Unfollowing myself

On vanity in social media, how not to share one's excitement about their football team, and what to eat while traveling in a Hyperloop

October 28, 2013
Jonathan Libov

About six months ago, someone whose blog and Twitter I had long followed began following me on Twitter. It felt like some measure of validation that the thoughts and ideas I had to contribute online were of the caliber of someone whose thoughts and ideas I admired.

About two months ago, I passed another self-validation milestone: My Follower count on Twitter surpassed my Following count (i.e., more people follow me than I follow).

Around the time of the latter milestone, I had joined Just Unfollow, which helps you prune inactive Twitter accounts from your Following list. It also identifies which people you follow on Twitter who don't follow you back. Unsurprisingly and uninterestingly, Elon Musk didn't follow me back, even if I have some great ideas to share with Elon about what kind of food they should serve on the Hyperloop.

However, it was interesting to find a few ex-colleagues and people who seem no more interesting than myself that didn't follow me back (Who do they think they are?!). I unfollowed them. Part of the idea, I'm embarrassed to admit, was to expedite the occasion that my Follower count would exceed my Follower count.

While paying more attention than usual to my Follower/Following counts, I noticed that my Follower count wasn't always increasing. That meant people were unfollowing me (How dare they!). I re-joined Qwitter to get notified anytime someone unfollowed me. A few days later, I got an unceremonious email that the guy I admired—the guy I was pleased to see following me six months ago—was no longer following me.

This stuck in my craw. I thought, was my Twitter presence lacking insight? Even worse, annoying or insipid? (If yes, here's Exhibit A). Should I change my approach to Twitter? That seemed normative and disingenuous, even if I didn't have a better idea of how to be more interesting (or less uninteresting).

It took me about two days to realize that the really insidious thing was tracking my Unfollowers via Qwitter in the first place. Nothing good came from this knowledge. In fact it represented the worst, most vain aspect of social media: Deriving satisfaction out of the number of likes, retweets, followers and whatever else I accumulated.

I've since quit Qwitter and Just Unfollow, but I do owe them a thanks for helping me to unfollow one person I never should have been following in the first place: myself.