A good friend of mine has one of those Twitter lists devoted to people whose tweets he actually wants to read. He checks that, exclusively, instead of his main feed. He does this to avoid the drama of someone getting upset with him IRL because of the perceived slight of an unfollow. Another friend developed a standard response to people who ask why he unfollowed them on Tumblr. “Oh, I moved you to my RSS reader,” he lies. This works, actually, and dissolves any hurt feelings over the matter, but given that we’re talking about something so minor as social media, it seems like an awful waste of energy. Toughen up, people. You should not be hurt if someone unfollows you.
If you were boring someone at a party, you’d expect them to excuse themselves from the conversation. If you wanted to go to a poetry reading, you know only a few of your friends would come along. If you lost sight of the fact that a friend was going through a divorce and you pestered them for advice about your dating situation, you’d fully understand if they told you, “I can’t deal with this right now.” You’d respect this response in part because you’d expect the same freedom if the situation was reversed. What happens online is no different.
There are a million reasons someone might not want to read your tweets. Maybe there’s a tidal wave of information competing for their attention on the Internet, and your tweets are distracting in an unhelpful way. Maybe they’re a little obsessed with you and need a break from the emotional reaction they have every time they see your avatar. Maybe your tweets are just not funny to them. Whatever the reason, if you care about someone, why would you want to force your words on them if they’re not taking to them well?
It’s perhaps another symptom of the overall me-centricness of social media that we take it personally when someone unfollows us. We all enjoy the law of two feet, that if some stream of conversation has no meaning to us we can walk away and find another one that does. It feels good and validating to see someone subscribe to what we’re publishing. But the opposite should be more of a neutral affair. It shouldn’t feel bad to be unfollowed. And it’s a sign of respect to let people unsubscribe from you without making it an issue.
The swearing in “Veep” has so far not been as satisfying to me as it has been in Ianucci’s other work, and I think it’s because the writers aren’t entirely getting the important differences between Anglo swearing and American swearing. Anglo swearing is ornate, clever, and florid; American swearing is brutal, repetitious, and earthy. There’s a reason they sell t-shirts on St. Mark’s Place that read “FUCK YOU YOU FUCKIN FUCK.” Swearing in ”The Thick of It” showed control in the midst of a tantrum, like a well-placed kick in the middle of a marital arts routine. It demonstrated that the speaker was ready to just let forth a string of invective but was powerful enough to channel it into something laced with cultural references and word-games. In America, though, swearing tends to signal the threat of violence, the moment when coarse language gets even coarser. It’s a heightener. “He’s got his eight-track playing really fuckin’ loud” would, in the Anglo incarnation, be something like “His eight-track was so fucking loud that Helen Keller could hear it four fucking blocks away” or something. Anglo swearing is punctuation or noun, American swearing is a self-modifying adjective or adverb. If “The Thick of It” represents one sort of apogee of Anglo swearing, “Uncle Fucker” still stands as the ultimate example of American swearing, at least to me. They got it right when Julia Louis-Dreyfus yelled “I’m busy apologizing to that shit-tard!” Ah yes, that’s it: the mellifluous tones and soul-stirring majesty of good ol’ American profanity.