The Art of Being Petty on Social Media

Katelyne Ortega
March 23, 2018

In honor of the word subtweet being added to the dictionary earlier this month, I am here to celebrate with you the wonderfully awful world of social media pettiness. I do it. You do it. Even our mothers try their hand.

We ALL do it. And if you haven’t been even the slightest bit “petty” on social media,  I doubt there’s never been a thought in your mind where you want to scream to the Twitter world how loud your roommate… chews. Anyways, let’s get to it.

Social media has undeniably granted us the power to do many, many things. Billions of things. TRILLIONS. And among those lies the petty and passive aggressive posts, shares, likes and RT’s we see in every refreshed timeline.

Subtweets & Statuses

Ah, the subtweet. The not-so-mysterious way to share your thoughts about someone else. We covered subtweets a while back, yet, not much has changed. The art of subtweeting has remained the same, and much like art itself, subtweets can either be easily interpreted or make little sense to those who have not crafted the tweet themselves. Let’s try and decode some, eh?

Subject: Remains a mystery.

Subject: The roommate who likes jazz.

Subject: Robert Mueller.

Subject: Taylor Swift.

For the most part, users subtweet hoping the subject of the tweet notices the tweet. And clearly, not all these tweets are as passive aggressive as you think.

In addition to subtweeting, pettiness comes in retweets and quote tweets, too. Example: look back to the first tweet we decoded. It goes, “someone wronged me recently and ive decided to hold a grudge against them for the rest of time…” I only saw this tweet in my timeline since it was retweeted by my gal pal who, I know, recently got in a scuffle with a friend over paying for some bills.

Petty Pics

Instagram and Snapchat are no stranger to the pettiness. It’s easy to express-the-pett in statuses and tweets, yes, but photos and videos can do so too. Usually, pettiness through these more visual platforms aim to make a certain someone jealous.

Crush just broke your heart? BOOM—sexy selfie on the gram. Friends didn’t invite you out? BOOM—you’re getting dinner with someone else anyways, #DogFilter. There’s actual guides available online to help people perfect this sort of petty revenge, see here, here and here. Yikes.

Now, decoding Instagram and Snapchat pettiness is whole ‘nother kettle of fish. It’s either point blank obvious or goes right over your head. When it’s obvious, you can pick up on some clues in the caption, or, if we’re talking Snapchat, read that black screen full of text (which, let’s be honest, could just be a tweet).

Other times, petty photos only really satisfy who ever posted it. There’s no way to tell if that certain someone cares about your selfie or feels the FOMO burn after seeing your story. They might, they might not. But either way, you feel much better seeing their username among the list of those who have viewed your story.

Trending: Pettiness

More times than not, a petty post is celebrated rather than torn down. Just look around: celebrity vs. celebrity, politician vs. politician,  Outback vs. Texas Roadhouse. Since when did it become so important for restaurant chains and chocolate marshmallow snacks to reveal to us their inner sass?

Since users, like us, praised, liked, retweeted and identified with it all. We influence the influencers. But is there a price? Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being #TeamPetty. It helps us feel better, it motivates us and it gives us more power in a situation we can’t control. Still, at some point all this pettiness can have negative consequences. If pettiness is derived from great unhappiness or hurts others, maybe it’s time to step away from social media and work on yourself. Is that me being petty?