Of all the names you can get called on the internet, “thirsty” is the worst. This is not to say “thirsty” is the worst thing you can say. That would be the n-word. But the n-word is one of those insults that reveals more about the person who says it than the person so insulted. When someone uses a slur, people think less of him immediately. He is a bumpkin or a coward. The person who calls you thirsty, on the other hand, establishes himself in a position of superiority. From there he observes your behavior and dismisses you with a word. It’s a pretty sick burn.1
To be thirsty is to clamor for attention or try too hard to be liked. It’s a particularly useful insult on the internet, whose very currency is attention. We should probably all be ashamed to talk on the internet. The mere act of starting a Twitter account is grotesquely thirsty. People who are well hydrated, if you will, do not sign up for the service where strangers read what they type into a box. You can call pretty much anyone thirsty on social media, and you will be right.
Yet not everyone is as thirsty as everyone else. Any site that counts friends, followers, or upvotes gives us a clear hierarchy of thirst. The person with 57,000 Twitter followers is plausibly less thirsty than the person with a couple hundred. Although you could argue that it’s more thirsty to tweet to more people, you’d be missing an important point of how “thirsty” works. When you call someone thirsty, you put yourself above them in a hierarchy of attention. You’re accusing them not just of trying too hard to be liked, but of trying to by liked by you.2
This makes it devastating. As an insult, it implies that you do not care whether the person you are insulting likes you. Yet you’re interacting with each other, so one of you must be thirsty. That’s what the thirst dynamic is: ongoing interaction, lopsided attention. Indicating you do not want someone’s attention by calling them thirsty proves your accusation. If they weren’t thirsty, the opportunity to call them that would not have arisen.
In this regard, “thirsty” joins “get over it” in the class of unanswerable insults. But saying “get over it” makes you sound like an idiot, whereas calling people thirsty makes you sound cool and bored. It is the complaint of the widely recognized. It follows that the more you call people thirsty, the more famous you must be—even if only among the people listening to you do it.
Grab a Sprite or something. Stop bidding for my attention and go back to admiring me in silence. Any answer is just evidence of thirst.