Like most people, when I first signed up to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the like, I followed people who I was interested in following. My social media feeds were filled with content that inspired and encouraged me, and I enjoyed the time I spent on them. However, the longer you exist online, the more complicated this whole following business becomes. For example, you meet somebody at an event and come home to discover they’ve followed you. It would seem rude not to follow back, even if you’re not interested in what they post, so you click the button. Multiply that situation by 10 and suddenly, your feed is full of unwanted and unwelcome sentiments, and over a year later, you don’t have the heart to unfollow. It’s even worse when it’s somebody who you’ve followed due to their unwavering support of everything you do.
I hear you say: why not mute them? Well, it’s complicated. I’m a relentlessly honest person (which isn’t always a good thing) and I value honesty above almost everything else, so something about muting instead of unfollowing feels wrong to me. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule – muting certain words which have the potential to be used abusively or ruin the end of your favourite movie, for example, seems to be perfectly acceptable to me. After all, social media is the only space where we might find ourselves subject to a stream of opinions from people we don’t know or care to know. However, muting somebody you follow is just another example of how social media has distorted and dehumanised the way we interact with each other. If somebody is saying something you don’t like in real life, you don’t have the option to silence them in secret. Instead, you stop talking to that person either temporarily or permanently, so why don’t we do that online?
Unfollowing somebody is very rarely a personal thing. For example, I recently unfollowed somebody on Twitter because the content they retweeted was beginning to make me feel extremely body conscious and I knew it was having a negative impact on my perception of myself. When your mental health is at stake, there’s never a reason not to unfollow. However, it doesn’t have to be as serious as that. I might stop following somebody on Instagram simply because their images don’t inspire me the way they used to, and what’s wrong with that? As social media users, we’re all well within our rights to follow and unfollow whoever we please, and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the person behind the account. Having said all this, I still find it difficult.
This borg trucker jacket might not be the most flattering item I’ve ever worn, but it’s certainly snuggly enough to see me through the cold winter ahead. Sure, the baker boy hat and buckled boots leave me looking a little like a train driver, but I kind of dig it!