A Proustian View on Being Unfollowed

Proust is known for his verbose style. It appears tedious at first. Twenty pages to explain insomnia for instance. Yet the opposite of detail is the curse of brevity. A drama reduced to a digestible headline. A person’s life and death as a pithy soundbite. Proust’s aim in choosing such length was to let the story develop, to allow the reader to identify with his characters, and in so doing to find solace and reassurance. So is it so bad to perhaps unpeel the onion of human frailty at times, and examine the undercurrents of emotion that I suspect more of us share than admit to? To work then. Everyday at least twenty people unfollow me, a tiny percentage of my 20,000 +. Most of them are fake followers anyway. Robotic and spam-like entities, silicone breasted and shallow, and they mean nothing to me. And each day a similar number follow me. It evens out. But there are layers upon layer of emotion that can find themselves interwound with social media. If there were no emotion then who would continue to waste their time on it? Each encounter can bring in its wake frissons, however brief, of triumph, of familiarity, kindling the primitive need to matter and be noticed. After a lovely holiday, or an eventful trip I make a point of following the businesses I frequented. If they follow back a connection is made, a bridge built. If they do not refollow after one week I unfollow and shrug it off. Twitter at times takes the place of boyhood stamp collecting, a diverse and growing map of interactivity, with the joy of connecting over distance and seas and oceans, establishing ties with real people. For a few seconds or minutes one can imagine still basking in the exotic delight of travel, a silly but meaningful escapism. And just as the business, the hotel, the special restaurant, the funny taxi driver, the entertaining guide or sexy fellow passenger stirs memories for us, there is the added satisfaction that perhaps we made an impression, however fleeting on them too. Who would honestly not be thrilled at entering a cafe and being greeted with those nectar-laced words, “the usual?” Β Mutual following on social media can at times take elements of flirting, the sweet and vulnerable happiness at being noticed, of occupying for however short a time, a place in the eyes, mind and heart of the other. It is the warmth of hearing the words, “I like you too.” But all coins have two sides. Contrast the tingling of a stranger’s smile, fleeting and delicious, with the heart-deadening, genital-withering sting of cold rejection. Such stings, instant and probably unnoticed by the waspish creatures who deal them can last for minutes, hours or days. We are more vulnerable than we care to admit, easily wounded by rejection, and infinitely open to the tiny strokes of attention at the hands of the thousands of people who cross or paths daily. And unfollowing is a loaded and evocative message in itself. A second-long act that severs ties, that spells out clearly “you bore me.” We can unpeel the onion further. “Your life is of no interest to me, and what excites you, impassions you, your life experience and your talent, your opinions and your interest in me are of no consequence. I would rather have you out of my circles than take a second longer to rearrange my filters and see less of you. Mute? See less of? These tools exist to arrange my newsfeed and make it manageable, but no. I wish you to be gone.” So be it. Unfollowing and unfriending have their face to face equivalents. “Nothing personal (but your life and all its facets bore me)” is in fact very personal. Just as friendships can germinate on social media, they can also be snuffed out there too. To be unfollowed by that special restaurant whose food you loved and whose business you supported, to lose the attention of the buff barman who filled your summer holiday with delicious innocent eroticism, to discover a friend would prefer to cleanse his account of your presence rather than share your work and photographs as you did his, well, it is personal.

219 comments on “A Proustian View on Being Unfollowed

  1. A good discussion of a difficult thing. Social media is both wonderful and terrible. I tire of people who want you to ‘like’them as some sort of cub scout badge but ignore you in return. It is egotistical self-aggrandisement. And of little worth. There is no such thing as a one-way relationship, by definition. However fleeting the exchange may be (and on Social Media it is sometimes no more than a fleeting mutual recognition) it still needs to have a degree of mutuality. Without it, you are painting yourself as a rock star deserving of the recognition of those whom to you will remain faceless. The reality is that few mortals really warrant that, it is a position of self-delusion.

  2. What I like about your writings since I began following which hasn’t been long because my interest in blogging has only just recently begun is: 1-they get deeper on topics I generally do not dig so deep in my thoughts, 2- they use words that I am generally not exposed to because I don’t generally walk in “intellectual” circles and 3- there is an underlying current of style that I find most engaging even when I don’t always understand what you are saying. This one I grasped fairly well and therefore appreciated it even more. The thing I like the most is it makes me strive to raise my own standard of communication higher and that is wonderful to me.

