Recently, I decided to have a little social media purge, not unlike the ones I’ve been doing around the house (in my closet, and with my mounds of paperwork). But as my strong sense of self-preservation prevents me from actually deleting people outright from pretty much any social network, I decided that the best option would just be to mute the people who were bringing me nothing, and who I wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Until recently, I’d only done it once or twice (with truly egregious people who would have made a stink if I’d deleted them, but who clearly needed to be deleted from my life). For some reason, it hadn’t dawned on me to continue the pattern until my feeds were reduced to only what (and who) I wanted to see.
But I did it, and it feels incredible.
The thing about social media is that it gives us a weird sense of obligation towards people who we otherwise are not terribly inclined to talk to (or even keep in our lives). Because we’ve kept these people around this long, we feel that we should keep them indefinitely, because not doing so would somehow make us a bad person. And while it’s true that we have every right to keep our social circles as tight as our hearts desire, it’s also true that sometimes it’s just better not to hurt others’ feelings. So we keep people around to prevent any #drama, all at the cost of our mental and emotional housekeeping. (Everyone knows the feeling of scrolling through a social feed and being overwhelmed with a feeling of “Fuck, I hate all these people,” and it’s not fun.)
I tried to get over this feeling of obligation — not the obligation to be careful with others’ feelings, but to have to keep up with them. I wouldn’t cut them from my life (and deal with that fallout), but that didn’t mean I had to look at what they were doing every day. And frankly, on a vaguely ethical level, I felt like I was doing the right thing by not looking at their big life events (which should probably be reserved for people who actually want to see them). Once I decided that it was okay to just silence a big swath of people, I set to figuring out who were the types of people keeping my emotional life cluttered, who were putting me on a cycle of inadequacy and frustration that led to overall lowering of quality of life (and therefore spending of money, because with imbalance comes more imbalance, always). Those people were:
- People who endlessly self-promote, and not in an intelligent or thoughtful way. (We’re talking mass event invites, spamming people to “like” and “share” your project, or begging for follows.)
- People who only ever post negative thoughts/comments/observations.
- People whose projects/life choices/ways of talking grate on me, which leads to me sadly talk shit about them with other friends, and essentially turns them into a sort of hate-follow, even when they are people I knew in real life.
- People who make me feel inadequate, or like I needed to impress them in some way (especially when it came to looking a certain way, or buying certain things).
- People whose journey to fitness/health has turned them into pretentious, judgmental assholes. (Sorry, I am all about you finding yourself, but it doesn’t mean you have to caption every selfie with a three-paragraph, condescending monologue about how you’re in a ~~better place~~.)
- People I never even really knew in the first place, who somehow made it onto my feed and remained there for years.
- People who post endless photos of their children (I have ethical issues with this, but also I just dislike it).
- People whose lives cause me a weird, irrational amount of envy. (Yes, I know that social media is not an accurate representation of someone’s life. But still, some Instagrams just look soooo good.)
- People who spout really unfortunate political opinions, but who are close enough to my family (or actual family) that deleting them (or arguing with them) would cause many unnecessary headaches.
- People who post endless updates about their upcoming nuptials, or extremely invasive 100-photo albums of the moment of the proposal, their engagement, and the wedding itself.
Now, you don’t have to agree with any of these choices, or think that they are fair/positive. That’s fine! And if I fall into some category for you that you don’t enjoy seeing on your feeds, I encourage you to mute me. I will be none the wiser, and you may even find that my absence has lessened the dislike you feel towards me. (It happens!) The point is that my social media sorting has nothing to do with anyone else, and doesn’t have to please them or fall into what they consider good internet-decision-making.
You (and I) should be using social media to enhance our lives only, and never to feel like we have an added set of obligations or constraints to think about. If you are not getting out of it more than you are putting in, you should feel absolutely free to either delete entirely, or to thoroughly cleanse your circles. It’s not about pleasing other people, or bearing witness to the minutia of their lives through some kind of unspoken Facebook agreement. It’s about staying in touch with the people you really love, often people whom you might not be able to see as much as you’d like. Keeping someone in your face at all times at the expense of your mental health and balance is a terrible idea, no matter who it is. If you need to mute family members, even, you should feel free and encouraged to do so. Your user experience should be exactly as you want it, and it should serve as a tiny respite from the real world, where you can surround yourself with exactly who and what you want to see, and nothing more.
And even better, I’ve found that doing this encourages me to only do the same in my personal life. For some time now, I’ve been moving away from sheer quantity, and towards something much more fulfilling. And reducing the number of people I see in my news feeds (who have the power to upset me, or make me feel inadequate) only makes it that much clearer how important it is to do so. People you unfollow quickly disappear from your mind, much like no longer initiating hangouts with the person who never makes the effort reminds you how much more time you could have with the people who actually matter.
Social media should be fun. Real-life hangouts should be, too. No recreational, social activity should bring you stress or envy. And while not wanting to upset people by removing them is a totally rational impulse, I recommend that you try cutting down the number of people you see every day by at least 30-40 percent. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you are (and how much lighter your days feel) when you only see the people who make your world a better place to be.
Image via Unsplash
Feel like you’ll never save enough money to be a real person? So did Steph Georgopulos. Read about it in Some Things I Did for Money.