I love the birthday reminders that we get on Facebook. Not because I love wishing people on their birthdays, but because I use that notification to evaluate whether or not I want to continue being friends with said person. The people we follow on social media play a far larger role in our lives than we probably recognise. We spend more online time with them than physically meeting our friends (six hours every day to be precise) and what they post and how they respond to our posts becomes a large part of our day. This is why is it important to go back, ever so often, and spring clean your accounts. “Similar to keeping your digital devices and software updated, your social media accounts, too, require this exercise known as spring cleaning. Not only does it clear your account of unwanted profiles and data, but it also protects your confidential information,” shares Dr P.K Manglik, an Uttar Pradesh-based psychiatrist.
We tend to use social media on autopilot, and it’s hard to stop and realise when an account is making you sad, frustrated and unhappy. We stop the scrolling to sigh at a friend’s holiday post in the middle of a pandemic or frown at a toxic colleague’s post on the importance of being nice at work and simply move on. However, what these posts do is draw out negative feelings of comparison, inadequacy and often jealousy. Various researches tie daily exposure to these emotions to larger consequences on your mental and physical health.
“Social media can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Excessively following the personal updates of your friends on social media can lead to negative experiences such as insecurity about your life or the fear of missing out. The attractive images on social media accounts are mostly edited, and what is live on social media is far different from reality, affecting self-esteem and triggering loneliness and isolation. Social media conversations, especially with unknown accounts, may also pose risks of cyberbullying, identity theft and fraud,” explains Dr Manglik. “Beware if you are spending more time on social media than with real-world friends, or you are unable to concentrate on work or suffering from sleep problems. These may be warning signs of deteriorating mental health.”
To unfollow or block (or mute)?
The thing with toxic accounts is that it is often hard to stay away. Think about that friend whose posts make you feel frustrated, but you cannot stop yourself from visiting her profile and checking out her latest #CringePost. This is where social media tools come in handy! Rather than putting yourself through the negative emotional trap, use tools like blocking and unfollowing (or even muting if you aren’t ready for a major decision) to stop seeing those posts.
If you are confused about whether it is the person’s account that is making you unhappy or you are simply projecting your insecurities on their content, use this hack. Think of yourself at a social gathering with your friends and family. Who are the people you walk up to with a smile on your face, and who are the people you try your hardest to avoid? Treat your social media the same way. Get rid of accounts that give you even the slightest hint of negativity and stick to following accounts you are genuinely interested in.
Another tool that helps is Marie Kondo’s ‘spark joy’ method. The Japanese organising consultant, author, and TV show host urges people to let go of anything that doesn’t spark a feeling of joy. So, the next time you are scrolling through your feed and a piece of content affects you negatively, ask yourself if following them truly makes you happy? If the answer is no, you know which button to press! Cleaning up your social media also give you the chance to reconnect with people and accounts that you loved but got lost, thanks to the timeline clutter. Win-win!
While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter allow users to choose to mute and unfollow people without blocking them, YouTube falls behind. The video streaming app only allows for blocking users and channels to stop them from showing up on your feed. If you are not ready to block an account, here are the tools you can use to stop a particular account from appearing on your feed.
Instagram: Use the mute posts and stories feature
Twitter: Head to their profile and mute the account
Facebook: Click on unfollow to stop seeing their updates in your feed.
Snapchat: Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature
Five questions to ask yourself before hitting unfollow:
Q. Do I really like this person?
Q. Do I want to see regular updates about their life?
Q. Do their opinions and actions align with my beliefs?
Q. Do I look forward to their posts?
Q. Do I feel angry/frustrated after interacting with them?