If there’s one thing the Internet is really good at, it’s making easy for buttheads to be buttheads. Okay, sure, the Internet is good for one or two other things as well, I suppose. (For example, Emergency Kittens.) But one could fill a jerbillion thumbdrives with archives of Internet Buttheadery, from petulant kvetching all the way up to harassment and threats. YouTube comments alone are enough to make one long for a humanity-ending asteroid strike.

In the category of petulant kvetching, I came across the below in my Twitter feed this morning:

This stream of Twitter badgering1 got me to thinking about my own life on Twitter and other social media, and I thought I would blather about it for a moment. Call it Bill’s Approach to Social Media: An Approach Set in Semi-Congealed Oatmeal and Thus Subject to Any Combination of Change, Dessication, or Composting at Any Time Because Whatever.

Lauren DeStephano is a writer I follow on Twitter (where I saw the above Tweet) and on Tumblr. I read her novel Perfect Ruin and loved it, and I Tweeted as much. She saw, and thanked me, which was cool. I’ve bought a couple more of her books and look forward to them.

As of this moment2, I don’t know if Lauren follows me back. If she does, cool. If she doesn’t, also cool. She doesn’t owe me anything, and so if she doesn’t want to follow me that’s her business. Thanking me for saying I enjoyed her book was nice, but even if she hadn’t, it’s still cool. She might be busy. She might have missed my Tweet. She might have seen my Tweet, but looked at my own Twitter timeline and decided I wasn’t someone she wanted to interact with.

I have options too. I get to follow who I want, and not follow who I don’t want. We all have these options. And none of us owes anyone else anything in the land of social media. A follow doesn’t obligate a follow back. At most, it’s an invitation, which we may accept or decline as we so desire. We don’t have to explain why. (Though we may. It’s our choice.)

On Twitter, when someone I don’t know follows me, the first thing I do is check out their timeline. I look to see if they’re talking about things which might interest me, and interacting with people in a way which appeals to me. Not uncommonly, I follow back. Sometimes, I see things which turn me off. If so, no follow. And no biggie. From time to time, someone has asked me why I didn’t follow them. If they were polite, I answered—and sometimes our interaction changed my mind. But if they were jerks about it, I blocked them.

All of this is subject to modification on the fly, and there are plenty of exceptions. I will follow people who do social media in a way I don’t like if they interest me in other ways. And some people who I do love in other ways don’t appeal to me in their social media personas, so I don’t follow.

All this is cool. If I don’t follow you on Twitter, I’m not rejecting you as a person. I’m just not following you on Twitter. (Of course, if you’re not following me, maybe it is because you reject me as a person. That’s your call, not mine.)

My own social media life is primarily in Twitter and Instagram. I also use Tumblr, though more to follow and occasionally reblog others than as an active platform for myself. My Facebook engagement is even more limited. I don’t care for Facebook for a lot of reasons, so I don’t visit  often. When I do it’s primarily to look at pictures of my grandson. I do occasionally Like things there, and from time to time I’ll message people or comment on statuses, but mostly it’s not my thing.

In the end, social media is not an obligation. We each get to curate our online experience in the way that works best for us. Trying to police another’s choices is unlikely to accomplish anything except getting you put on a block list.

The one thing that will almost always result in me unfollowing is if, right after I follow, you send me a DM with either a link to whatever you’re selling or a request to like your Facebook page. That’s just annoying. Don’t get me wrong. Social media is a good way to share information about what you’ve done and how others can acquire it. But to me, social media is social first. You’ll be more likely to win me as customer if you treat me like a person first.

1
I notice the person who kvetched in the example has since deleted all their Tweets. Perhaps they learned it’s not nice to badger people about their social media choices and will approach things differently moving forward.


2
Sure, I could check. But honestly, I don’t care.