one tongue. But if you wanted to spend your time wisely, you wouldn't keep shoving your face in a stream. So be insulted. Care deeply. This is your life now, wallow in it. Sign up for a service that lets you know the moment your profile pic got flicked. Some thumbnail you don't recognize deemed you unworthy? A bot has moved on to another spam victim? How can you take it personally if you don't know it's happening?
I use an email service called Nutshell, scheduled to update me once a day. It tends to show up in my inbox just as I'm exiting the office into the echoing darkness. While I'm on the subway ride home, I scroll right past "New Followers"—who cares, you already won that round—down to "Lastest Quitters," a section Nutshell illustrates with "running dash" emoji. I stare at their pixelated faces and question the choices that got me here.
I can’t even IMAGINE subscribing to a who unfollowed me service, I would die a thousand deaths every day
— Mark Slutsky (@totallyslutsky) January 17, 2014
should I conduct an exit interview with the reporter from the hill who unfollowed me?
— Elon Green (@elongreen) January 14, 2014
Step 2: Retaliate, swiftly.
If you were unfollowed by someone you know, respond in kind immediately. This is a very chilled out way to react. A cool game grown-ups play, but don't like to talk about so just zip it okay. The unfollow keystroke sequence should be in your muscle memory. Chances are, this freewheeling unfollower, joyed out of freaking her mind, also subscribes to a notification service. And has there ever been a better conduit for passive aggression than email? Sit back for a moment, settle into the curved plastic of the B train. Boy, will they ever think twice about re-unfollowing you!
When I got hacked n they unfollowed everyone, some ppl who ive worked with n met in REAL LIFE unfollowed me back hahahaha twitter.... SMH
— LUNARFUCKINGC (@LunarCFT) January 20, 2014
.@PeterWinick Dear person behind this feed: are you aware you've followed and unfollowed me 3x in the past month? Not very engaging...
— Lydia Dishman (@LydiaBreakfast) January 20, 2014
Step 3: Reverse Psychology.
Perhaps you were just unfollowed by someone who exists on a higher Internet echelon than you. (There are levels. If you don't know which one you're on, it's the lowest.) Maybe their micro-famous ego was hurt that you didn't bow down with a follow back. In this case, wait a beat, then, real casual like, throw 'em a follow. Fave a recent tweet if they're one of those fragile Nathaniel P types. That byline will follow you back in no time. (Are you slowly realizing that I've done this to you? Because I have. And you fell for it.)
In the kingdom of the unfollowed, the 1-followed man is king
— Nimrod Kamer (@nnimrodd) September 25, 2013
Step 4: Public shaming.
Post a maudlin message. Feign disbelief. Let @literallywhomever know that this unfollow—this unclick too far—has ravaged you with self-doubt. Beg, tease, flirt, subtweet. There are no rules except my rules. This is transparent and desperate. It will never work. But the mild discomfort scratching at your Unfollower is its own reward. Pity is just another form of respect (in the form of pity).
@amiantos You've unfollowed me for MULTIPLE REASONS. You don't care about me. So I'm gonna read the NYT & get dinner w/ 2 New Yorkers. OK?
— Mαtt Thomαs (@mattthomas) December 23, 2013
@yayitsrob it's ok if you need to, really =) I felt a little sad. we should be ok to un/follow, but also to express how it makes us feel =)
— sava (@savasavasava) January 11, 2014
Step 5: Look within!
Ask yourself, am I being the best content provider that I can be? How's my curation spread? Are my links fresh; am I adding value or just a #valueadd? Would I unfollow me?
"thanks to MLK for getting me a day off school"
— Graham (@NotGrahamNilles) January 20, 2014
Step 6: Be a leader, not a follower.
Think about all the times you have wanted to silence these cretins screeching at you from TweetDeck's ceaseless rivers. The thirst traps, the apologetic self-promoters, the unabashed ones, the mansplainers, the ideologues, the echo chambers, the basic bitches, the banal bros, any stripe of journalist at all. Realize that all their faults are inside you, too. Wish them well as they glide by on their Twitter canoes.
Unfollow me all you want. It only emboldens me. It only makes the tangents longer.— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) November 28, 2013
Unfollow me all you want, but you're the one that got offended on the internet.
— Abe (@abewearsvans) January 16, 2014
1For the purposes of this guide, my advice is limited to Twitter. President Obama has already issued a blanket pardon to stop caring about Facebook. And if someone unfollows you on Instagram, it just means they had a sex dream last night and you were being really weird in it, Brian.
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[Art by Jim Cooke]