  3. No expections, no disappointment
    It depends on what you are looking for. Mine is totally unfollowed and I do not take it personally. My personal opinion. Your article is very interesting and offers a smart occasion for discussing

  4. I love this post and this topic is one I have often discussed with friend’s.Personally I don’t care if I get unfollowed but what annoys me is if I get unfollowed by a follower that sends a personal message to be followed and after granting that request,such follower unfollows.I will unfollow and block such person.

  5. I enjoyed this, as a stylistic counter to the ‘curse of brevity’ type posts you elude to here, what seems to be a never-ending formula to secure clicks or page views: made me think wouldn’t it be funny to title the post something like “Top 10 reasons being unfollowed in social media can be likened to Proust’s prosaic writing style” — that would guarantee success, right? My wife has a book that’s thick as a spare tire in our garage called Ibsenism and we often joke we’ll make our kids read it one day. Cheers, Bill

  6. I was once upon a time stressed about this especially when I first started writing the first draft of my book publicly. I was desperate to get readers and thought, ‘Hey this is this social media thing is easy I will have thousands of readers in no time.’ However that has not been the case as a matter a fact it is extremely difficult to keep people interested but it does not go without saying that I have learned something important as my followers fluctuate and that I don’t care to have people follow me if they don’t care about what I am trying to do. I have noticed the followers (more supporters) I do have and stick with me care about what I post and care about providing support through my journey and that demonstrates a lot and means a lot more to me. I might not have ‘.somethingK’ followers but I do have a few supporters who care to watch me succeed and that holds more weight than the .K followers who don’t notice what they are liking or supporting. What I have also learned is one must learn to appeal to the public one person at a time and the fact that one does not have .K followers is only a way of learning new things to keep people interested. Plus I can’t lie I am a follower too and if I’m not interested I unfollow as well and that is just the hard core truth, we don’t have to follow each other and we are as good as our last post.
    Totally love this piece and happy to be able to share a thought.

  7. I’m not a social person in real life, and therefore, not a social person online. I am picky and thoughtful of who I choose to “friend” or “follow” as I am bored easily with superficial conversation that translates for me as “I’ve got better things to do, you done?” You’ve earned a follow with this blog post and I’m looking forward to reading more tonight and over the weekend. I do not expect a reciprocal follow πŸ™‚ It’s up to you if you decide I’m worthy of your time, but I guess that is partially the point.

  8. I don’t mind if someone unfollows me and I’ve never engaged with them, but when I notice that someone I used to talk to quite a bit, such as an old friend, then their follow is quite upsetting. Especially if that’s the only social media platform I have them on.

  9. I enjoyed reading your post as I can relate to this, though my followers are few so far…It makes my day when someone chooses to follow my blog. What’s disturbing is when my own mother unfollows me and she has no idea how that happened.

  10. An extremely relevant account of the emotions that come with something so many people attempt to shrug off. For many people, losing even a single follower is heart-breaking. Your ability to truly find no pain in the action and be able to name it “personal” is encouraging. A brief post with much meaning. Great read, thank you for writing the post.

  11. A wonderful article, thank you. I enjoyed reading your perspective, as a new blogger. It reminded me of the movie, You’ve Got Mail, where she says “…It was personal to me!” A person who cares has a courageous heart. May you never lose yours, Mr. Wildman. : )

  12. I been blogging since 2009 and I only currently have 50+ followers. I use to get upset, now it doesn’t phase me. To me, it’s their loss. In referrence to social media, like Facebook, Twitter, G+ and others, I follow communities with my interest in abolishing animal abuse, people make request to follow me. The standard as my daughter explained is “they follow you and you suppose to follow back”. I didn’t know that.πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

  13. I feel that social media is only good for promoting your business or connecting with relatives. Otherwise, it serves no purpose in my life.I stopped taking being “unfriended” personal once I left college. I prefer face to face communication. However, I understand your viewpoint. Nice blog post.

  14. This is really fabulous: “Twitter at times takes the place of boyhood stamp collecting, a diverse and growing map of interactivity, with the joy of connecting over distance and seas and oceans, establishing ties with real people.” Thanks for posting!

  15. Very insightful post. I enjoyed reading this. I am usually more the type to believe in quality above quantity, and I relate on many levels to the original posting, as well as some of the comments. Thanks for sharing this!

