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.”

Breaking Up? Let an App Do It for You

Illustration: Monica Ramos

Excerpt from this article:

Dissolving a relationship used to be a private matter between the two principals, with a Greek chorus of close friends and family. Now the sopranos and tenors include apps, websites, social media tools and digital Cyranos for hire.

If you’re not up to the dirty deed yourself, the Breakup Shop will do it for you. The site, whose slogan is “Let us help you end it,” uses email, snail mail, text or Snapchat, at prices from $5 to $80, for customized naughty or nice options. (In the nice category is an hasta la vista gift pack that includes chocolate-chip cookies and “The Notebook” on Blu-ray. In the naughty is a “mean photo attachment” of you with your new loved one.)

It’s always been possible to “unfriend” someone on Facebook, but the company’s new “breakup flow” allows you to limit your connection with an ex: untagging photos, burying past posts and editing any mention on your news feed.

“It’s like unfriending lite,” said Kelly Winters, a product manager on the company’s compassion team. (Yes, Facebook has a compassion team, whose bailiwick entails “easing life’s difficult moments,” such as designating a “legacy contact” to handle your account when you’re dead.)

Maintaining even limited social media ties may seem self-flagellating, a gateway to cyberstalking an ex’s activities and new relationships (and if you digitally disconnect, at least you can imagine that he’s been hit by a bus).