The way we engage with social media is like fire. You can use it to keep yourself warm and nourished or you can burn down the barn. It all depends on your intentions, expectations and reality-checking skills.”
~ Brene Brown
The Power of Hitting Unfollow
I spent a solid chunk of time yesterday unfollowing Instagram accounts.
To be fair, most of these were people I haven’t talked to in years or accounts about things I’m just not as interested in anymore. I mean, I still love my plants but I’m currently over stylized plant pics every time I scroll. But, the action of going through and deciding who to unfollow got me thinking…
I’m kind of over the “just unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself”, #goodvibesonly thing (insert see no evil monkey emoji here…).
I’m also over the “Instagram is a highlight reel” analogy (even though it is, people!).
You need more than someone telling you to just get rid of the things bringing you down – this is basically a bandaid over a wound that really needs some heavy-duty stitches.
You need more than someone just telling you that you can’t believe everything you read or see.
The reality of the situation is that the common denominator in all of these interactions is YOU. And, there could be some major self-love and acceptance (of yourself OR others) work that you’re avoiding by hitting “unfollow”.
I know, it may be an extremely unpopular opinion but I promised honesty, right?
Let Me Explain…
I hope I haven’t lost you so I can explain…
It is extremely common to leave Instagram, Facebook or your social media platform (weapon?) of choice feeling like you were impaled. In this case, impaled loosely means that pit in your stomach, aching in your heart or honest-to-goodness tears.
Maybe you have a case of the I’m–not–good–enough’s, or the I–wish–I–was–more-like’s.
Maybe you’re left feeling like you’re not fit enough and need to go to the gym like…right now…and stay there all night long.
Maybe you’re tempted to stuff your face with the most recent Oreo-filled baked good bombarding your feed. True life: THIS popped up in my “discover” tab in insta this morning. “Yes, Instagram…I am interested, thank you. Also, I hate you.”
No matter what your reason for feeling down post-scroll may be, it can be extremely freeing to hit that “unfollow” button and rid yourself of those feelings.
You create your own environment…
…Which gives you the POWER to ensure it nurtures your creativity and confidence. It also gives you the power to intentionally choose the vibe and messaging you attract and surround yourself with. This is why #goodvibesonly has become such a catchy and important mantra for so many people.
Fun fact: This is true not only with social media but also applies to food, friendships and so many areas of your life!
I am the first person to tell you to hit “unfollow” if you’re not picking up what someone is putting down.
I am the first person to throw up a #goodvibesonly.
I only ask that you stop for one second and consider this…
Blindly unfollowing at the slightest twinge of discomfort is doing yourself a disservice.
It robs you of the chance to dig into why you may be reacting to a post, picture or person in a certain way. It also makes it trickier to hold yourself accountable to your social media habits.
Six Questions to Ask Yourself
You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and that feeling starts coming on. You begin questioning your talents, worth, and passions. You’re getting mad and frustrated. You start throwing shade on other people and every flick of your thumb brings on MORE of these feelings.
Before Hitting Unfollow Ask…
1. What time is it?
If it is late at night and you’re exhausted from the day, it may be worth waiting until tomorrow to make the final call.
When you’re already tired and stressed, you’re more likely to feel down on yourself and you may be reacting more strongly than you would at an earlier point in the day. Also, GET YOUR PHONE OUT OF YOUR ROOM!
2. How has my day been going so far?
When you’re already in a funky mood, social media won’t make you feel any better. Maybe you had a tough day at work, missed a lift, made a food choice you’re not the most proud of.
No matter what it is, you’re much more likely to be hard on yourself if you’re comin’ off of a rough day.
3. Does this highlight a habit, lifestyle or mindset that I want to work towards or improve and I’m just frustrated that I haven’t committed yet?
Can I flip this and use it as inspiration or guidance to step out of my comfort zone?
4. Do I have all the concrete facts?
…or could there be more to the story like…
- How long they’ve been at it (and do you know this for sure)?
- What their lifestyle allows?
- What their training or education has been like?
- What their day-to-day outside of this picture and caption looks like?
Think of a time you posted a picture that had “more to the story” than what may have been going on. Need some examples?
5. Does this post highlight a persistent insecurity I have?
This happens quite often when it comes to nutrition, training and body composition.
If you’re following an account that makes you feel bad about your body, performance in the gym or tempts you to move away from eating habits you know work for you and your health I am ALL ABOUT throwing the duces and hitting unfollow. There is no need to constantly bombard yourself with images of “perfection” that make you feel less than.
That being said, it is still worth taking a hot second to consider if unfollowing is really just putting a bandaid on needing to practice more self-love and acceptance.
The reality of the comparison situation is that you can love someone else’s job, talent, body composition, hard work or lifestyle without questioning your own.
This is a skill that takes time, effort and practice to develop and strengthen.
6. Is this person sharing an opinion I don’t necessarily agree with but can still learn from?
At the end of the day, you only have so much control over what you’re exposed to and hitting unfollow is a great way to take back some of that back.
But, if you spend your whole life hitting unfollow, you’ll miss a chance to learn about yourself and the way you interact with social media.
Next time that feeling comes on, pause.
Ask yourself a few questions about what may really be going on and take a second before unfollowing. You could even save this reminder to your phone and come back to it when needed.
Remember what Brene Brown said, “…It all depends on your intentions, expectations and reality-checking skills”
If you know that person brings NO positivity into your life and you’ve taken on your responsibility as a consumer, trust yourself. Unfollow and throw up your #goodvibesonly sign.
I have been there – I’ve unfollowed accounts of athletes who have the six-pack abs that make me question what I look like, dessert accounts that tempt me to bake like no tomorrow (and eat all the batter raw, obviously) or bloggers who make it look SO easy that I fear I’ll never make it.
Sometimes these were really positive and informed “unfollow” choices. And, sometimes I was definitely using it as a quick fix and way to hide from some self-love or learning that came back around to teach me a lesson anyway;)
Self-love can definitely look like unfollowing someone who is repeatedly toxic to the way you view yourself and throwing up your #goodvibesonly.
Long-term cultivation of self-love can also look like taking a second before a blind “unfollow”. Give yourself time to get real with yourself about what may be going on just under the surface.