#fainites – please don’t unfollow

Posted on: April 24, 2011

You are about to bore or offend a substantial portion of your Twitter followers – but just can’t help yourself.

Here’s a thought: between two extremes – broadcasting our unfettered and unfiltered desires and opinions and keeping them forever to ourselves – there can perhaps be half-way houses, diluted diatribes, or more specifically: tweets with #fainites disclaimers.

When I was a kid in North London playing tag (or ‘it’) – saying fainites and crossing one’s fingers prevented one from being tagged. It was also used when you said something really awful and were braced for attack… giggling, begging and crying fainites might get you out of a temporarily sticky situation if you were lucky.

We need a Twitter version of Fainites.

#fainites hashtag could be used when a tweeter wants to write something close to a particular bone – perhaps about a rival football team, political issue or even the opposite sex in general – yet show they’re aware they are stepping over some lines and have their fingers crossed people won’t unfollow them for it.

I’ve been following @DCPlod for ages on Twitter… When the recent #NorthLondonDerby was on, some of her tweets pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s only Twitter… it’s only football… and I now have a better understanding of (and sympathy for) some of her angrier tweets. But what if I had seen just one and unfollowed? I have this issue with @angrybritain too. Often funny.. but some tweets dangerously tip toward misogyny and what seems an unhealthy dislike of certain celebrities.

It is problematic for online discourse when we are forced to ‘like’ things or people all the time, in order to hear from and interact with them – as Chantal Mouffe has argued, encountering and even clashing with different outlooks is important for democracy.

On Twitter every140 character burst shouts: there you go… like it or lump it. But #Fainites could help us put on a figurative crash helmet for riskier tweets.

In an ideal world Twitter could even pave that cowpath and technically prevent people from unfollowing those who had used the fainites tag for half an hour afterwards – giving their followers time to calm down and reflect


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