Every few years, I take some time out of my weekend to cleanse my social media feeds. By cleanse, I mean remove any Facebook friends, or folks I follow on Instagram and Twitter, who have no business being in my life (electronic or otherwise). They might be old high school acquaintances who avidly support Donald Trump. Some are devoted proponents of #thinspo, with no regard for the worth of all bodies. Others might just irritate me, if for no other reason than they only share those photos of inspirational quotes overlaid atop mountain ranges or sandy beaches. To be honest, I'd say unfollowing as many people as you'd like to from social media is the best gift you can give yourself this Mother's Day.
Although the mamas of the world should arguably be celebrated and adored every day of the year, Mother's Day is the perfect occasion to go all-out with it. Whether you're craving a 100-piece box of chocolate, a spa day, a movie date with a partner, Netflix and chill, or some me-time, it's important to remember that these 24 hours are specifically designed to bring you joy.
This year, I'm fully expecting my husband to look after our 1-year-old all day so that I can have that much-needed me-time, but I'm also going to set aside a few hours for social media detoxing. If you want the next year of your life to be a little bit calmer, and a lot more empowering, I highly recommend doing the same.
As a millennial who works online, maintains relationships online, and uses the internet for purposes of community-building, I firmly believe that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or any derivative thereof have a lot of potential to do good in this world. Social media can bring marginalized groups together. It can introduce future couples to one another. It can help anyone build a platform to spread their art or activism.
It can also be a bonafide garbage fire. If we aren't careful with our friends and follows, our feeds can quickly begin to resemble mainstream media (and regular, old day-to-day life). That is, they can bombard us with the messaging, advertisements, or human beings we'd really rather steer clear from. They can saturate our lives with toxicity; with triggering content that amps our anxiety or anger. With precisely the kind of stuff we're trying to escape from by being online in the first place.
I want my feeds to be filled with the things that actually inspire and motivate me. I want to see badass women and femmes living beautiful, unapologetic lives at all sizes.
It's all too easy to follow someone on Instagram because we once saw them share a photo we liked (maybe something of a cute baby eating a lemon or Bichon Frise puppy), or accept a friend request on Facebook because we remember so-and-so from eighth grade bio (you know, the kid you dissected that frog with). I do it, too. Unfortunately, this often means I end up with immensely frustrating posts on my feeds. Posts so frustrating I just want to take to the bottle.
Personally, I want my feeds to be filled with the things that actually inspire and motivate me. I want to see badass women and femmes living beautiful, unapologetic lives at all sizes. I want to see feminist parents doing their damnedest to raise well-balanced kids with hearts that embrace social justice. I want to get my news from democratic or socialist-leaning publications and humans, because those are the politics I most align with. I want to catch up with the relatives I actually like, while unfollowing or muting the ones I'd much prefer not to share blood with.
What you want from your social media feeds could be entirely different, but I cannot help but think we all ultimately crave a few core things from our pages. Maybe we want to feel like we're not alone in our choices, ideologies, or lifestyles. Maybe we want to build community with people who share our identities. Maybe we want to create a world for ourselves that is somehow less toxic, and more enlightening, than the world we walk through IRL. Or maybe we just want to be inundated with photos of babies, puppies, or babies and puppies.
At a time when mainstream media can all too often spread damaging messages, imagery, and ideals, however, it's crucial that we curate our social media feeds to serve as alternative narratives. It's crucial that we find solidarity and strength where we can.
It's also crucial that we don't feel guilty about unfollowing whoever the heck we want to unfollow for the benefit of our well being. Chances are, that kid you shared one college class with eight years ago won't even notice you're not in their friends list anymore. Neither will those old high school peers who never actually spoke to you in all four years of academia. Neither will that boss that you actually hated; the one from your first internship. The one that feels like another lifetime ago, because it kind of was.
Even if they do notice, it's honestly not your problem. It's wholly in your right to use social media as you see fit. To eschew the friends and follows that make you feel like crap. The ones who make you doubt yourself, who enrage you with their values, or whose cars you still wish you could egg. It's in your right to make social media a haven, and not the hellscape that it can so easily become. Because when you open it up, you want to be able to say, "like."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.