Unfollow & Don’t Look Back

Social media allows us to stay connected with friends whether they are up the street or across the world.  It’s a great thing.  I’ve noticed that this is becoming something more and more important to me as the years go by and I become separated further from my friends.

Just this semester, several of my friends chose to study abroad.  And, because of social media, I have been able to keep up with them, see what they’re doing and live a little, vicariously through them.

Even a little closer to home, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all keep me connected with friends from home and high school as we begin to physically part ways.  We’re all off at separate colleges doing different things, but still able to keep in touch through the many forms of social media at our disposal.  We’re able to continue building relationships and interacting with our faraway friends instead of being limited to the few occasions we now see each other–Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, et cetera.

It is great to stay connected with friends, but on social media that term has taken on a whole different meaning.  As of right now, I have 1,161 “friends” on Facebook, but I’m working on that.  And when I say working, I mean unfriending.

I found that the first friends to go were those who I wasn’t close with to begin with.  Some names I didn’t recognize at all.  Second to go were those that I know well, but posted far more frequently than I cared to see.  These people have what I would consider “no filter” to their posting habits.  If you want a better idea of what I mean, it can be found on this list.  They simply post too much information.

Maureen O’Connor argues in her article, “The Joy of Unfollowing” that there is “no such thing as TMI on the Internet”.  The Internet is an all-inclusive, voluntary arena for media consumption and interaction.  O’Connor believes “we are living in a post-TMI age, and everyone needs to deal with it.  Preferably by using the ‘unfollow button.'”  I’ve found that it’s an effective tactic.

“If you continually recoil at TMI, it’s because you lack the willpower to stop consuming (or foresight to avoid) the information in question.  That’s your fault,” O’Connor says.

When we feel we are being exposed to TMI on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else, we just need to let go, unfollow and never look back.  It is our own fault if we continue to be frustrated by our “friends” content they share or the frequency at which they share it.  It’s an easy fix, we’re just reluctant to do it. One of my classmates, Ashley, asked this:

“Okay, I’ll unfollow them, but what am I supposed to say when they ask me (most of the time in an awkward face-to-face conversation) why I did that?”

My answer, tell the truth.

I recently had one of my friends confront me in one of these awkward face-to-face conversations during which she asked why I unfollowed her on Instagram.  I told her exactly why.

“Every single picture you put up is either of a horse or a dog.”

She kinda laughed and said, “well, I can’t argue with you there,” and was pretty cool about it.  Maybe this kind of reaction isn’t so common, but it worked out all right in this instance.

I think Ashley illustrates a common fear of unfollowing.  Oliver Burkeman, a writer for The Guardian, gives us a physical analogy for building up the courage to click the unfollow button.  He says it “feels like delivering a slap in the face (and not even a well-timed slap, since you can’t be sure when they’ll find out).”  He offers suggestions to lessen the surprise factor of the virtual slap to the face in his article.

Don’t let TMI get you down.  Because if you do, it’s all your fault.


*Images obtained from Google Images