It’s so easy for a digital landscape to become crowded, filled with people and images and ideas that we don’t agree with, and feel as though we never signed up for in the first place. Sometimes scrolling through our social feeds or even our favorite websites can become more draining than restorative, more stressful than calming, and more annoying than fun. We are reminded of all the things we’re meaning to get rid of, or the people we used to be (and who we are making great strides to move away from). It can be a way for us to get sucked back into old habits, petty jealousies, and connections with people and things we no longer need. I’ve already discussed going on a purge for your social media of people you no longer need to be “friends” with, digitally speaking, but it goes further than that.
Our digital lives can become cluttered with much more than just old acquaintances who should have seen the door long ago. It can also be full of things that make us feel lesser than, or like we need to consume more to be the person we’d like to be. It encourages us to buy, to show off, to be ostentatious and measure our success not in our own personal satisfaction, but in how much we’ve impressed other people. Our online spaces can often start out with great intentions — inspiration for the life we’d love to live — and leave us only feeling inadequate when we realize that even the best-lived daily life can never keep up with someone else’s highlight reel.
To that end, I’ve found six key things to cut out of your digital life, if you want to start living better (and feeling better about yourself).
1. Remnants of a life you want to move away from.
Whether it’s a ton of adorable pictures with your ex, or a bunch of people from an old job who were never really friends to begin with, it’s really helpful to do the occasional spring cleaning with old lives on social media. It’s not that you have any ill feelings towards these people or images (or maybe you do), it’s just that keeping so much of the past around you can act like a dust cloud that follows you into the present. It’s unnecessary, and can sometimes take you back to a place you don’t want to go. A few minutes spent deleting some old photos you no longer want, or muting/unfollowing people from a part of your life you’re no longer interested in can be huge for freeing up mental clutter. No longer hearing about or thinking about these old jobs, relationships, or living situations can feel like a deep clean in your actual, physical home.
2. “Inspirational” things that mostly leave you feeling inadequate.
There is a difference between following blogs/newsletters/social media pages that inspire to try cool new things, and following things that just leave you envying. If you find yourself lusting over the perfect pages of a DIY, decor, food, or style page that feels unattainable and un-applicable to your everyday life, it’s probably not the best place to draw inspiration. Instead of the complicated, expensive recipes for which you have no ingredients, or decor in expansive, brightly-lit downtown lofts, start with something a little closer to home, that you’ll actually want to try (instead of getting discouraged). “Inspiration” is not worth it if it only lives in your head, it should actually inspire you to take action.
3. Apps, widgets, files, and programs you are not using.
Once a month, you should go through your computer/phone/tablet and just get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Delete useless apps, get rid of old image files and trash emails, clear out your graveyard of failed selfies. Just freshen up and lighten the digital load. Your devices will run better, and you will feel infinitely lighter (particularly knowing that someone who takes a picture for you won’t accidentally click on a bunch of terrible old photos you meant to delete).
4. Emails from stores (even if you really love the store in question).
I’ve had to engage in serious back-and-forths on Twitter before to get my email taken off of certain store’s list, but it’s always worth it. Even if they’re not the type of store to spam you with constant offers and newsletters you don’t want (and many are), it’s just not a good idea to be constantly encouraged to shop for things. VERY rarely, the deals might actually turn out to be something you need, but more often than not it’s just going to be an excuse to buy another skirt you don’t need on a whim. Online shopping is one of the easiest and most indulgent ways to combat a bad/slow/stressed day, and retailers know that. Don’t let them infiltrate your digital space to find you at your most vulnerable.
5. “Perfect” lives.
Here’s a secret: No one’s life is ever as good as it looks on social media, and even the ones that look “perfect” are just as fraught with challenge and disappointment as anyone else’s. Even the ethereal Instagram models and bloggers have to poop. And it’s not an artisanal, beautiful experience. Sorry. The point is, though, if you’re seeing a life that constantly makes yours feel as though it’s not being lived correctly, or which seems way too perfect to be true, unfollow it. No one needs the added pressure of a deceptively flawless life, especially on social media, where things are supposed to be more “real” and honest than a magazine.
6. Hate follows.
If you’re following someone/visiting a site/reading something strictly because you hate it and get a twisted joy out of hating it/sharing your hatred with friends, take a break. At least for a week. I swore off a particularly egregious lifestyle blog I used to hate-read for what I thought was a week a year ago, and ended up forgetting about it entirely until just recently, when I saw a friend share something from it. And while the occasional hate-fest can be fun/indulgent, life is much better when not confronted with things that piss us off all the time. Hate-reading is like a fresh garnish — just a little sprinkling will do you fine.