Time For The Annual Social Media Purge
Recently, I decided to have another little social media purge, not unlike the ones I’ve been doing around the house (in my wardrobe, and rather unwillingly my bookshelf - mums frightened it'll collapse). 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/block 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 I detest but would have made a stink if I’d deleted them, even though they clearly needed to be deleted from my life. For some reason, it hadn’t dawned on me to continue the pattern until all my feeds were reduced to only what (and who) I wanted to see.
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, despite the fact that everyone has, at one point known the feeling of scrolling through your feed and being overwhelmed with a feeling of “I hate you all,” 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 life cluttered, or who were putting me on a cycle of inadequacy and frustration.
Those people were:
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. We 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 Google+ circles. It’s not about pleasing other people, or bearing witness to the minutia of their lives through some kind of unspoken Facebook agreement/ Twitter update every time they take a shower.
Social Media is 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 happiness is a terrible idea, no matter who it is. Your media 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. 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 more clear 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.
P.S credit to the poem at the top goes to the wonderful Erin Hanson of The Poetic Underground!