@ilegal blogs

Good Bird Bad Bird: being unfollowed on Twitter

Twitter does occasionally pick one or more of your followers (seemingly) at random, and unfollow them. People have complained about it off and on since Twitter’s inception, with Twitter admitting to it being a real issue as recently as March 2012, when it said it was working on the problem

Most of the time this isn’t going to matter a jot and the person you “unfollowed” will just move on and not pay any heed. However, on occasion they may contact you and ask why and/or unfollow you too. Alternatively, you might be the one on the receiving end and wonder what’s going on. Whichever you are, here are a few thoughts and suggestions that might be worth bearing in mind

Have you (or they) really been unfollowed?

Not all apps and operating systems are perfect, and some more glitchy than others. For example, Twitter for IOS on the iPhone used to be a devil for this although it seems to be OK now with the IOS6 upgrade. It would regularly show people as not following you when you just knew that couldn’t be right

Before you go unfollowing right back, consider checking properly. A great website for this is DoesFollow. Punch in the Twitter @usernames (with or without the @ symbol) and it will tell you at the click of a button whether or not you are following each other. It’s also useful for checking if someone else follows someone else, should you need to know

It could have been an accident

The design of the user interface (UI), whether in the official or unofficial Twitter clients, can cause its own problems. For example, putting the unfollow link immediately above or below a more innocuous link, where it’s easy (especially with big fingers) to hit the wrong button without realising

Bad bird

Accidents aside, we do know however that Twitter itself has previous for unfollowing your followers at whim. To be frank though, one thing I’ve learnt on Twitter is that unless the person is a very good friend or colleague I wouldn’t really worry about it. Nor would I bother asking someone why (I once did and then felt stupid!). You might have annoyed them, bored them, or any one of a zillion other reasons. That’s Twitter, don’t take it personally. After all, it could be they just want a break from your wisdom and incisive wit! Let them go in peace

Good bird

Now this is more interesting. Think of it. What if it wasn’t a Twitter bug at all, what if the ‘bug’ was an integral part of the system: that Twitter randomly unfollowed a tiny tiny percentage of its users’ followers periodically?

The beauty of this, and even in Twitter publicly admitting there has been a bug doing the equivalent in the past, is that it brings that small element of uncertainty into the system. It prevents us from knowing as an absolute fact that someone has made a conscious decision to unfollow you – knowledge that a Twitter bug can’t be ruled out gives affected users a little room for manoeuvre – a face saver for both unfollower and unfollowee

Of course, Twitter has never admitted to this, but it certainly seems plausible when you consider that they are in the business of creating a social medium that allows representations of relationships to mirror at least some level our relationships in the real world through their online interface

It wasn’t the bird

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning a Twitter habit that I don’t especially care for: forcing someone to unfollow you without actually blocking them from your account

This is easily done. Say you want to unfollow someone but you also want them to stop following you too. On top of that, you don’t want to go the usual and quicker route (for whatever reason) of blocking them because you don’t want them to realise they have been blocked

Begin by blocking them – this will unfollow both you from them and them from you. Then unblock them. This will leave neither of you following the other, but with each of  you having normal search access to the other person’s tweets and Twitter account

I know some consider it a more polite way of telling someone to go and take a running jump than blocking them. Personally, I think it’s a bit naff and if someone is bothering you in any way then the better (and inbuilt) approach is to block them and keep them blocked. At least then there is no risk of refollows from the same account or contact from that person further on down the line

Hope this has helped. Any comments feel free to add them below

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2012 by in Twitter and tagged , , , .
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