Why do you unfollow people on Twitter?

Wow, thank you anonymous person for your question. I guess this has some topicality for you? o.0 I’ve seen a number of posts over the years where people explain why they choose to follow people on Twitter, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone explain why they unfollow, so perhaps I’m breaking new ground! (though I doubt it)

I guess some people take unfollows fairly personally. I even admit I have on occasion. But it truly isn’t the end of the world and it can happen for a number of reasons. Here are my usual triggers:

1. Spam. I try very hard not to follow anything vaguely spam-ish to begin with, but I’ve seen some seemingly reasonable accounts suddenly become very annoying. That said, I’ve received a few spam DMs from people who let their accounts get compromised and I almost never unfollow them unless it happens repeatedly. Also, depending on how much I value your other tweets, I generally don’t unfollow if you throw in the occasional #ad tweet.

2. You unfollow me. Let’s face it – reciprocity is a beautiful thing. I follow very few accounts that don’t follow me back. In general, if you’re not going to listen to me, I don’t see why I should listen to you.

3. You *repeatedly* say something offensive/hurtful. Everyone can inadvertently throw a sharp elbowed tweet some times (fingers being sometimes faster than brains), so it’s not like I have a zero-tolerance policy or anything, but if you repeatedly troll then I don’t have time. Surprisingly, with as decidedly partisan as I am, that does not mean I unfollow if you disagree with me on politics or specific issues. Some of my best Twitter convos are with people I strongly disagree with.

4. Finally, I guess you could say immaturity. I almost said "negativity" but that doesn’t really cover it. If you’re emotionally incontinent, express yourself only in the extremes (i.e. everything is either "LOVE" or "HATE"), you engage in constant caps lock orgy, or are set off on a tirade by things not even addressed to you, chances are I will unfollow sooner or later. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy an occasional rant (I actually enjoy those very much), but when the tone of the aggregate of your tweets suggests someone with less emotional maturity than my 3-year old daughter, I have to throw in the towel. Honestly, I don’t know how some people keep track of all these lines they draw in the sand of the Internet.

So there you have it. My main reasons for unfollowing (there are other reasons, but not statistically significant enough to detail). If I have unfollowed you, I hope you don’t take it personally — unfollowing is usually an attempt on my part to disengage *before* I say something that could make someone feel bad. While it would be lovely if everyone were best friends, that is not realistic. The best we can do is to try and make accommodation for each other, keep your mind open, and failing that, try and behave politely to one another. I’m reminded of something called Postel’s Law (http://bit.ly/sExOTE) "be conservative in what you send, liberal in what you accept" — this is what I try and do on Twitter (and in my life in general), but I suspect if Mr. Postel were on Twitter he’d probably have to unfollow some folks too — it tends to breakdown if you’re dealing with people who do the opposite.

Ask me anything

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