With the current quarantine climate, most of us are spending more time on social media than usual (I know, shocker) and while it can provide immediate, short term distraction from the weight of the world right now, some of the things we see can be hurtful and make us feel worse.
I’m no expert, I’ve only very recently started recognising that some of the negative emotions I’m feeling stem from posts I’m reading on Instagram, but at a time where we’re all seeking comfort in social media more than I ever I think it’s important to at least start, or join, these kinds of discussions and help each other as much as we can.
So firstly, make the most of the unfollow button – if it’s a celebrity who’s started saying things that grind your gears or a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself (inadvertently, I’m sure) make the most of the mute button on Twitter! You can unfollow someone’s Instagram stories without unfollowing their profile – I recently unfollowed a small business owner because whilst I love her artwork, all of her stories were her complaining about how little money she made from her business and driving hits to her website at least three times a day and it made me feel deeply guilty that I couldn’t support her. Part of that emotion is on me for feeling so emotionally responsible, but I recognised that these posts complaining about every aspect of her life were just making me feel bad so I unfollowed her stories and I’ve noticed those feelings disappearing without missing the content of the stories!
Real life is a mixed bag of good and bad and I’m not saying that people should shelter the ‘bad’ stuff from social media, because it’s so normal. But how these things effect you personally isn’t a reflection of the creator and if it’s effecting you negatively, the creator would almost certainly prefer you to unfollow than to be negatively impacted by their content.
Block people if you have to – Twitter has started doing this thing where it shows you tweets other people have liked. Whilst sometimes when it’s just viral tweets of sarcastic self-deprivation or a motivating story about a dog, if you unfollow someone but still follow someone who likes all their tweets, it’s likely they’re still going to be on your timeline. If these are people you actually know then they might notice you’ve blocked them but being honest and saying it’s not personal and it’s not about them is going to be okay if they’re mature enough to start a discussion. Personally, I’ve blocked people on twitter because I follow a circle of YouTube creators that are all friends and I still like a couple of them, but a few of them were annoying me with what they posted so I unfollowed, but because I still follow their friends I see their tweets all the time. But they’re never going to know if I block them! They probably won’t care, but it means I’m protecting myself from seeing the content that upsets me.
I think that was a long winded way of saying block people who’s content you really don’t want to see if unfollowing them doesn’t work.
I’ve blocked Donald Trump on twitter for this precise reason.
It’s also important to consider what you’re posting – it’s so easy to write a sulky instagram story and I know I spent 90% of my teenage years posting to snapchat and instagram stories and twitter silently begging someone to ask if I was okay but in hindsight, all it was doing was pushing people away and making me look like I had literally nothing more to offer than telling the internet how depressed I was.
Now I have better coping mechanisms and a better support network and I realised that I was probably upsetting people with what I post. I used to convince myself that it was to get it out my system, that it was like shouting at a brick wall, but I had to make the time and effort to realise that whilst I convinced myself it was making me feel better, I needed to keep these private emotions to myself and find other ways to ‘get it out of my system’. I highly recommend writing a tweet and deleting it or starting a journal!
One thing I don’t really have a solution for is feeling left out online – at the moment there’s so many tags and challenges on Instagram stories and watching everyone from celebrities to influencers to your friends to your family tagging each other in ‘baby photo’ challenges and ‘run 5k challenges’ and ‘drink a pint’ challenges (heads up: no one cares about your 30 day song challenge), it can feel like everyone’s forgotten about you when no one’s tagging you to do things.
I think the thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter and no one really cares? The Run 5k, Donate £5, Tag 5 people thing is nice (and I don’t really want to be tagged int it) but your first picture as a couple, ‘isolation bingo’ and the ‘What I’m Doing Now’ tag? Is anyone really interested? I definitely never read all the bingo sheets (unless they’re Harry Potter themed).
I guess the message from it all is that in the end, social media doesn’t matter – you could delete every app from your phone and find another way to pass the time that will probably be infinitely better for your mental health (for example, I really want to start gardening!). But it’s not that simple and just because sometime’s we’re negatively influenced by social media doesn’t mean it’s all bad.
Sometimes the unfollow button can feel scary and personal but at the end of the day it’s your feed; make it work for you.
Thank you for reading,