Unfollow.

There is quite a personal phenomena that occurs as one gets older. Sometimes we see it in our own grandparents as their mortality becomes actualized–all of the thoughts they’ve kept bottled in or whispered in the comfort of their house-robes becomes public knowledge in a Golden Corral. For others, it comes in maturity and self-assuredness that we all have a voice, and we can exercise it.

I am fortunate that I didn’t wait until the history of family dementia to set in before I figured this out. I am amused, humored, and utterly humbled by the reactions I may not be cognizant of when my faculties aren’t cohesive in my old age.

Recently, I have had four friends who have found my tweets, and possibly subsequent actions, to be so offensive that they’ve unfollowed me on Twitter. The first time I was hurt and blindsided. The second, confused. The third, enlightened. The last? Relieved. Let me set the scene for you:

I am relatively active on social media, and mainly, Twitter. My involvement in Twitter has evolved through the years as I have used it for networking, winning tickets, exposing my work to potential clients, and delving into conversations ranging from more serious topics such as education, race, and social inequalities, to more superfluous matters such as best bath products and the Big XII and SEC sports. It’s a medium to get out the countless number of thoughts that cram my head. I don’t work in a profession where I get to engage in these conversations as often as I like. It works for me.

With that said, I am known to go on long rants. The basis of them can be a life experience (like, when I had a coworker print off a black square so I could use it as a baby picture in our staff “Guess the baby”…or if I’ve read an article that’s piqued my interest). I have found that Twitter is a bit better at these conversations than Facebook because…well, Facebook is for baby pictures, death announcements, and vaxxer crazed parents. Just not my scene, baby…ya dig?

So when people started to unfollow me for…what I perceive to bebehavior no different from what I have exhibited for the past six years, on Twitter, I was…shocked.

The first person to unfollow me was a friend I had met through Twitter. He was riotously funny and quick-witted. After someone broke into our home, not only did he help us move, but he also installed a security system and checked in on us often. During the holidays, he shared with a mutual friend that our open-invite parties felt exclusive to him. Ok, that’s fair. However, instead of having a conversation with us about it, he opted to unfollow and then apologize later. Meh.

The second person was, again, another Twitter friend. This is one where I will gladly admit I dropped the ball on the friendship. I’m not always responsive to people, as I use it more of a medium to get my thoughts out of myself, and legitimately don’t know how to respond to others. In a moment of frustration, he unfollowed me and later reached out through email. Initially, I found the email to come from out of left field, but as one who understands what it feels to stew and burst, I got it. We discussed the situation, and I got a better insight into how he felt and where I slighted him.  I believe we resolved this amicably, and I am eternally grateful for his support in a fundraising campaign. We continue to not follow each other on any social media platform, however.

The third was a fellow alumnus, and someone who instantly commanded my respect for her work in civil rights, her kindness, and her natural older-sister vibe she emitted. For years we have had meaningful dialogue on and off Twitter, and when Ferguson erupted, she was able to articulate to my Facebook friends what I could not–the hurt and fear of being black in America. However, when I retweeted a snarky comment (in which a follow-up tweet kindly admonished said snark) soon after Bobbi Christina Brown was admitted into the hospital, she found it to be insensitive, and exercised her right to not follow me on Twitter. For her, as she explained to me, Twitter was her happy place–the place to go and give good-natured sass. She values human life in a way where humor can’t be integrated. Was I hurt she felt the need to do it, even though my retweet wasn’t malicious? Sure. But I honor her need for keeping her space in a peaceful place.

This last unfollow…it was a doozy–and one I initiated. I suppose because it’s a close friendship that was built outside the realm of social media and has sustained much through the years, it makes it equally as easy to do as it does difficult (easy because I feel it necessary to preserve our friendship, difficult because…it’s just kinda rude). One thing I am not a fan of is someone reading into my tweets and attempting to fill in gaps where there are no holes. Afterall, we are only allowed 140 characters to express a thought and tone has to be included in that as well (I am not one that believes tone can’t be read through short messages. They absolutely can be. It’s a key to effective and great writing). Part of the demise of this aspect of our friendship came because I am very vocal about what it is like to be a black woman in a community of white people, many of influence and affluence. It can be hard. It can be rewarding. I feel like I’m in a unique position to see the world. So, when I take these expressions to social media, maybe they don’t translate well. Maybe I’m not specific enough. Maybe I purposefully left the sugar on the counter because I didn’t feel like pouring it on every word I say. Or maybe, just maybe…

Maybe not every relationship, kinship, or fellowship is meant to be experienced on every social level, including social media. Some friends are better to talk to on the phone, while others are great for texting. Some friends you snuggle on the couch with, and others are great for happy hours. That’s okay. What I have found to be most important is that, no matter the frequency or medium, mutual understanding and respect is there.

And if not? Well…unfollow.

-Cristin

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Cristin

The quintessential Missouri native.

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