It’s a regular day. You’re headed to work and your bus is 10 minutes late again.
Standing there at the crowded bus stop, with your grande dark roast with a double shot of espresso in one hand and your phone in the other, you scroll endlessly down your Twitter feed through the peppy “Good morning” messages and automatic horoscope posts. Until you see it — the subtweet. And what started as a mundane morning has now been thrown upside down by an aggressive virtual storm.
“Wish I could show up late for work every day too and keep my job but I’m not a kiss-ass #sickofyou #truth,” you read the words your coworker tweets.
It starts with paranoia that creeps up your spine as you read, re-read and re-re-read the choice words your colleague has for somebody so early in the morning through her Twitter alias. Words that could easily be directed at you and your tardiness due to the 191 bus that seems to be taking its sweet time getting to your stop, causing the second hand to tick towards the time you should be punching that same clock at the office.
Sure, you’re late once and a while but it’s because there’s construction on your bus route and it’s been affecting the commute. And sure, you talked to your boss about it and even brought an extra Starbucks last time you showed up past 9, but that doesn’t make you a kiss-ass. You battle internally for a moment on the probability of her referencing you. It’s a short battle, because you’re almost certain. And her nerve is a nerve-wracking vexation.
Just like that, paranoia is replaced by full-on rage. The blood in your body jets to your brain until you see fuzzy black and white spots. Why would she write that? What’s her problem? You let out an angry squeal which is thankfully muffled by the bus that has finally pulled up your stop. Wrong time for that double shot of espresso.
Even though you actually got a spot to sit down on the over-crowded bus this time, you can’t enjoy it. Your mind is lost a whirlwind of vulgarity as you struggle with how you are going to deal with the issue at hand. How are you going to address it? How do you face your heartless assailant of a coworker?
These are your options:
A) Ignore it
B) Favorite it
C) Subtweet back
D) Respond via Reply or Quote Tweet
E) Talk it over in the break room over lunch
F) Nothing. You can do nothing, because it doesn’t matter. You’ve been subtweeted which means your day has been ruined and ultimately, your relationship with said subtweeter.
Subtweets and online aggressors come with the territory of writing, so I’ve been the product of a few dozen subtweets in my Twitter lifetime, which I have attempted to address in a variety of ways. But if there is one thing I’ve learnt through the many melodramatic experiences and virtual altercations, it’s that once a subtweet is blasted out into cyberspace, there’s no appropriate way of dealing with it.
I’ve tried to ignore it and pretend like it never happened, but I’m not a great actor and tensions have a way of growing into a monster of a dramatic mess when they aren’t dealt with. Especially if the subtweet was delivered by someone that you see regularly in the flesh, an ignored subtweet has the power to wedge itself between you both in the form of a grudge. And we’ve all seen how dangerous a grudge can be.
Favorite-ing the subtweet is a passive-aggressive Tweeters go-to response. It’s a way to show the subtweeter that you saw exactly what they had to say and that you are aware that it is about you. I’m not going to lie and say that my Favorites aren’t full of messages I’ve perceived as subtweets, but nothing good has ever come from clicking that star out of spite. Because neither parties will ever admit it and the grudge still seeps in from the screen.
Subtweeting back and responding via the Reply button are, most often, the worst things you can do. Not only are you risking the chance of being perceived as just as petty as your Twitter foe, but you’re now inviting all of your social media network to follow along in the virtual beef. And according to the online commandment: Never argue with fools, because people on the Internet can’t tell who is who.
The final option, and seemingly, most adult route is to confront the subtweeter about their words. Not in an aggressive or offensive manner of course, but in a fashion of curiosity and maturity. But this never works. Ever. I have approached numerous people from colleagues to friends about their topics of tweets and asked if they were at all in reference to me. Tweets that were so obviously about me, that all they were missing was my name, address and phone number. But they never admitted it. Not once. Because chances are, if subtweeters had the nerve to approach you about the issue at hand, the subtweet would be non-existent.
So, the answer is F. There is no way to properly deal with a subtweet formed against you. It happened. It’s out there, cemented into the land of virtual commentary and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Because it’s Twitter. The virtual high-school that we may never graduate from.
Don’t think it’s that serious? Then you’ve obviously never been subbed.