  16. I hate rejection so much I actively reject everyone around me preemptively.
    Thanks for the reminder to be more sincere~

  17. I absolutely loved reading the post. I could relate to it in its and pieces. And over a period of time, I have learnt how wonderful it is to have fewer followers who really read what you write rather than all these apparent followers who probably have no clue about your blog.

  18. On a whim I decided to use the WordPress Discover feature, and here your post showed up! You know, I don’t even know how to find out who unfollows you. I certainly see the follows in my notifications, but how do you see an “unfollow?” I would suppose it would upset me if I knew who has ever unfollowed me. But I have a limited audience and don’t use much social media for promotion, as my blog was only started as a tool for my daughter when she went off to college so she wouldn’t have to be asking me how to make a certain dish or meal. Great post, though! I’ll give you a follow to see what else you have to offer, I don’t limit my follows to foodie blogs, although about 90% are.

  19. Lovely post! Indeed we are ‘more vulnerable than we care to admit…and rejection at whatever level hurts..’ I am glad I came across your post! β˜ΊοΈπŸ‘πŸΌ We are not alone in this jungle that is ‘Social Media.’

  20. Yeah if a friend or someone i knew took the time to follow me and then took even more time to unfollow me I would be pissed! lol kinda. As mad as you could be over such a thing and it would surely be short lived just like a popular twitter post.

  21. Such a relatable post! however one should blog thinking someone might read it and connect, feel happy or familiar, just someone , even it is one single person.. your words should soothe and delight, share and relief.. (your post did so).. no matter what yours words are helping a soul πŸ™‚

  22. Loved this. I have blogged for three years now and have a good many followers. I can tell you, I appreciate every single follow and the encouragement it represents to me. You can ask hundreds to read your blog, but you can’t force a single one to follow you. Each person who has clicked that button has given me incentive to keep doing what I enjoy so much.

  23. Over time, I’ve engaged with people on their blogs, or with others in the comments section, and they will come visit my blog and perhaps even follow, just to find the topics I explore on my blog (sexual exploration post divorce, dating, that kind of thing) perhaps not what they want to read. A few were open with me about it and others just quietly decide I’m not for them. And I’m okay with it, usually. But on my “real life” Instagram account? That guy I went on a few dates with who hasn’t bothered to unfollow me but never interacts anymore but I see him interacting with other women? Man, that hurts. I liked how you put it and that’s exactly how I feel on those contexts. It’s just ironic to me that in the place where I’m my most intimate and open with who and what I am, someone who says “no thanks” hurts me less.
    But come over and read and maybe you will find something you like πŸ˜‰


  24. Well if you have two thousand plus you have a good reason to feel very pleased with yourself and I offer my congratulations. You must not expect eternal allegiance even Christians don’t t always manage that. One thing I must ask do you blog to gain followers or gain followers as you blog?

  25. An ex boyfriend of mine has an app to track anyone who unfollows him and takes it extremely personally when someone does. It always seemed silly to me to get so upset–I never notice if someone unfollows me on Instagram. Some come, some go. It seems awfully painful to feel like that’s a serious rejection.

    But we all interpret things differently.

  26. I quit facebook for precisely the reason laid out in these fine words of yours:

    “…there are layers upon layer of emotion that can find themselves interwound with social media. If there were no emotion then who would continue to waste their time on it? Each encounter can bring in its wake frissons, however brief, of triumph, of familiarity, kindling the primitive need to matter and be noticed.”

    First I reduced my β€œfriend” list to 60 people, felt great. I thought those were the ones I was connected to enough in real life, or valued maintaining a long-distance connection enough. I realized I thought I needed hundreds of facebook “friends” to feel confident and validated that I matter and belong. then I realized I didn’t want ANY facebook friends, and I quit. And I feel more confident! Ha. I didn’t have fake robot connections, but the creepiness was similar. It’s scary how much of a pull facebook and twitter have over people. I’ve been facebook-free since January 2015. Best times ever.

  27. I am a slow learner concerning blogging. Do you follow all 20,000+ who follow you? If you did, I would assume your inbox would explode! In addition, there is hardly enough time in a day to read thoroughly and comment on more then a few other blogs. How does this work for you?

    • They are twitter follower but indeed, I only actively follow a select few of them. The rest, we occasionally cross paths, a bit like being acquaintances in a big city, after a while maybe we get to know each or not.

  28. Great post and just at the right time as I am just staring to blog and perhaps held off starting for too long for worry over followers and those that unfollow. It’s nice to know we all feel the same.

