Unfollow Me, Unfollow You

Let’s stop pretending to like people just for the sake of being polite

Jayde Atchison (She/her) // Opinions Editor
Alison Johnstone // Illustrator

Whether or not you have an Instagram or Facebook account, you are probably part of some Whatsapp group chat or email thread from your family back east. It’s no secret that social media has a huge hold on the majority of people that are privileged enough to have access to it. It feels like the only way to escape the social media grind is to pull an Into the Wild and go completely off the grid (minus the tragic ending, hopefully). 

In tandem with the rule of social media comes the pressure to keep people around that add no positivity to our lives. It feels like I am in a constant battle with myself when I am scrolling through the feeds — reading my Great Aunt Sally’s posts about how hard it is to be a suburban housewife does not bring me any joy, yet I feel like it would be a great dishonour to my family to remove her from my friends list. The solution for this kind of scenario seems to be to soft-unfollow and mute the posts from our feed. 

Most people have their own version of Aunt Sally or their elementary school BFF that turned to the dark side of pyramid schemes (oh sorry, I mean MLMs). We keep these people in our online presence because it’s easier than facing a conversation that begins with, “hey, did you remove me on Instagram?” Before this year, that question would have made my skin crawl clean off my body. I hate confrontation and would rather have walked directly into the ocean on a crisp -10 degree day than to have someone acknowledge that I removed them from my feed. 

However, as much as I’ve disliked the last two years and the horrors we’ve all experienced, I do appreciate the lessons I have learned. When the world is crumbling before my eyes, it’s hard to see the importance of being polite for politeness’s sake anymore. It feels far too forced to allow someone access to my happiest moments, simply because they are well-liked by some mutual friends.

You don’t owe anyone anything. Multiple years of “friendship” with someone doesn’t mean they get to impact your mental health in a negative way. If a person has made you uncomfortable in-person or over the internet, you are allowed to remove them from your life. If they are family, there is no written law that says you need to keep them in your circle. Sometimes blood-ties are not the safe space you need, and it’s okay to hold your mental health in higher regard than familial obligations. 

It’s officially 2022, and I don’t know about you — but I’m feeling like it’s time to cut the toxicity directly out of our lives. If someone or something is not bringing us any happiness or pleasure, why the hell are we forcing ourselves into a constant state of negativity? 

While the thought of someone confronting me about social media removals used to make me anxious, I am now jaded enough by the constant unprecedented times that I would be happy to explain to someone that social media should be what sparks joy, and that’s just not what they bring to the table (anymore). Instead of normalizing keeping people in our lives to make others happy, how about we try putting ourselves first? At the end of the day it’s just a website. it’s just a click of a button. And, when it comes down to it, it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. 

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