Let’s talk about social media. It can be both a blessing and a curse, both good and evil, and both positive and negative.
In this day and age we spend as much time, if not more time, on social media than we do with actual people. I’m not going to lie, as both a millennial and a full-time social media professional I spend a huge chunk of my time scrolling through social media feeds. I’ll see things that will make me laugh, learn, and smile, but I’ll also run into things that make me upset or trigger my eating disorder (ED) thoughts to surface. When this happens, I’ve had to learn how to deal with it and, for me, that means unfollowing or deleting people I follow.
When I started recovery for my ED I had to not only reevaluate my life IRL, but my online life too. Through my ED I had created quite the following on social media via an Instagram account I created that was completely dedicated to my disordered thoughts and behaviors, which at the time I thought were completely “healthy” and “normal”…yeah not so much. Deleting that account was just the beginning of my much needed “social media cleanse”.
But you don’t need to have experienced an ED to take a serious step back and look at who you’re following on social media. I think everyone could benefit from doing a social media cleanse!
Take it one account at a time
I wish I could say that I got rid of all the toxic and triggering accounts I followed in 1 day, but that’s not the reality. Just the other day I found myself deleting and unfollowing people and I’ve been in recovery for over a year now- it’s a process. I started with Instagram and worked my way through my other social accounts.
Now, the last thing I want you to feel is overwhelmed just at the thought of deleting/unfollowing people. If you feel comfortable, start by looking at the list of accounts you follow or pages you like on each social media platform and unfollow/unlike the pages that no longer serve you in a positive way. But don’t worry, if you don’t catch everyone on the first go around, you can always get them later- there’s no “perfect” way to do this! You may also follow an account for awhile, but then realize down the road that their posts no longer contribute to your life in the way you would like them to anymore and that’s ok!
When I started my social media cleanse, I had to strategically think about the accounts I followed. A dominant ED behavior for me was directly related to social media. I was constantly comparing myself to those that I followed, which in turn made me feel even worse about myself than I already did. Every post I saw reiterated the words, “you’re not good enough”.
For you it may not be the comparison game, but perhaps it’s people who post rude memes, false articles about world affairs, or politically charged propaganda that evoke a negative feeling in you- the same rules apply here.
But what about my friends and family?!
Now, some of you may be thinking “Ok Becca, that’s all well and good if you’re unfollowing a celebrity or public figure, they’ll never notice. But what about a friend or family member?” My advice? Plain and simple, UNFOLLOW THEM! I know it sounds easier said than done, trust me, I’ve totally been there.
I used to be the type of person who constantly worried that if I unfollowed someone I knew in real life on social media, they would find out and hate me forever. So far, that hasn’t been the case, and let me tell you, I’ve unfollowed a lot of people I know IRL.
The good thing about a lot of social media platforms these days, is that you can unfollow people without them ever knowing! For example, on Facebook, you can remain friends with someone but by unchecking the “follow” button on their profile you won’t see their posts show up in your news feed- the same goes for Twitter. By muting someone’s Twitter account, you will still follow them, but won’t see their posts show up in your feed! Instagram and Snapchat haven’t seemed to jump on the indiscreet unfollow button yet, but I hope they will soon.
But, if it has come to the point where I need to unfollow someone on Instagram or delete them off Snapchat, I do it. I used to feel so much guilt when I deleted someone off Snapchat or unfollowed them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but now I don’t even think twice about it. Like I mentioned earlier, at first when I started deleting people I thought I would start receiving hate mail in my social media inboxes, but you know what happened?…Nothing. No one noticed that I unfollowed or deleted them, or if they did, they didn’t say anything to me.
How did I get to the point of not feeling guilty you ask? To be honest, I started filling my social media feeds with things that made me happy instead of things that made me feel bad. So when I came upon a post that was triggering to my ED or made me feel less than, I promptly unfollowed/deleted that person. I also had to keep reminding myself that I was curating my social media feeds for my own mental health and I wasn’t going to risk that just to follow some toxic or triggering account.
My general rule with social media, is that “if it doesn’t make you feel good or contribute to your life in some way, it needs to go!” Now that might sound a little harsh, but to be honest it’s really saved my mental health.
Social media used to be such a negative and hateful place for me, but now it’s a happy place where I see things that make me smile instead of cry!
You call the shots
What you have to remember about social media is that it’s YOURS, not anyone else’s. You have the power to decide the accounts that you follow and if people can’t respect that, then perhaps you should send them this blog post! 🙂
You are not obligated to follow anyone you don’t want to on social media (yes, that includes friends and family too!). Let me repeat that, you don’t owe a follow or friend request to anyone.
I heard this on a podcast once and it stuck with me, “what you see on social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life”. Remember, you never know what they’re hiding behind their screen.
That’s all she wrote…
The great thing about cleansing your social media, is that it’s an ongoing process. You don’t simply unfollow some people once and then you’re done, it’s a constantly moving pendulum. For example, one day you may follow all the actors from a new TV series you just binged on Netflix, but then realize a few months down the road that since you no longer watch that show, you don’t have any interest in following those people anymore- great! Time to unfollow them! 🙂
How did your social media cleanse go? I can’t wait to hear about it!
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