Subtweeting may sound like some 21st-century, high-tech term. Which it sort of is. But when you get right down to it, it’s just gossip geared for the digital age. Simply put, subtweeting is sending a tweet that talks about a person without including that person’s Twitter handle (@) in the message.
And the big deal is???
What Subtweeting Is
When a person’s Twitter handle is included a tweet, that mention (or tweet) goes into said person’s notifications folder. Hence, that person will know what’s being said about them because their handle is being included. Leave out that handle, however, and they’re left out of the conversation about them.
There’s no shortage of ways people can refer to someone without mentioning their Twitter handle. By using their name, for starters. Or a nickname. Most often, however, subtweets obliquely refer to someone, inviting others to guess in this passive/aggressive form of communication.
Who Is Subtweeting
When the MTV Music Video Award nominations were announced last year, Nicki Minaj subtweeted another artist when she learned she wasn’t nominated for Video of the Year.
Taylor Swift didn’t subtweet back. She did, however, respond.
Which isn’t to say all subtweeting is malicious. Sometimes it can be used to gently poke fun at someone, with the idea that the writer knows the person will see the tweet. Other times, it’s a convenient way of circumventing rules. Until recently, NCAA coaches often subtweeted about unsigned players by using their nicknames to get around the rule that forbids public mentions of athletes until signed. That subtweeting loophole has since been closed earlier this year.
Who Gets Hurt by Subtweeting
While subtweeting can often be for fun, it can also lead to cruel online behavior, especially given the fact that it often leaves its target unnamed. Instigators can often deny targeting victims because, after all, no one was directly named or mentioned. We’re calling it the perfect storm for cyberbullying.