Subtweeting: The Newest Edition to the English Dictionary?

Affy Koungoulos

Though “tweet” has made it into the dictionary as an officially recognized phrase, “subtweeting” has not. Clearly, Merriam-Webster needs to get with the times, because subtweeting is running rampant on the popular social networking site. For the uninitiated, subtweeting basically refers to mentioning another person in a tweet without specifically naming them. An example would be one individually tweeting, “Just passed my math test #success” and another, sufficiently offended, individual tweeting, “I can’t believe he’d do that to me, what a disgusting cretin #boybye.” Generally, subtweets have some negative connotations. This investigative reporter attempted to unearth the reasoning and popularity behind this trend.

Most commonly, subtweeting tells a story of adolescence and humanity. It’s a way to vent about heartbreak, about disappointment, and about anger. Though I’ve only been an active tweeter for a few months, I’ve seen more than my fair share of subtweets. They seem to be directed at crushes who refuse to acknowledge your presence, family members who push all of the wrong buttons, or friends who happen to be acting uncharacteristically upsetting. Getting a complaint off your chest is always relieving, and receiving “likes” on a subtweet makes you feel less alone. The fact that other people understand where you’re coming from legitimizes your feelings. And it seems worth noting that this emotional glasnost has become the norm in the past few years, because at least negative feelings don’t have to be as repressed.

However, not everyone is a fan of subtweeting. I casually asked several classmates about their thoughts on the trend, and the general consensus seemed bleak. Some choice adjectives used to describe the phenomenon were “pointless,” “stupid,” and “immature.” Granted, broadcasting your dislike for people or things on a public forum isn’t always the wisest decision. It can lead to disputes between friends, and with overuse, can give you a reputation of being a person who complains endlessly. Personally, I choose not to subtweet because I’d rather watch Love Actually and avoid my problems, but I can see how venting about them is helpful. Arguably, though, subtweeting doesn’t have to be for everyone to see. In the end, a person’s Twitter account is their property, and they’re entitled to post whatever they want. It does still feel taboo to be open about one’s problems, though. Perhaps that’s the core of what makes others uncomfortable about subtweets. If that’s the case, perhaps we should be working on offering better emotional support to others so that tweets angrily punctuated with exclamation points and asterisks aren’t as common in the near future.