A couple of weeks ago I wrote my most hypocritical tweet ever:

Follows are not love. You are as lovable with 5 followers as with 50,000. You are not your Twitter feed.

(I just spent half an hour searching for that tweet before discovering I twittered it on my dad’s birthday. Let’s not dig too deep into that one.)

Hypocritical because, as Rob pointed out, I spent the rest of the evening cooing over the various retweets. “So follows aren’t love,” he asked, “But retweets are?”

You, your therapist and your much-vaunted “real world” friends may agree that my attention to retweets is misplaced, and that the world of social networking is mere posturing and business schmoozing. And on the surface, that diagnosis all-too-often rings true: surfing through the back-and-forth on Twitter reveals an apparently endless stream of here’s-who-I-know, here’s-what-I-do.

But if Twitter’s just a forum for professional advancement or brand marketing, how do you explain services like Qwitter and Twitterless? These are services that help people track unfollows: the Twitter users who used to follow you, but don’t anymore. Tracking unfollowers suggest some level of personal obsessiveness, some kind of personal stake, in who follows (or unfollows you). I should know: I’m a leading obsesser.

Of course, following unfollows is just the mirror image of everyone’s favorite Twitter past time: collecting new followers. Last night, Rob and I had some fun exchanging examples of the kinds of lame “please follow me” messages that are becoming all too standard on Twitter. Messages like:

Follow me plus my five most recent followers. Each of them will then follow you…and so on.. for 5,000 total follows!

The value of our tweets is sure to appreciate, and your children will treasure them as family heirlooms forever.Follow us today!

I know you’re the guy who keyed my car. I could sue. But all I’m asking is that you follow me on Twitter.

Little Jimmy declined our request to follow. Three days later, he lost his lucky bottle cap.

I followed Social Signal just last month, and I’ve already lost 10 pounds! Please keep those slimming tweets coming!

For each new follower, we’ll let one puppy live.

Rob observed that the corollary of that last threat is the following:

For each unfollow… I get a new puppy slipper.

From this observation was born a new badge of honor: The Slipper. Tonight I awarded the slipper to a bunch of folks who Twitterless tells me recently unfollowed me. I flagged my message with the hashtag #theslipper and linked to the image I shamelessy appropriated from Embroider USA Florida.

And yes, you can look at The Slipper as a sign of the depths to which I’ve sunk in equating follows with love — if not intellectually, then emotionally.

But I want to use The Slipper to do the reverse: to dig myself out of the trench that so many of us are now in, in which we treat Twitter follows and unfollows with the same levels of desparate neediness that used to be limited to hookups and breakups.

To that end, I see The Slipper as a way of making peace with the tides of follows and unfollows; a way of acknowledging that an unfollow is as likely to reflect an overall triage of excessive follows as a response to my latest tweet about Inbox Zero or @lilsweetie.

And for those who’ve received The Slipper, accept it with my gratitude: for taking the time to follow me in the first place, for thinking consciously about how to use Twitter to pay attention to the people that matter most to you, and of course, for reminding me that follows are not love.

Are you gnashing your teeth whenever you lose a follower? Try sending them The Slipper.

Just send a tweet to @formerfollower with the hashtag #theslipper and the link http://bit.ly/2lXBW6.