And Now, I Unfollow Thee

Illustration by Federica Bordoni

Excerpt from this article:

Noah Masterson, a web marketing manager in Austin, Tex., is like the Marie Kondo of Twitter. He keeps it tidy. “I just unfollowed about 20 people to get down to an even 400,” he said. “It felt really good.”

For Mr. Masterson, 43, the value of social media is that it brings together all sorts of voices and opinions that he may not otherwise hear. But if he decides one voice is too shrill, too self-promotional or too dull, he will declutter. “It’s a party, and I get to select the guests,” he said. “I can just eject someone if they’re not being a good guest.”

…But there are so many awkward dynamics that can arise, because rarely is the severing of these social ties a stealth act. Those who have landed on your cutting-room floor can learn of the shunning in any number of ways. That’s why the subtler function of muting someone, offered by Facebook and Twitter, is popular: Mutees have no way of knowing they’ve been tuned out. The posters keep posting and posting, having no idea that they are trees falling in the forest without anyone there to hear the thud.

…“You feel like you’re breaking this fake friendship, and that can be really awkward because on Twitter especially, people really do become friendly,” Ms. Notopoulos said. “A social contract develops, kind of like, if someone invites you to their wedding, you have to invite them to yours even if you don’t like them that much. It’s easy to start wondering, ‘Am I being a jerk for unfollowing them?’ In those cases, I find the mute button a godsend.”