Tangled Web: Have you gotten the Twitter cold shoudler?

We're introduced, I follow you, you follow me. Or not?


Jess Zimmerman

Internet Culture

Published Jul 16, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 11:19 am CDT

Thanks to the Internet, we now have a host of new ways to offend, enrage, misinterpret, creep out, or alienate people. In the Tangled Web, we field your questions about how to be a decent human online. Have a question? Ask [email protected].

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A close friend recently introduced me (virtually) to someone he followed on Twitter. I followed her and said hi, and she just completely ignored me and didn’t follow me back. I’m not a person who cares particularly about my follower count, but I think that’s really rude. It’s like a friend calling me over at a party to introduce me to someone, and instead of walking up and saying hi and at least finding out why my friend is making the introduction, I just turn my back and walk away. Am I overreacting?

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Is it possible that she has a different level of relationship with your mutual friend than you do? I agree that I would feel obligated to at least say hello to anyone introduced to me by a close friend. It’s reasonable to assume that your good friends know you well enough that the people they choose for you are worth a look. (Hell, people go out on dates based on nothing but the strength of a friend’s setup. Those usually go horribly, and yet people still do them! Friend recommendations are powerful.)

But I might not feel obligated to interact with the friend of a colleague, or the friend of an online acquaintance, or the colleague of an online acquaintance, etc. When your Twitter stream is populated mostly by your friends, it can feel like an intimate party; when it’s packed with people you work with, admire from a distance, or only kind of know, it’s more like a crowded bar. Depending on her relationship with your friend, the cold-shoulderer might not have experienced the introduction as being called over to say hi—she might have experienced it more as him shouting “that’s my friend Sarah!” over the din, pointing you out, and giving you a wave.

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It would still be more polite for her to say hi, of course. It’s generally more polite to acknowledge humans in your sphere, especially ones who have been specifically pointed out to you by people you know. But Twitter can be overwhelmingly noisy, and I’d say that if she is not close with your mutual acquaintance, it’s more “not polite” than “rude.” So if you think that your friend was right, and you and Cold-Shoulder would in fact get along or at least have a lot to say to one another, keep following her for a while and feel free to join in when the two of them are talking. After more conversation, she may catch up. If not, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

And if they are friends, and she pointedly ignored you after being introduced? Then she is at worst rude, at best really not prioritizing your mutual friend or potential new friends. (How hard is it to say hi?) All that means, though, is that you’re not missing out on much.

Jess Zimmerman has been making social blunders on the Internet since 1994. Most of her current interpersonal drama takes place on Twitter (@j_zimms).

Photo by mahalie/Flickr

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*First Published: Jul 16, 2013, 1:06 pm CDT