Written whilst sitting on a bench in Barnes & Noble. The café is closed for renovations and I refuse to go to Starbucks because I’ve already given enough money to them and I made myself a cup of coffee for the express purpose of saving money, and I am not monstrous enough (yet) to bring my own drink into a Starbucks.
So now I’m sitting on a bench by the window, facing a row of magazines (some of which I’ve written for, twist!) while behind me on the windowsill is a copy of “Women & Guns: The World’s First Firearms Publication for Women”! Not sure which part of this intro is darkest!
Yesterday, I made the plunge of unfollowing several people on Instagram. In exchange for me knowing exactly what you’re about to say, I’ll tell you what I’m about to say.
You’re about to say, “Brave.” And I’m about to say, “I know.”
For something that is ostensibly elective (and hassle-free) there is a lot of weirdness, for me at least, about unfollowing people on social media. It feels, for lack of a better word, mean. But it totally shouldn’t.
This is the result of many smaller moments of skipping rapidly through their Stories and ignoring their posts (I never like anyone’s photos, except celebrities and pictures of hot guys so that Instagram Explore can be notified of my predilections). I also don’t do this to everyone, but a select group of people for whom I simply No Longer Care About. This group includes People Who Annoy Me, People Who I Followed in College But Was Never Actually Friends With (The Obligatory Follow), and People Who Post About Their Boyfriends Too Frequently. Sub-categories include (but are not limited to) People With Good Jobs Who Love to Complain and People Who Love SoulCycle. Almost all of these people I will never, probably, see again or come across in any meaningful capacity. However, it was still intensely difficult to click “unfollow.” Why?
(Pause for ponder.)
Social media promotes a false sense of intimacy – as much as it promotes a falsified and perfected version of reality – so it does feel, in certain ways, that I’m blowing off a friend.
I know about people’s job ventures, their trips to Coachella; I know about what they ate for lunch today, when their mom’s birthday is. These are things that I don’t know about some of my best friends, and yet I know them about people who I haven’t talked to in, sometimes, years. And that’s the trap of social media: even if we’re not close, we’re made to feel close. Social media makes your life into consumable content, and I’m choosing to opt out of that content. I’m saying your content doesn’t interest me, which basically means your life doesn’t interest me. And while that’s not true, it’s the trap social media creates.
Social media accounts for one outlet that increases my anxiety. I find myself comparing myself, often negatively, to other people based on their social media. If they’re having fun, I wonder why I’m not having more fun. If they’re successful, I wonder why I’m not more successful. If they have a boyfriend, I wonder why I don’t have more boyfriends. And if social media presents the best version of something, then that means that I’m allowing a ghost to ruin my day. And unfollowing means admitting that I feel insecure, that I get jealous and that I, yes me, can get a little petty.
To avoid admitting I’m vulnerable to insecurity, I will often rationalize the follows in numerous ways: there’s the “What If I Run Into Them and They Bring It Up” argument; there’s the “What If I Someday Become Friends With Them Again” argument; and there’s the “What If They Think I’m Rude” argument. These are just the first three that popped up in my head – I’m sure there are more. But they all stem from the same irrational fear I have that’s also preventing me from returning a very overdue copy of The White Album to the library: What If, Someday, I Need It?
But here are three easy and simple responses to those arguments.
If you run into them and they mention you’ve unfollowed them on Instagram, then they probably have one of those “follower count” apps and that is Pathetic! I should know, because I’ve had one!
If you become friends with them again, then you’re probably good enough friends to copping to the unfollow. This is probably unlikely.
And finally, if they think you’re rude, then they are kinda lame. Social media is ruthless, and it probably proves your point that they’re not worth following. This doesn’t have to imply any sort of ill will or negativity, but it just means that I have other things to do (like online shopping, or peeling mandarin oranges).
I can’t spend my life watching the lives of people I Do Not Care about. If I counted every second I spent flipping through their stories, or calculated every minute unit of energy my eyes spent on their content, it would probably amount to a small, but significant, portion of my day and focus. If I added into that all the tiny dollops of negative emotions of jealousy and insecurity that were incurred by social media, that would also being collated into something pretty significant.
I did really bad in AP Macroeconomics but I do know that if the energy I’m putting into something is not reaping good enough returns, then it’s probably a bad investment.
At the end of the day, life is too short, I’m too pretty, and my forehead real estate is too precious to waste potential wrinkles over people who I don’t really care about.
So I suppose the moral of this article is don’t you dare unfollow me. I need this more than you do.