The other day, while going through my morning routine of perusing every social media app I have in a desperate attempt to stave off the fact that I have to work, I noticed something. I was checking to see who had liked my Snapchat story (because I’m a narcissist), and I realized that my followers were a very weird mix of people. There were my friends, obviously, but then there were others. Many others. There were girls I had gone on two dates with and never talked to again. There were former coworkers and acquaintances from several jobs ago. There were old Tinder hookups from college. Basically, most of my followers (who had decided to waste 10 seconds of their life watching a video of me giggling when my Amazon Echo said there was a 69% chance of rain) were people I had little to no connection to in real life. And yet, inexplicably, they regularly checked in on me via social media.
Now, I’m sure most of these people just never get around to culling their contact list and probably just clicked on my story to get rid of the notification. But some of them must have actually watched, and some of them must watch regularly. This behavior is not limited to Snapchat, either. My friend lists on social media are littered with people I knew very briefly, a long time ago, and have had no contact with ever since, and I’m willing to bet many of yours are the same. Not only does it serve no purpose, it can actually negatively affect your life.
Social media is a great tool when used correctly. Snapchat helps me keep track of all the drunken shenanigans my friends are getting up to across the country. I let my parents follow me on Instagram so they can feel involved in what I’m doing instead of bugging me to send them photos all the time. Facebook helps me keep tabs on old friends and see how their lives are progressing. Twitter has no redeeming qualities, but where else am I going to spew all my stupid thoughts and half-assed jokes? All of these apps help us stay connected, and for the most part, that’s a great thing. No one has time to have weekly phone calls with all the people they care about, and even the group chats dry up some times. The fact that we have easy ways of keeping tabs on the people we care about, even when our own life gets too hectic to reach out personally, is a great thing. Except when it makes us too connected.
Realistically, there are about 100 people in my life that I truly care about and want to stay connected with. And yet, my Facebook friend list is nearing ten times that. Because it’s so easy, I feel the need to stay connected with people I briefly interacted with in my past, and whose lives I honestly don’t care about. Instead of keeping closer tabs on my friends and family, I now have my attention split amongst the lives of hundreds of people that are, for all intents and purposes, strangers.
While all these connections can be overwhelming, it gets even worse when you add relationships into the mix. In our parents’ time, if you went through a bad breakup, you could at least find solace in the fact that you never had to see them again. Breakups are like a dislocated shoulder. The longer you wait to heal, the worse it’s going to hurt when you try to. The only way to truly get over someone is a clean break (this is no longer part of the shoulder metaphor), and social media makes that so much harder. Instead of having to make an active choice to stay in touch with our exes like our parents would have to, we have to make an active choice to disconnect.
After a breakup, you have to go to each of social medias and block or remove your ex, and even then, it might not be enough. Facebook could show you a picture of him and his new girlfriend that your mutual friend liked. You could watch a Snapchat of her sucking face with a rando on one of her friend’s stories. As easy as it is to give out the advice “block them and all their friends on all platforms,” that advice is hard as hell to take when you’re heartbroken. Studies have shown that brains going through heartbreak react similar to brains going through heroin withdrawal, and with the ease of social media, it’s like having a big heroin buffet just sitting on your desk at all times.
Even though it may suck at times, or feel like we’re being rude, or feel like we’re losing friends, we have to learn to disconnect. Just because you used to be friends, or acquaintances, or coworkers, or went on one shitty Bumble date, doesn’t mean you have to keep tabs on that person. It’s okay to admit you don’t give a shit what’s going on in their lives and to unfollow. It’s time to disconnect from people you don’t care about. Except for me, of course. Definitely follow me on Twitter and Snapchat. .