The problem with Social Media lies in its social component, where we treat everyone as a friend. Some people take it seriously, and they share almost everything with people who often don’t really care. As long as the publisher does it consciously, know the consequences, and have fun with sharing – it’s OK. However, the problem occurs on the consumer’s side because not everyone is interested in somebody else’s life details, political opinion, religion, or other stuff that friends actively share. Why people let that content appear in front of them? Because of friendship.

Don’t confuse friendship with following

Each time we make friends with someone on Facebook, follow someone on Twitter, or connect with someone on LinkedIn, we start receiving updates from that person. Same, we let other people influence what kind of information we consume without even thinking about the quality of them. These updates are another stream of information that we need to manage, but the remedy is actually quite simple. To stay healthy in the social media world, I stick to the one specific principle that sound: following does not mean friendship .

That’s it. Following does not mean friendship. The following means that you receive updates from another person you follow. Friendship is something more profound, and I don’t even try to define it. It usually exists outside of Social Media.

Let me give you an example.

  • You may not be my friend, but I follow you because you publish valuable content I enjoy.

  • You may be my friend, but I don’t follow you because the content you post doesn’t match my current interests.

If you’re my friend and I don’t follow you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you. On the other hand, if I barely know you (and vice versa) but I follow you, It doesn’t mean that we are friends now – I enjoy the content you share.

Be selective

The possibility to choose who’s content we want to receive is at our fingertips. However, people are reluctant to stop following their friends, because of FOMO1, or because it’s emotionally hard. Once you realize that the following is not the same as friendship, it will be much easier to handle the alleged loss.

Being selective for the information you may receive is much more important than you think. First, people produce way more content than each of us can ever consume, so it’s worth to choose wisely what we spend time on. Secondly, everything you read, listen, watch, and every news and update from people you follow influence you. These things shape your understanding and image of the world. How to stay happy reading continuously about calamities, deaths, climate changes, and other sad things? How to stay productive if you’re stumbling upon memes, gifs, and other viral videos everyone is sharing?

In Twitter, I follow people who publish things that resonate with me and enrich my thoughts and knowledge. It’s OK to unfollow people whose content doesn’t give you value anymore. Your interest may change in time as the people you follow.

In Facebook, the medium I rarely use, I stopped observing almost everyone besides a few friends and family members. I still have contact with people that I know, but again, the following is not the same as friendship.

LinkedIn is much more problematic. It advertises itself like a business network. For me, it works like a job advertisement website with a built-in communicator. Maybe it’ll change when I stop observing people from my network I don’t even know (mainly recruiters).

You have the power to choose. Use it. Your friends will understand, and majority don’t even notice.

Featured photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

  1. Fear Of Missing Out ↩︎