Why I Generously Unfollow People on Social Media

When Tom Brady stepped up in the pocket with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 52, I knew what was next. Brady was going to lead the offense – and his team – to a sixth Super Bowl Championship.

Then flashes of the trauma of the New York Giants franchise flashed before my eyes. Brady fumbled, the Eagles recovered, and thanks to one of the worst defensive showings I’ve ever seen by the Patriots – we lost.

As is a normal game day custom, I turned my phone off prior to the game. For this game, I didn’t turn it on until the next morning. The next day I intentionally ignored ESPN, but I started browsing social media.

Hundreds of my “friends” celebrated (yes, non-Eagles fans) the demise of the greatest sports dynasty in modern history. I graciously clicked to the right of each post and my finger quickly pressed, “snooze for 30 days.”

Within moments, my social media feed was back to the happy lives of my friend’s – coffee pictures – and a lot of Boston Celtics talk. All was well in my social media world.

The snooze or unfollow aspect of social media hasn’t been new to me – or just reserved for Patriots bashing friends. Over the last year, I’ve generously unfollowed many friends. I’ve even removed two social media platforms all together.

Facebook particularly has reached a new challenge. In 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s mission was to make the world connected. People would have easy access to the internet and their voice mattered.

Here we are in 2018 – and the mission reigns true. Facebook has 2.2 billion active users, but with that has come the ushering in of “fake news” and unreliable content. It’s led to wrongful action and perspective. It’s almost as if Facebook has been the vehicle of our division as a society.

This summer, Zuckerberg and company shifted their mission for the first time. Facebook now wants to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

“Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people -- not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”

Let me translate – Facebook wants to build personal relationships not just give people a platform to launch their personal opinions. If you’re a nerd (like me), you can read more about it. Basically, Facebook will continue to make general posts you and I publish less accessible to the average person. The big push will be building community within Facebook Groups.

The big picture here is that Facebook had to acknowledge something wasn’t working. Facebook – and other social media platforms – have become littered with personal opinions and political jargon. It’s become a place for you and I to feel empowered as we sit comfortably on our couch.

It’s divided people – not connected them. That’s precisely why I unfollow people – even people I greatly love and respect.

Here’s three practical reasons why I’ve made this decision:

1. I won’t allow people to influence how I feel that day.

We all have our problems. We all have life issues. We’re all busy. I use social media to disengage from the daily stress of life. There’s moments I just want to see a hilarious video of your dog, or your child, or your spouse. There’s moments I need to laugh at GIF’s or memes.

I don’t know about you, but when I wake up the first thing I do is browse Facebook and Twitter. Today – I see some fun pictures and posts on Facebook and I then scroll through sports news and church leader’s blogs or thoughts on Twitter all before I fully wake up.

It sets my mood for the day.

However, I used to get immensely aggravated before I would even get out of bed. I would get so upset or offended by a post or stance that it was influencing my behavior and perspective for the day. I allowed one person’s post to make me have a bad day.

It may not bother you, but that wasn’t a healthy place for me to live.

2. I protect myself from engaging in tempting conversations.

Can I be honest? My brain and mouth filter is very small. I often I say what I’m feeling – if you know my grandfather even in the slightest, you could assume I got that from him.

The less I see there’s a better chance of me not doing something I’ll immediately regret. A few years ago, I commented on a pastor’s post that I disagreed with. Let’s just say my comment was not worth the replies and subsequent private messages that I received.

Lesson learned.

My coping mechanism after this experience was to still write how I felt but then delete the comment before I posted it. In my mind – that was therapeutic because I still communicated my feelings.

I’ve seen reputations and relationships destroyed over one argument on social media. Remember, people will share thoughts online they would never have the courage to say in person.

I decided simply to not engage. The easiest way to not engage – for me – was to unfollow people who frequently looked to ruffle feathers and stir the pot.

3. I can control what I can control.

There’s very little you and I can control. We can budget our finances, but have a few unexpected expenses that cripple us. We can work out and eat right, but still get sick. We can work hard and efficient, but still miss that promotion at our job.

But, we can control what we see on social media. Every form of social media has one similar trait – you can add friends or accounts to follow. Likewise, you can choose not to add friends or accounts to follow.

On Twitter, I follow 90 accounts that pertain to sports or church leadership. So, minus a few retweets from those accounts, most all I see on Twitter is sports and church leadership. I could very well follow 90 photographers and I wouldn’t see sports or church leadership anymore. Makes sense, right?

Personally, I don’t crave to read about the widespread opinions or arguments about politics or what new thing a person in my friends list is boycotting today. I made the choice to control what I can control on my social media platform.

What about hearing others people’s perspectives?

When I initially started the journey to recapture my social media for what it was intended – I asked myself this question. I’ve since discovered that the best way to hear outside perspectives is by face-to-face conversations and reputable sources.

For a time, I was very critical of Joel Osteen. If you spend any time on social media, you’ll see a weekly Joel Osteen hate fest regularly appear. I allowed people’s opinions negatively shape my view of him.

In 2015, I stopped allowing my friends on Facebook to shift my perspective. We attended Lakewood Church. We talked to their team members. We witnessed something different than most talked about. We saw how Lakewood was first hand. Our perspective was forever changed.

Why? All because of face-to-face conversations and a reputable source (visiting their church).

I hear so many people giving up on social media. They are tired of it. I don’t blame them at all. I was too. Facebook – again – is changing their entire strategy because of this problem.

But, just because something has some bad qualities doesn’t mean we should throw it all away. We can control what we see and subsequently how we respond.

So, by all means, unfollow away. Don’t start disliking people, burning bridges, or having a bad attitude because of your friend’s social media post.

Unfollow. Laugh at the funny dog or little child. Cry at the inspirational videos. Re-connect with that old friend from high school or college. Let the other junk die without you being the one to engage.

It made my social media experience a lot better – I can tell you that!