Make your social media more enjoyable with the unfollow button

My friends, the coming years are going to be rough, and it’s time to talk about how you use social media, because you can make the world a much better place for yourself by doing some judicious pruning. I know, it’s scary. But ignore whatever weird rules people seem to have about following and unfollowing and parity and I don’t even know what and make your social media a more enjoyable place. By that, I don’t mean creating a perfect bubble where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts, but, like, consider this my permission to ditch people who are annoying.

Annoying for values of ‘what annoys you,’ to be clear. I’ve taken to unfollowing people who just irritate me every time I see them in my feed, because what’s the point? I can get that information elsewhere and it makes me life more enjoyable to not see them. (I also liberally block for much the same reason.) I also tend to unfollow people who post HuffPo links and animated .gifs on a regular basis, because the first practice supports an exploitative approach to journalism that partly explains why the industry is having so many problems and the second practice is inaccessible.

But I want to talk for a moment about something else, which is that people use social media in lots of different ways, and all of those ways are valid, for them! You don’t have to appreciate or like them, but you also have the sweeping and excellent option of simply unfollowing them if you’re not a huge fan of how they engage with social media.

For example, some people hate tweetstorms and long tweet threads. I can see why that is annoying for some people. I also know why people (including me) do it. If you find such things troubling and annoying, there’s a super easy fix: You can unfollow people who have a habit of using Twitter that way. Bam! You don’t have to read it! You can just move on! You don’t even have to make pointed comments about how annoying and ridiculous it is! You can just not read it! AMAZING!

Or, like, something that really annoys me is people who have a habit of retweeting people who praise them. It feels really self-congratulatory and kind of masturbatory to me. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about — @PersonA tweets a thing, and then you get the quote retweet from @PersonB saying ‘This is so true and important!’ And then @PersonA retweets that and I am like seriously? These kind of things are so tedious. So I unfollow people who do it, because, hey, I liked them enough to follow them in the first place, I don’t need a string of 40 retweets of people congratulating them for being interesting. Thanks.

Some people find it incredibly obnoxious when people retweet/reblog every single piece of abuse they get, or a nice curated selection, with or without commentary. I get why people do it, I also get why people can find it annoying. You, too, have the option to just unfollow people if you don’t want to see screenshots of rape threats or whatever.

Or then there are endless memes…or people who spam incessantly with their own work…or people who share/retweet/reblog so much that they bog down your feed and barely seem to have original content…or…you get the picture. Like I say, people use social media for a broad spectrum of things. Some of those things are super great. Some are abusive and gross. Some are just annoying. And the cool thing about social media is that it enables people to very easily opt out of any given feed, via the unfollow button. Yeah, some people are weird and obsessive and keep track of every follower lost and gained and try to publicly shame people for unfollowing, but guess what, that’s annoying. (And another auto-unfollow offense for me tbh.) Do you really care if @WokeRando makes a snide comment about you when you unfollow after being deluged in so much content that you can barely read the rest of your feed? Pfft. No you do not.

Because here’s the thing: This makes social media more enjoyable and easy to use, and I’ve noticed that when people do say things that are particularly interesting and relevant, they tend to make their way to me anyway. Thus, when I unfollow @OtherwiseCoolPerson for incessantly posting .gifs and that person says something important, someone else in my feed usually shares it. All of the pleasure, none of the suffering. Cutting down on the signal to noise ratio has helped me use and engage with social media more effectively, it’s showed me which behaviours I engage in that are really annoying for people so I can stop doing them — or not, because it’s my damn feed and they can unfollow any time they want — and it’s made my life so much better in a world that often seems filled with darkness.

I cannot recommend the power of the unfollow and block buttons and all their various iterations across platforms enough. People seem hesitant or afraid to use these powers, as though they’re going to send the target into the abyss, never to be seen again. Don’t fear! Life is short! The internet is a big place! Eradicate things that cause needless annoyance and vexation from your world so that you can focus on the serious problems we’re all facing, and need to combat! And then follow (or unfollow!) me on Twitter: @sesmith and Facebook/Instagram: @realsesmith.

Image: Mac Keyboard, James F. Clay, Flickr