  29. I think I understand what you mean but I do find it interesting how we all react to things differently. I have no idea how many friends I have on Facebook or linked in or if anyone / many have unfollowed me in the 10 ish years I’ve had it. I only have a vague idea of how many people follow my blog on here because my app notifies me everyone once in a while. It just doesn’t matter to me as long as I’ve got someone fun to interact with.

    Of course I’m sure I take some other life measurement out of proportion in a different way.
    Like when someone told me they’ve been a bridesmaid in three weddings a year since college and for a little while I wondered what was wrong with me for being in two weddings ever (one being a flower girl!). Then I realized I wasn’t part of a sorority and my best friends haven’t gotten married yet or got married somewhere/sometime I couldn’t make it.

  30. Or, to unfollow, says. “You are not who I thought you were.” Which can be a positive: you introspect, you realize that how you come off to people or you realize who was following you for all the wrong reasons and you keep mental note, you remind yourself to forget them.

  31. 20,000+! Why would you miss a few? I have no followers. I don’t pretend I wouldn’t like someone to read and enjoy my posts, but I really don’t want followers who aren’t interested in what I have to say, or with whom I can’t have a meaningful exchange. It’s not sour grapes, honestly. Rather than having thousands of fake friends or followers, I would rather say, like the Miller of the Dee: ‘I care for nobody, no not I, and nobody cares for me.’

      • Sorry, I sort of skimmed through the post and missed that part! But that’s the whole point — social media is very casual, and the engagement is generally superficial. If you build too much on someone following you, you’re bound to feel rejected. I would think that a person who decides to follow you just happened to agree with something you said in one post, or found it funny or interesting. And because it struck a chord, they thought they’d sample a bit more. It’s not a lifetime commitment to read everything you ever write. Even if you know the person in the flesh and are friends with them, you can’t assume they have the time or patience to keep at it. Yes, maybe it would be kinder to click on mute, rather than unfollow. Maybe they were just desperately trying to declutter their lives.

  32. Beautiful piece. Loved it! How do I get permission to republish and credit Andrew Reid Wildman? Will wait for your answer Mr. Andrew. I can advise the site i want to share on via email if you are ok with that. Again, really enjoyed your article.

  33. I know how this feels. Not so much on here, but it happens on all sites. Twitter and Instagram seem particularly bad. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this post and your style. Keep writing that beautiful prose, and I shall keep reading! πŸ™‚

  34. I really like the style of your writing! I myself have very few (a few hundreds) followers on instagram and I don’t really actively manage or care too much about the number, but I think I still can relate to how it feels. Really enjoyed the reading.

  35. I loved your post and your style!!! I liked it so much I took it as my first “UsetheEnglishLuke Challenge” post. It’s a way I motivate myself to improve my english while discovering amazing bloggers. I use some of the words you used, up to 10 that I don’t know, and I create a text with my topics, while using those word.If you want to give me your corrections or if you feel curious aouti it you can find it in here: https://lucapovoleri.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/unserious-life/
    And of course I won’t be on the 20 daily unfollows eheh… Thank you for your post.

  36. I unfollowed one person because in the space of 1 hour I got 80 emails telling me how they kept updating their different posts. I can’t cope with that so I had to unsubscribe. It’s not that I don’t care about what they have to say, I just can’t deal with feeling like I’m being spammed.

  37. I don’t really worry too much who unfollows me unless it was a very close friend. Then I could ASK them WHY they unfollowed me if I wanted to be brave, but maybe I wouldn’t. I am a Sagittarius and we are known for putting our foot in our mouths and insulting people on occasion.

  38. Nice post indeed. I have been blogging for half a year and havent gotten around to getting into the whole business of being followed or following. Seems like the pleasure of writing is enough for me. They say that lions don’t really bother with the fleas in their fur πŸ™‚

  39. Thanks for a great post. Have found people very kind in blog-world. However, am very aware that communication via printed words is open to much different reception from face-to-face, phone, etc.

  40. no one would love loosing people he likes, people you once called friends…but if they ever left, if they unfollowed…let them go. no emotions attached…because people come and go…life goes on as 2pac would say

  41. Great post! As a newly minted blogger, I was a little bit spooked by it, though. Should I rethink my decision to create a blog? I’d like to be read, but am totally not prepared for the social media scrutiny and politics, assuming, of course, they will happen for me… On the other hand, it appears that people do need thicker skins in the modern world, so I guess, blogosphere might be a place for me to grow it. I hope that the time I will spend searching for myself on social media won’t be lost πŸ™‚ I love your use of Proust in describing your views on unfollowing! Let the silicone people go! Your world would be better without pretense and falsehood. And thank you for stopping by The Book Worm’s Den!

