Why ‘Unfollowing’ Isn’t Always The Best Choice
There are a lot of differing opinions on social media and it’s easier than ever to share those opinions behind the safety of a computer or phone screen. I’ve often heard and often given the advice that if someone makes you feel negatively on social media, simply unfollow them. I stand by this advice, but something always rubbed me the wrong way about it. I think it was the fact that it was a statement that could be interpreted as “unfollow anyone who doesn’t subscribe to what you believe in.”
Thankfully, I don’t get a ton of negative comments on Instagram, where I’m the most active. My audience is generally supportive and I’m really thankful for that. That being said, I do sometimes receive a negative comment or message and when I tell others, I’m often asked why I don’t immediately block that person. Because it’s not an overwhelming flood, I feel comfortable letting those things happen. That’s life. There are always people who won’t like you, and not in a malicious way (although those exist too I’m sure). If I only kept people around who sang my praises, I would get a very warped view of the world, which would be really detrimental to me considering I have to actually live there and not online.
I think that unfollowing or blocking people who challenge you is doing yourself a disservice. It allows you to only surround yourself with people who think exactly the same as you, which may not be the smartest, healthiest, or most helpful way. An echo chamber certainly feels good, but it’s not practical and it’s not realistic.
I’m in no way advocating for letting people dump their own issues all over you, but I do think it’s important for you to examine each scenario on a case by case basis. Immediately cutting someone out removes the possibility of you being able to learn something new or grow as a person.
Here are some times when I think that it’s appropriate to unfollow someone:
- If they are repeatedly harassing you
- If they post hateful content
- If they post content that negatively affects your mental health (e.g., someone in recovery for an eating disorder follows an account that advocates meal tracking and “thinspo”)
- If you stop relating to their content
- If it feels inauthentic
Here are some times when unfollowing may do you a disadvantage:
- They have a different opinion than you on something
- Because they unfollowed you
- When doing so prevents you from seeing how others in your field are providing information
Exposing yourself to different types of people and mentalities allows you to grow as a person. You’re challenged, able to use critical thinking, and wind up with a better world view than myopically focusing on only what YOU believe in. By allowing some conflict and disagreement in your life, you may even be able to see that your way isn’t the best way after all.
The next time you consider unfollowing or blocking someone, pause and ask yourself why. Obviously you’re free to make whatever decisions you want, but examine what’s going on with you first before clicking that button.