They say to do unto others as you would have them do unto you; to treat others the way you would like to be treated. But who cares about what they say? Because if I want to unfollow you on Twitter or Instagram, I'm going to do it.
Especially since we're probably strangers. We met one time at the event with the free sliders served on cornbread and after we joked about how many I was wrapping up and taking home, we were left with nothing but our Instagram accounts. I followed you, you followed me and we vowed to keep in touch. But that was in March of 2016, and somewhere along the line, you began posting inspirational memes. So I'm going to unfollow you and live my life in peace forever. No harm, no foul and also, we were never friends.
Of course, it's easy to take an unfollow personally. Our feeds are curated, highly calculated representations of the way we want the world to see us, and for our biggest efforts to be rejected – by even an acquaintance – can make it seem as though we've failed at being alive. As adults, our Instagrams have replaced our high-school lockers and college dorm rooms, with posters of Devon Sawa being ousted by edited images we believe truly reflect us. To be unfollowed feels personal. It feels mean. It feels the way it did when, as a teen, you weren't invited along to the mall even though going there after school with a bunch of people was actually your idea. In other words, cold-blooded rejection.
Except that it's not. Instagram isn't real life, it's a culmination of a handful of our greatest hits. It rarely depicts who we authentically are or what we really believe or anything that doesn't look perfect alongside dozens of images with similar tones. It's the version of ourselves we've decided is safe enough to share with a handful or hundreds or thousands of people. So while innately personal, it's also grossly impersonal. When we're unfollowed or we unfollow someone else, it's the true definition of what Michael Corleone once said: It's business.
And ultimately, although often forgotten, this is what social media is. It's our work. It's our professional selves. It's where we direct employers in hopes that they'll be dazzled enough that we get a second interview or promoted (or simply not fired).
It's the reason we exchange handles at events with sliders on cornbread. It's a business card. And who can keep track of the number of business cards they've thrown away?
But here we are. You, rattled that someone unfollowed your collection of inspirational quotes set atop a sunset background, and me, telling myself that I don't care how I've just realized a friend from high school has clearly grown tired of my obsession with Queen Elizabeth II memorabilia and unfollowed me. Despite the advice we give or receive on the topic of unfollowing, when it happens to us, it's personal. So after etching my new enemy's name onto a list of souls I will seek vengeance on, I have to stifle the urge to do the worst possible thing you can do: call the unfollower out.
It's literally the third-worst thing anyone could do on this Earth.
Fight the urge to comment "I thought we were friends" on every one of their photos until they've apologized or blocked you. Refrain from going through their feed and mentally noting the photos in which they look terrible and their life looks bad. Put the phone down instead of screencapping something you swear is incriminating (it isn't) and will totally ruin them (it will not). And remember how weirded out you felt when the cornbread-slider stranger tried to confront you on Twitter after they realized you'd stopped watching their "stories." "It's not personal," you must chant to yourself. "It's business."
There may be a little part of you that thinks they've clued in to the fact that your life isn't so great, that you're terrible at pretending your life resembles a Pinterest board.
But no. That's not why you've been unfollowed. Out of the hundreds of photos we have to see daily, you've merely been selected as the one with the least enticing content for someone who prefers photos of dogs over cats. Or whatever. Which is fine, and also their choice. In the same way we wouldn't force a friend to stare at our lockers in high school, we must accept that some unfortunate souls do not share our zest for the 2018 equivalent of Devon Sawa in Tiger Beat.
Some strangers should remain just that and simply don't need a close-up look into our personal lives. Sometimes, sharing a slider is enough.