Baby Won’t You Unfollow Me Down

November 24, 2008

I’m obsessed with Qwitter. Just not in the same way a lot of people seem to be.

Qwitter emails you when someone following you on the microblogging tool Twitter stops following you. It tells you who quit and what your last tweet was before they quit. Simple.

The response is not simple. I’ve seen a trend of Twitterers ‘announcing’ their unfollows. ‘Farewell, @personx, I daresay I shan’t miss you’ read a recent one. Why do they announce it? And why do they even CARE?

I asked the second question on Twitter and got three good answers:

  • To ensure bidirectional communication. These people use Twitter as a conversational tool and don’t want to shout at someone across the room who isn’t listening. Good etiquette online or off
  • To manage the stream of information. I use Twitter as ambient text radio. Information and links scroll by. I unfollow folks who don’t contribute content of interest to me. It’s very pragmatic
  • As a feedback loop. A spike of unfollows might indicate that you’ve offended people or are tweeting too much or too little. Numbers speak here; it’s not about any one person, but a change in volume

I’ve never seen a Qwitter attributed to politeness or pragmatism. Instead, it’s personal. ‘@personx can’t handle my politics/religion/sense of humor.’ Anything can be twisted to fit this. Someone unfollowed me after a tweet to @DeepEddy about George Burns and Gracie Allen. Let me make it fit each of those scenarios:

  • Politics: Gracie Allen ran for President in 1940. True. You qwit because you hate my politics!
  • Religion: George Burns played God in the 1977 movie Oh, God! Enough said
  • Sense of humor: @DeepEddy and I are probably guilty as charged, although I don’t quote Firesign Theatre as relentlessly as he does

Their reason for qwitting had nothing to do with the tweet. The last words in a relationship are rarely about proximate cause. They’re about divvying up the Marley CD’s, where to send the last paycheck or refund of the security deposit. You can’t analyze them and hope to understand what led to disaffection, job change or a move. Don’t try.

I’m not the only one trying to understand Qwitter. @astrout did an uttercast here, and @TWalk covered it in a blog post here. If listeners are leaving in droves (whether you’re on Twitter or speaking at a conference), that’s feedback from the universe. Use it, but don’t overanalyze or overpersonalize it.

Update: Forgot to include the Twimerick (coined right here as far as I know) that started this:

There once was a fellow on Twitter

Tracked his unfollows w/Qwitter

Thought the last twit

Was why they’d quit

It made him not better, but bitter


5 Responses to “Baby Won’t You Unfollow Me Down”

  1. dirty_snowflake Says:

    Hahahah, I resemble these remarks. I love Qwitter. The last tweet may not be the entire reason for qwitting, but it may be the tweet that broke the camels back, the tipping point tweet if you will. I find the tipping point to be a fascinating area to explore.

    I’ve been wanting something like qwitter for ages, and I do not announce every qwit just the ones, that tickle me. Half the time, I get qwits from ppl who only followed me to get follows back, or people I haven’t been following at all that have been following me for some time. I don’t automatically follow back. You have to @me to get my attention.

    Does it personally wound me when someone unfollows me? No. I mostly think it’s funny, and I love having a tool to call people out with. If someone called me out for a qwit, I would likely engage them in conversation or give them a reason. I say Viva la Qwitter!

  2. rsomers Says:

    Thanks dirty_snowflake! Your thoughts drive home that, to me, there are many reasons to use Qwitter, to follow / unfollow, or to announce same (fun is a pretty good reason).

  3. Aaron Strout Says:

    Great post. I like the humorous touch you’ve added (helps further reinforce that people shouldn’t take follows/un-follows too seriously). I also appreciate the shout out!

    Aaron | @astrout

  4. rsomers Says:

    Thanks Aaron, and welcome to austin!

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