Wednesday, May 13, 2020

It seems as though due to the old #followback culture, we've somehow brainwashed ourselves and our followers into thinking that pressing that little follow button beside their name is a contractual agreement between the two parties and if you break it, well, you only followed to unfollow once they returned the favour. People are keen to police the way in which we use social media when really there aren't many rules at all. There's a lot that feeds into the kind of experience you have on social media and the outcome of your feed and value that you take from it completely depends on how you use it and what your goals are when publishing tweets and following other users. That doesn't mean any which way is wrong.

I get it, there has always been a portion of the internet that is purely used for spam and you'll receive the same "x followed you" notification 7 times a week, and their goal may be transparent to the rest of us. In these instances, I just remind myself of something that will be a common theme throughout this post and that's that the block button does exist and yes, you should utilise it more than you are. I've heard the argument against using the block button multiple times now, "it's censoring people", "you're making your circles smaller" etc, and I can see where this idea comes from but it's no different than distancing yourself from toxic people in your everyday life anyway. There's a clear distinction from unfollowing someone because they have a difference in opinion and unfollowing someone because their viewpoint is persistently ignorant and/or bigoted and it's causing your space to feel negative.

We often forget that social media is ours to do what we will with it, we decide what we see and what kind of space we want to create for ourselves online.

I tell you, when I first found out about the mute feature on Twitter I was all over it. Any topic you find triggering or simply want to hear less of for a while, there's a button for that! muting certain words allowed me to stop reading toxic news when it was taking over my timeline and it also further allows me to mute specific hashtags that I want to see less of. I understand that there are areas of our social media space we cannot control and sometimes all we can do is take a step back from it, however allowing ourselves to feel powerless within the space does no good for anyone.

Although a lot of the time I find muting or blocking certain words or hashtags do suffice, sometimes I realise it's time to have a cleanse and streamline my social media. In this time I will unfollow any accounts that are making me feel bad about myself (noting that accounts challenging me and inspiring me are a different kettle of fish), I'll block any accounts I no longer wish to see on my explore page and mute any Instagram stories that I do not enjoy watching.

We've all experienced the anxiety of hovering over the unfollow button, scared that we're going to upset someone we are friends with or even look up to, but again we’re forgetting here that we are creating our own spaces here and not pandering to that of others. It’s one of the only circles we have that we can be this vigilant with policing and so we should. We’re spending more and more time on our phones and regardless of your opinions on that I think we can all agree that the kind of media we’re consuming affects how we see ourselves and how we view the world. Making your online space a positive one is so important and anyone that you unfollow should understand that and not take that fact personally when you decide that you no longer want them on your feed.
Although the main reason people have for unfollowing users is having their spaces feeling negative, I have also experienced the same feeling towards accounts that I follow based around topics of self-love, body positivity and general wellbeing. It sounds backwards, right? But when I'm in a really bad headspace: hating my body to the point I can barely look at my own reflection in the mirror or feeling hopeless, I can for a brief moment feel even worse after seeing posts intended to make me feel better or at the very least- less alone. Sometimes all I need to do is sit with myself and my negative thoughts and simply let them pass. Fighting these negative feelings with an inspirational quote on a pretty background can make me feel an intense amount of guilt for not successfully beating it at that moment. In these times the best thing I can do is mute the accounts and come back to them when I am ready. And that's proof that no matter what your intentions are when posting something it doesn't mean it will be received that way by everyone seeing it. That is no fault of your own and just as you have the right to post it and send out whatever message you like, they can receive and react to it however they like too. That's the internet.

Please do not get stuck in the trap of feeling like you cannot unfollow people or at least mute their posts and stories and please don’t feel as though you need to apologise for doing this either. You don’t have to explain your unfollowing patterns anymore than you need to explain who you choose to follow. The sooner we can get away from this numbers game and start focusing on quality feeds and further quality interactions the sooner we can move away from this idea that unfollowing someone is a protest of disapproval or a deceptive ploy to keep follow to followers ratio low.

Not following someone is a right you have as soon as you sign up for an account on a social media platform (unless you’re talking about unfriending Tom on MySpace, you monster). That right isn’t taken away from you once you decide to interact with someone and it also doesn’t make you any less of a supporter of that creator or artist either. Maybe you like their YouTube videos but their Instagram posts make you feel bad- subscribe and don’t follow. Simple.

Remember, it’s your space to do with what you want and how you feel after coming away from using it tells you all that you need to know about how your online world is working for you. As much as people will like to tell you otherwise, unfollow whoever you need to in order to feel content and inspired by what you see online.

Share your opinion:

  1. An enjoyable read, especially about a button we click day in and day out! Social media is ours to do what we want to do with it - I like that! Also, not related but I LOVE that mug.

    Holly x

    1. Hey Holly, thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it interesting! Ps. it's one of my fave mugs- from tesco x

  2. Great Post, I think we sometimes forget this. Im scared to mute stuff on twitter though because I don't want to have a rose tinted view of the world lol

    1. I know this is a common concern for a lot of people. I think it's about finding a balance. Muting things for a while whilst protecting your mental health and coming back to it when you're in a better head space is never a bad idea I don't think though. Thanks for reading!

  3. So true, it has started to feel like a contractual agreement on these platforms and it really shouldn't be. I have had to block people on Instagram mostly and used to feel guilty about it but not anymore.

  4. This is so true. People now a days follow accounts not because they like the content in it but only because they want to get a follow back to increase their followers. Great post!

  5. I am so thankful that there's such a thing as a mute button because then I wouldn't feel that tremendous guilt when I unfollow someone! Although, like you said, our social media platforms are OUR space but I just don't want them to be annoyed at me haha. But I'm trying to get better at not focusing too much on what others think of me!

  6. Such an interesting post! Completely agree, it's your space to post and your space to view so for me I want that to be positive. I tend to reassess who I'm following every month or so to check in that their content is right for me!


  7. I definitely struggle with unfollowing people! I never want to make anyone feel bad but you are right, it is important to create a positive space.

  8. I feel you about the follow back culture. I mean, I still do it when I find it appropriate because their content looks interesting. If their content doesn't fit in with my taste at all, I don't follow back but they really have to be out there. Block button works so much wonders! It is great that you have taken the unfollow option in a positive manner. I agree with you. If someone is giving you some toxic vibes for whatever reason, it is best to unfollow. I know for me, if someone is too overwhelming, I look the other way. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ♥


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