“Blocking” People in the Digital Age: More than a Click
It is only human to have a day…or two…or countless, where you consider deleting all of your social media, throwing your phone away and never scrolling through the your over-edited or politically cluttered feed again. Even social media icon and supermodel Kendall Jenner admitted to Ellen that she “needed a detox” before deleting her Instagram and Twitter apps. The 21-year-old star underscored a sentiment that is vitally important yet severely underscored amongst millennials: it is okay to take a break from social media and sever your constant connection to, well, the whole world. Unfortunately, this connection includes everyone, even the people you do not want constant updates on. Despite having the “unfollow” and “block” buttons readily available, something keeps us from using these features.
While doing some introspective reflection on this, I realized that I follow over one-thousand people on Instagram, have about the same number of friends on Facebook and have about 200 contacts on SnapChat. I wonder to myself if anyone was in contact with thousands of humans every day (a majority of whom they did not know very well) before the existence of social media. Now, I so easily follow every person’s life, even those of whom I have met only once, or possibly not at all. From pictures of coffee cups, to nights out with friends, we are constantly updated on every detail that our “friends” share with, well, the whole world. Despite having thought about this constant connection in the past and acknowledging how annoyed I can get with people via social media, I still find it difficult to unfollow or block these people from my feed. Why do we feel a need to stay immediately connected to people we do not know or even like?
The idea of detoxing, a la Kendall Jenner, seems like a good one if you can afford the social sacrifice. Personally, the integration of social media into my college education and extracurricular activities makes this basically impossible. However, taking small steps to change how you interact with social media could be a move in the right direction. This could mean consciously choosing not to watch the SnapChat stories you know are going to bother or taking the plunge and decluttering your ‘following’ list. Following the election, I found it so difficult to go on Facebook but still needed to use the site for my classes and student organizations. This lead to an immediate “de-friending” of the people who cluttered my feed with things that upset me. While I still find it inexplicably difficult to remove a friend on SnapChat, there was a weight lifted off my shoulders when I removed these negative presences. Taking this action is something that I can recommend to you if you feel as though the burden of social media is a heavy one to bear.
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