Why it’s Okay to Unfollow

I was flicking through my Instagram feed the other day.  It’s a strange mix.  There are the sporadic posts from friends and family (including my Dad; whose Instagram theme includes scribbling lines over Google Maps to show the world where he’s been walking), random pet accounts (cute!), mixed in with some online friends, beautiful bloggers and bakers – y’know for a bit of daily inspo.  (Oh.  And unavoidable adverts.  Ugh.)  I scrolled down – liking, saving, commenting – and then, I got stuck.

Wait.  Who the hell’s that?  Oh.  The account of a friend of a friend who followed me and I – politely – followed back.  Another grainy gram of a night out with some friends I didn’t know in a bar I didn’t recognise.  Why was I still following him?  Enough was enough. I clicked through to his profile page and my thumb hovered over the The Blue Button of Doom… but then something stopped me.

I felt guilty. Guilty about unfollowing. After all, they were still following me. So wouldn’t it be rude to cut and run? A prime example of poor netiquette? A sort of virtual dine and dash? I mean, by pressing that button you’re basically sending the message to that person, “I’m not interested in you anymore. Buh-bye!” Never mind the fact that they might be a virtual stranger or that you’ve never spoken beyond a couple of comments with emojis, it feels cold and cruel to hit that button. All of us have been on the other side of this at some point, so we can relate; we know how it feels when someone blue buttons us. It stings a little, and you’re left wondering what tweet, which instagram or snapchat was it that finally pushed them out the door.

Think about it. How many people are you following on various social media platforms that you’d quite like to ditch but don’t because you feel guilty? Those polite follow-backs, friend of a friends, old school friends you haven’t spoken to in a hundred years. How many tweets and Instagrams do you eyeroll your way through every single day just to scroll to the people you actually care about, to the content that makes a difference to your day?

Social media has become such a massive part of our every day lives. Scrolling Instagram is the first thing I do in the morning (or at least it used to be pre-puppy!) and the last thing I do at night, and like it or not, those internet relationships we forge through social media are becoming just as important and as valuable as our “real life” ones. They matter. So why are we hanging on to the ones that don’t – the ones that don’t excite, inspire or interest us – just because we feel bad for unfollowing? Would we waste our time like that offline?

I hope this isn’t coming across as bitchy or cold, it’s meant to be the exact opposite. I’d rather have a feed that’s full of mutual, meaningful relationships and content that I value and feel inspired by, than one clogged up with names I don’t recognise and content I don’t care about.  Wouldn’t you?  And it goes the other way too; don’t keep me on your feed and in your life because you feel like you have to, keep me there because you want to.

We need to shed the guilt about unfollowing someone, just as we need to learn to either ignore or live with that sting we feel when someone unfollows us.  It might feel personal, but it’s not.  Not really.  The relationship never got personal.  They didn’t get you, and that’s okay.  Hitting that blue button from time to time (and being blue-buttoned) is a necessary part of finding your tribe. 🙂

Why You Don’t Have to Use Your Voice

So – as it turns out – on the 8th of June we’ve all got to make another trip to our local polling station.  Another election.  Really?  Hands up if you rolled your eyes a little when Theresa May emerged from Number 10 to address the nation?  And not because General Elections aren’t terribly important, or because broadcast media always have to sneak in a little close-up of her leopard print kitten heels (y’know, just in case it slipped your mind that a woman – yes a woman – is currently running the country)… but because from now until the polls close (and let’s be honest, for at least a week or two after) there’s going to be a lot of shouting and ranting online and that same question posed to bloggers and YouTubers over and over and over again: “WHY DON’T YOU USE YOUR VOICE?”

Over the next six weeks the internet will constantly poke and prod at bloggers to come out from their marble and rose gold blogger bat caves, lower their cameras, declare their side and release a battle cry through their content for their subscribers to follow.  Some do – and that’s fine, it’s their choice – but many choose to stay silent.  And that’s when the internet responds to the radio silence with a scoff and types some passive aggressive tweet along the lines of, “You have so many followers, you could make such a difference!” and, oh yeah, “Why don’t you use your voice and reach to inform about the bigger issues instead of going on about that latest must-have lipstick!?”  And it’s not just politics, bloggers are constantly urged to use their following and to voice their opinions on various matters.

While I understand the frustration, whether they use their voice or not, and how they use it is a personal choice.  Obviously, huge respect to anyone who does choose to stick their head up over the parapet and voice their opinions on the tougher, polarizing subjects, but just as we’re all entitled to use our voice – to shout our opinions and political views loud and proud – we’re also entitled to stay silent, or to whisper if we so choose, and shouldn’t be berated for that decision.

Everyone has their reasons for staying silent.  True, some choose to zip the lip because they hate confrontation, don’t want to offend anyone or because they don’t want to suddenly see themselves drop a hundred followers, but for others it’s simply a choice not to share.  Perhaps they’re just not interested or don’t feel well enough informed to voice an opinion, perhaps they’d just rather stick to lighter subjects (hey, we’re going to be hearing a lot of politics over the next month – sometimes you need to breathe and see something that doesn’t remind you how royally eff’d the country is)… or perhaps they just feel that their opinion isn’t anyone’s business but their own.

At the end of the day, we’re all entitled to pick and choose what we share online – on our blogs and via social media.  And when someone – blogger or not – chooses not to weigh in on a big subject, that’s their choice and they’re entitled to it.