  42. I don’t know how it works on social media (I call it anti social media and don’t belong) but I wish, there was a way to unfollow followers on my blog who click follow without stopping long enough to read anything Ive written and comment. 20, O00 plus? How do you know people are unfollowing?

  43. I’m pretty new to blogging so my following is still growing (I started my blog in March). So far, I have had only 1 person unfollow me and it honestly stung a bit. I was not able to figure out who left my followship, but I found it interesting that 1 unfollow would bother me so much when I was getting more follows. I think you got it right, we take if very personal when one person rejects us, even if that is contrasted by hundreds of positive feedback. I know someday I’ll get a negative comment on my blog and I know it will bother me immensely. Hopefully I’ll be able to take it in stride and realize that I write to share experiences and not everyone will enjoy what I have to say. Thank you for the thoughtful piece.

  44. I am glad you highlighted this topic. Interesting read. It was only the other day that I was having a discussion about how using social media is an extension of our ‘childhood’ need to play. In fact, I think we never grow tired of playing; it is a human necessity at whatever age. The game of social media takes the place of playing with toys and board games etc. and just like our childhood games there can be fair players and unfair players… but now technically there are no rules and in some ways we, with our more mature minds, are more affected by others’ actions as adults.

  45. Very well written post.
    But, I’m sorry to say I’m at loss here – Andrew, and the rest of all comenters, come on now!!! You REALLY care who unfollows? It’s such a minor thing, no πŸ™‚
    Come on everybody, go out, enjoy the real, live, people that are important in your life. Then the writing, and followers of that writing, will just be a small part of your identity.
    We are all bigger and better than this πŸ™‚
    Have fun!

  46. Nice piece! We really are more vulnerable than we care to admit! I decided to finally have a Twitter account for my blog site (after trying with a personal Twitter was an utter crash-and-burn fail) and there are moments I simply feel (for lack of a better word) victimized. I feel selfish and childish for feeling so, because honestly, in the grand scheme of the world, being upset because you lost followers is such a good problem to have compared to other options. But still, it stings. I’ve already discovered how shady people are (following, and if you don’t follow back immediately, they unfollow). If someone follows me, I want it to be because they’re interested in me and what I stand for, not because they want a follow back. I refuse to follow back an account just because I want to keep a follower either, you know? Likewise, when I follow an account, I do it because I want to follow, not because I want them to notice me and follow me. If they do on their own accord, great, but that’s not my intent. Unfortunately, I think Twitter is designed to encourage such underhanded behavior! Sad. It all goes along with this “new normal”, this lack of empathy that goes hand-in-hand with social media.

  47. A really profound piece, taking a step back and critically assessing a socialized norm via an elegant ode to Proustianism – an absolute pleasure to read. I’ve just created my first post on my new blog today, would really appreciate a follow/comment!

  48. I’ve been blogging for ten years. In the beginning , I post d everyday…sometimes, several times a day and as was a narcissistic slave to the stats…I’d check constantly. Any new like? Any new comments? I send to try to defend my b,of when creepy critics hated my work, but I learned how to delete….and edit. I dont blog as much as I used and I only do it when I really feel compelled. But if no one read me, or likes meif they unfollow me, I don’t, well, if no longer take it personally. They only know my words which describe what I was thinking and how I was feeling the moment fingers touched keyboard. Therefore criticism, insults, a lack of reasership loyalty only affects my blog. Not me.

  49. I’ve also just found your blog! Love your sophisticated style of writing and this blog was an excellent conversation starter in the car on the way to the beach! I’ve just started blogging and don’t really know how to get traffic. Any tips?

  50. Is it acceptable to unfollow/unfriend your ex, just so you can both “move on” and hope one day you can find it in yourself to “follow” each other again?

    Also, definitely following you πŸ™‚

  51. Wonderful commentary here. I try not to friend someone who I have not met in person, though I’m starting to loosen up on that rule as it is getting harder for me to meet people. There is a balance that needs to be maintained. As for the feelings around being unfollowed, I have those same thoughts when I see someone unfriend or unfollow me. It’s hard to take the emotions out of it.

    Following this!

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