I got a Facebook message from a friend the other day.
Friend: “Hey! Weird one. Thought you might understand. So there’s this girl, a really cool girl on Twitter, who I’m kind of obsessed with and I’ve just seen she’s unfollowed me. We have so much in common. We both work in journalism, live in a big city, into fashion, both have blogs. I’m gutted. Is it weird that I’m this gutted?”
Me: “Ouch. I mean that is never a nice feeling. I’ve definitely felt this before. Try not to take it personally though.”
Friend: “But I don’t get it. We used to have a few random exchanges back and forth all the time. I thought we got on.”
Me: “Is she a friend, though?’
Friend: “No. I mean, I’ve never met her IRL. I thought we were building up to a friendship maybe. God I sound desperate but I don’t mean it like that. Just that I think we’d get on. She lives in Brooklyn but I just really like her opinions on stuff. I would have loved to have maybe met up with her one day if I ever went over again to New York. She’s just one of my fave people to follow.”
Me: “Argh. It’s a tough one. I have no idea why she would unfollow you. But I mean, I would say that.”
Friend: “Maybe I tweet too much about my breakfast. Or I ranted too much about an airline company that fucked me over and lost my suitcase the other day.”
“Or maybe I’m too happy?”
Me: ” I doubt it’s that.”
Friend: “Or maybe I’m a complete and total dick.”
I found this whole conversation so interesting. I too used to sweat over the smallest of social actions. Especially an “unfollow” from someone I respected; I’d brainstorm privately all the probable reasons they might have gone off me. Am I too self-absorbed? Too opinionated? Too much self-promotion? Is it because I tweeted a First World Problem? It’s so easy to conjure up all the insecurities laying dormant in your mind. I once had that app that tells you who unfollows you on Instagram. Needless to say, it was the worst decision. I started caring if someone I would never ever meet decided they didn’t want to see my holiday snaps.
This tiny-action-that-suddenly-spiralled-into-self-hatred so easily reminded me of so many times I’ve been “ghosted”. I think “someone unfollowing you randomly on Twitter one day” can be classified as ghosting or at least Twitter-Ghosting. On Urban Dictionary “Ghosting” means: 1.) The act of disappearing on your friends without notice. 2.) Cancelling plans with little or no notice.
After being ghosted I never normally have the balls to ask why. The silver lining though, as I’ve written about before, is I do genuinely see this as an organic cleansing of your social networks. People unfollowing you occasionally means that the people that do follow you are generally interested. That’s why I love crafting my newsletter with time and love and effort: because people have subscribed to it. Because they want to follow and read it.
I texted her again a few days later.
Me: “I was thinking about what you were saying about that girl who unfollowed you. Maybe it’s just an organic clearing of people who aren’t worth worrying about. It’s their decision and you can’t make people like you.”
Friend: “Oh, actually. Lol I forgot to tell you. I realised the other day my phone wasn’t loading properly and she is actually still following me. False alarm!”
Me: “Oh. Ha ha.”
Friend: “Sorry for going a bit nutso. I was freaking out that I’d done something.”
I thought about this some more. Isn’t it odd how we can sometimes care so much about people who aren’t in our immediate circles, who don’t have any really impact on daily life, who most of time we may never really see much of in real life? It’s virtual. Richard Osman tweeted this recently and I found it interesting: “Twitter is what your psyche makes it, you know that. It will adapt to whatever shape you fear most. It’s illusory.”
This little conversation reminded me of how I felt last year. I too would pause and think “what have I done?” instead of “oh, okay” if someone Internet-Ghosted me. I was surprised my friend cared so much about someone she had never met but I could also totally relate to this sort of perpetual social anxiety.
But really: I’ve realised, in time, that I’d really rather someone unfollow me than stay there just out of politeness or for no reason.
I am unfollowing people I don’t want to take with me into 2016 — and that means accepting that others might do the same.