Two nights ago, I called up an old friend. He was upset that I’d unfollowed him, so rather than hash it out on the public timeline, I decided to call and sort it out.

I actually unfollowed my friend a long time ago. No, wait, that’s not quite true. I have unfollowed and refollowed him several times in my Twitter career. My reasons for using the ‘follow’ button are random. When someone follows me, I check out their profile, look at their tweets, see if they sound interesting, and respond accordingly. I know it’s standard Twitter procedure to do the automatic follow-back, but I suck at multitasking, so I prefer to have a timeline I will actually read. I don’t want to skip over half the tweets on my stream.

A while back, I decided to stop being a snob and just follow everyone. I figured I could use a list to sift out what I really want to read, and everyone else would have no idea that I didn’t give a … But lists are public too, so that still wouldn’t work, and it seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go making private lists when I could simply hit ‘unfollow’.

Social media is not the same for everyone. Some people use it for business and personal interaction, so they use their real names and personas. Most people use it as a shield from normal life. They go there to vent, meet new people, and do all the stuff they can’t do ‘outside’. They use anonymity as an invisible cloak of freedom. For them, social media is a game, just like chess or Monopoly. They don’t understand how people can take it so personally. Some people in this group even have separate accounts for work and play, and the play accounts are generally anonymous.

The trouble with social media is that it’s not always easy to tell the two kinds of people apart. That’s why you have cases of kids hanging themselves because they got dumped by their internet boyfriend – someone they have never seen or met – only for the boyfriend to end up being a cheeky kid sister. Too late, damage done.

I’m one of the people who takes social media very personally. I’m also a drama magnet of ridiculous proportions. In the real world, when I get upset, I break things, rip diaries, and torch mementoes à la Waiting to Exhale. Online, I delete blogs, wipe Twitter accounts, and kill my Facebook. I must have done it five or six times since 2007.

Here’s where things get tricky. See, if I kill my account, then everybody on my list is automatically blocked. And if they have no other contact with me [or are too slighted to ask what happened] it begins a cold war that could go on for years. When I calm down and restart my account, attempts to refollow or refriend might be rejected, or worse, they might alert the person to the fact that they got dissed in the first place.

A secondary challenge is that I may not remember all the people on my initial account [or they may have changed their user names]. So one day, they randomly bump into my new account and get pissed at me for ‘snubbing’ them. *Groan*

But that’s all incidental. I don’t like being unfollowed or unfriended. No one does. It makes me doubt myself and wonder what I did wrong. There are tons of blogger lists explaining why we get unfollowed, and whenever I read a list or tweet like that, I go through my contacts to see if I was a victim. Oopsie.

So, why did I unfollow my friend? Well, his character online is different from his character offline, and I have a hard time reconciling the two. I explained that as gently as I could, but I still came off sounding judgemental. He has a group of friends that love to party, so their conversations are often about football games, clubs, drinking sprees, and tweet-ups. Those aren’t really my thing, so I unfollowed the lot.

It bugged my friend when I said that, and he asked why I was unfollowing people who were simply having fun. It’s hard to explain that it isn’t my idea of fun, so I’d rather not constantly hear about it. I told my friend it wasn’t personal, but it’s hard for unfollowing not to be personal.

I was reading this post and as I tried to respond, my thoughts rambled so much that I thought I’d do my own post. I’ve unfollowed a lot of people recently, and I unfollow someone almost every day. It’s never personal. It’s always related to content … or mood swings.

For example, there’s someone I’ve followed for months, but they have suddenly become very negative. Every tweet they put up is a rant or an attack against someone or something. Angst gets really old really fast – unless it’s accompanied by drums and guitar – so I took them off my list. Sometimes I’ll add a person, then their tweets will suddenly become uninteresting, so I take them off. Other times I unfollow someone because they’re filling my timeline with something I don’t much care about. It might be commentary on a tech event, a football match, or some political argument. If I don’t want to hear it, I simply stop reading it. I might refollow later, when the mood has passed. Of course, sometimes when I unfollow someone, it’s simply PMS. I lso tnd to nfollo pple who twt or txt lk dis. I mean really now!

Sometimes I unfollow or unfriend for reasons closer to home. Although I’m almost 30 and my child is almost 10, I’m only just growing up. It’s only recently that I started being civil to my exes. Before, I’d rip love letters and yes, block social media. I felt I wanted nothing to do with them. I’m breaking to bits and he’s going on with life, having fun, flirting with people. It would drive me nuts, and I would block so that I wouldn’t have to see it. I still do that sometimes. It seems like a childish thing to do, but sometimes, a broken heart is just a child.

I had some heavy Twitter beef a while back, and it shook me pretty badly. For about six months, I had a long, endless loop of drama that resulted in several angry phone calls and some killed accounts. I hold grudges, so even though I tried to make amends, I’m not exactly friendly with that crowd. It surprises me that everyone [else] involved is now all pally again. That’s really hard for me to understand, so I asked a friend about it.

Online beef is never that serious. It’s a game. One war ends and people just sit back, grab popcorn, and wait for the next episode. It’s purely entertainment. If you’re amusing to watch, people will follow you – even if they don’t like you. It’s like a modern-day gladiator pit. Some people just like watching and cheering while others get torn down, and with social media, they can do that without you ever knowing who they are.

Well, I guess that explains a lot, but it’s never that trivial for me.  The Twitter beef stings me to date because for me, it was very real and very personal. Two years later, the beef crowd still remains unfollowed.

There’s a difference between the block and the basic unfollow. On Facebook, people have different privacy settings. If your account is locked tight, then unfriending someone blocks them and they no longer have access to you. If your account standard, then unfriending means you don’t see their statuses, but they can still see yours, and there’s no real harm done.

Twitter is a bit different. Unfollowing means you don’t see them, but they still see you. Blocking means they have absolutely no access to you. Blocking is more drastic and a lot more aggressive. I’ve blocked two or three people in the past, and got blocked myself during my Twitter beef, but mostly it’s just the basic unfollow.

If you know someone personally, and if they’re important to you, you can ask them why they unfriended or unfollowed. IF you know them. I’d honestly be quite disturbed if a random acquaintance asked me why ‘we’re not friends anymore’. We were never friends in the first place. It’s social media for chrissakes.

That said, I do get upset when I’m unfollowed or unfriended, and I wonder what exactly I did that was so bad. Sometimes I look over my timeline and try to see what I did wrong, and yes, I will be sulky for a while. It’s standard mourning, and that’s perfectly fine. But at the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to be around you – online or off – and you really shouldn’t try.

116 thoughts on “To block or not to block?

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