Recently, I was talking to a friend about how I’d begun to clean out my social media—unfollowing people I didn’t talk to anymore and accounts with which I never interacted. She told me she wanted to do that but felt bad about unfollowing people, fearing they’d look down on her if they found out.
I know a lot of people that have this mindset, but why? Social media is already consuming in itself. You have Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook—that’s a lot of channels. If you’re going to see someone every day, don’t you want it to be meaningful and make you feel good?
I think as a society it’s something we do a lot. We feel bad for literally just about anything we have to do. We feel as if we owe people long-winded excuses for everything we do—whether it be canceling plans or deleting someone from a social media channel. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to offer an explanation.
Cleaning out your social media isn’t just about unfollowing those randoms you met once at a party in college, but also influencers and popular accounts that don’t make you feel good about yourself. If you’re constantly seeing models in bikinis and it’s making you feel bad about yourself, unfollow.
One Forbes article about the link between mental health and social media cites a 2018 study which asked young women to engage with a post from someone who they believed was more attractive than them. As you might imagine, results showed that this made the women feel bad about themselves.
My conclusion isn’t that you should unfollow people just because you feel they’re more attractive than you, ‘cause like, come on. I understand Bella Hadid is more attractive than me, but there’s no way I’ll unfollow the queen. The point is that you should be cognizant of how the posts you’re seeing make you feel. You shouldn’t have to endure jealousy or low self-esteem from what you’re viewing on your own social media.
There were a few specific moments that made me realize it was time to make some changes. I kept seeing this dude I went to high school with and some of his ridiculous show-off posts and thought, “This bothers me when I see it. He’s annoying.” Then I wondered—why did I need to keep following him just because we were friends or whatever at one point in our lives? That’s how simple it is. If they aren’t adding to your life now, why should you see what they’re doing every day?
I’ve begun making sure the influencers and popular accounts I follow on Instagram inspire me, and make me feel positive about myself and my goals. I’ve seen a major change in my social-media experience since cleaning it up. For starters, I feel like I’m more attentive and engaged with the people in my life and their posts, which is the whole point of this social media craze—right?
It’s also not so overwhelming anymore. I’m not constantly skipping through stories and posts that I’m not interested in, but actually engaging with them, taking the time to look and read through them.
Most importantly, the posts I’m viewing don’t make me feel less about myself. They don’t make me feel jealous, bitter, or like I need to be more beautiful, smart, or successful. They motivate me and fuel my creativity.
I encourage you to take the time out of your day and sort through your social media channels. Look for the way things make you feel when you’re seeing them, assess that, and pay attention to it. Just like spring-cleaning your house, your media consumption should be tidied up too. While you as a person change, your interests, goals, and personal circle change—so ensure your social media channels reflect that, too.
It’s not rude, and it’s not hurtful. It’s putting your foot down on your personal boundaries of the things you want to see every day and sticking to them. It’s just reaffirming your self-respect.
To be cliche, life is short. Don’t live to please others or feel like you owe anything to them—because you don’t. Your social media should be whatever you want it to be. Your posts, who you engage with—it’s all your choice. So clean up your mess, and make your media consumption a healthy, positive one.