Whether we like it or not, social media is a part of life, and it ain’t going away. Statista estimates that there are 2.34 billion social media users worldwide. By 2020, they predict that number will rise to 2.95 — roughly a third of the world’s population. Whoa there! That’s a freaking hell of a lot of people connecting via social media.
I, for one, absolutely adore social media, Facebook in particular. As a work-at-home mom whose co-workers connect online, pretty much all my “water cooler” talk happens on Facebook. It’s also been a godsend to me as a mom, especially on the darkest days of mommyhood. Not all of us find it that easy to take a tantruming toddler out of the house when we’re existing on nothing but caffeine and three hours of broken sleep.
Social media makes it possible for me to connect with other moms who are going through the same thing I am — and it never requires me to shower or wear pants. And as much as I complain about intrusive ads or weird-ass algorithms (come on, guys, you really need to show me what I really want to see every once in a while), I adore the heck out of Facebook and social media in general.
But a few months ago (and yes, it probably coincided pretty closely with the most horrific presidential election in U.S. history), I started to notice that Facebook wasn’t working as well for me as it once had. To put it more bluntly, it was starting to make me hate pretty much everyone I knew.
I realized pretty quickly that part of the problem was that my friends list was entirely oversaturated. When I first started using Facebook, I accepted any and all friend requests. I mean, all my family members could be considered friends, right? And a friend of a friend of a friend from middle school — sure, why not?
But in the last few years, as my friends list exploded from 200 to almost 1000, that feeling of connecting one-on-one with my “tribe” started to fade. And as Facebook became more of a way for me to voice my deeper thoughts and sometimes controversial opinions, I started to feel that Facebook wasn’t that safe place it had always been.
When I post funny anecdotes about my wild kids doing wild kid things, I definitely don’t need my great-aunt’s critique of my parenting to wind up in the comment section for all to see. And if I want to post political rants or my heartfelt concerns about the shithole our country is falling into, I don’t want to feel like I need to hold my tongue.
Also? I don’t want to see any racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist comments from anyone. Period. I’m not sure how I ended up with “friends” of these persuasions — or if the political climate in our country brought the crazy out of people — but I decided a few months ago that I just don’t need to see that.
I decided straight up that I didn’t need any more disgust, negativity, or judgmental assholes in my life.
So I did some major, major culling of my friends list. At first, it felt kind of dirty. I pride myself on being a kind person, and I didn’t want to be mean. But honestly, if I haven’t spoken to you in 20 years, or you’re my mother’s best friend’s mom from 1972, I probably don’t need to connect with you on social media. No hard feelings, truly.
As uncomfortable as the unfriending felt in some instances, it also felt so fucking liberating I wanted to puke with joy.
Pretty soon, I had a friends list that I felt good about — a list of friends with whom I was comfortable sharing my life online, friends I could bitch and moan about life or politics with, friends who I trusted to share pictures of my kids wearing nothing but underwear and a superhero cape, friends who accepted me for who I was, online and offline.
And yes, there were still some friends on my list that I didn’t want to share everything with. But I learned about Facebook’s list options, and I felt like I’d found social media Nirvana. (If you don’t know how to use friends lists, you absolutely should.) Now I have a list of friends who I share more superficial things with, and a list of friends who I share whatever the hell I want with and who I trust will get it. The whole thing rocks so hard I can hardly handle it, and now Facebook has become my online sanctuary once again.
So if you’re feeling down in the dumps about your online social media life, do yourself a favor and make it your own. Unfollow any page or organization that makes you feel anything but happy. And hit that “unfriend” button so much your fingers bleed with ecstasy.
Decide who you want in your online life and who you don’t. Don’t feel one ounce of guilt about cutting friends or adding them to your “no thank-you” list. There is absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining privacy, and appropriate boundaries. It’s good for you and for the people who you need to create said boundaries with.
It’s also an awesome option to take breaks from social media when you can or even cut yourself off altogether. For lots of us, though, social media is a part of life that we are so entrenched in that it doesn’t feel possible to avoid it entirely.
So if social media is adding any unnecessary stress or angst to your life, do yourself a favor and make some changes pronto — however brutal they may be — no guilt.
You have the power to take social media back and make it be what you want it to be.