Yesterday, I talked about the power of our environment in shaping everything about us, from what we think to how we feel to what we do. And, for many of us, a significant chunk of our environment today is social media. Which is why it’s so important to be intentional about who you follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and anywhere else.
Sometimes, it’s obvious when it’s best to unfollow someone: An account simply makes you feel like crap. And sometimes, it’s not so obvious.
I don’t post on social media anymore, but I do look at Instagram, because it can be interesting, inspiring and supportive. Just today I unfollowed an account. It wasn’t because the account is terrible. It’s just the opposite: The account is poignant, compelling and important. But for me some of their recent posts were triggering, and I simply didn’t want to go there.
It’s OK to protect ourselves, to prioritize our emotional and mental health (even when doing so isn’t a popular choice).
Sometimes, we want to follow the accounts that challenge us and explore difficult topics. And sometimes, it’s OK to shield ourselves, especially if you’re a highly sensitive person like me.
When I see something, it often stays with me. For days. Or weeks. Or well after that. (This is why I don’t watch scary movies!) I am easily affected by my environment. I used to feel embarrassed about this, and believed I was inferior and weak and weird. Now, I try to respect these sensitive tendencies (instead of condemning them or myself).
It can be helpful to develop some criteria or guidelines around who you follow (and unfollow). Think of it as your personal social media policy, which is part of your self-care. These questions might help you develop your policy:
- How do I feel after viewing that image or post?
- Is it affecting my behavior or belief system in a negative way or in a nourishing way?
- Is this inspiring, uplifting or empowering?
- Is it teaching me something I want to learn or know more about?
- Is the reward worth the cost? Of course, there are plenty of things that shake and shatter us, and make us feel sad that are still significant and vital to expose ourselves to. Maybe you follow an account that shares beautiful but heartbreaking stories. They’re tough to read, but for you, it’s worth it. Or maybe, like me, you’ve realized something is just too triggering right now. The answer might differ every time, every day.
- Is this supporting my goals, intentions, habits and how I’d like to live my life?
- Is it making me laugh?
- Is this sparking shame, jealousy or self-critical thoughts?
- Is social media, as a whole, contributing positively to my life, to my days, to my thoughts and feelings? Or is it taking time (and attention and energy) away from truly important things? Might it be better to take a break or permanently delete my accounts?
Keep in mind, too, that your responses are ever-evolving. Give yourself permission to unfollow or follow people on a regular basis. You might decide to adopt a three strikes you’re out kind of policy, where you unfollow anyone after seeing three posts that don’t sit well with you (or do so instantly).
Either way, it’s completely and totally up to you. The key is to simply think about it.