What it’s like to unfollow 98.5% of your Facebook friends

A few months ago, I unfollowed someone on Facebook on my phone.

Conveniently, Facebook prompted me asking if I wanted to unfollow more people, leading me to a page with a bubble for each of my friends, groups, and pages. To unfollow, I simply had to tap the bubble of their face.

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And over the next few months, I used this page to unfollow massive amounts of people. In one sitting, I unfollowed half of my friends. In another, I got it down to about 60/70.

But after a bit too much deliberation of “do I really care to know what ______ posts”, on an impulse, I unfollowed  everything: all my friends, all the pages I liked, all the groups I was in. It took about 5 minutes of frantic bubble tapping.

Slowly, I’ve been adding people back in and unfollowing them again, trying to reach some sort of equilibrium for the “ideal feed”. Here’s where I’m at right now:

  • 2 groups – my college class group and my scholar group
  • 2 pages– my high school and the Student Congress page
  • 8 people– 1 friend from middle school, 5 people I regularly talked to in high school, and 2 family members.

Observations:

  • My feed got boring. Fast. It’s hard to notice at first, but soon you’re looking at the same few posts over and over again. I don’t think unfollowing people decreased the frequency with which I checked Facebook, but it definitely decreased the amount of time I spent each time
  • You become acutely aware of how stalker-like social media is. I noticed it the most the few days I decided to only follow one person. It’s creepy to keep up with all the pictures someone likes and people they friend. And some people I wanted to keep for precisely that reason. (I convinced myself to unfollow them…eventually.)
  • I missed seeing stuff. I missed almost all the pictures from my high school graduation and prom. Sometimes I saw a profile picture change a week late (or more). Sometimes I felt awkward liking a post or a picture late so I didn’t. (To those friends-sorry.) But now it bothers me less.
  • FOMO and social media envy died down– Seeing a post with 200 likes on it that’s a week old doesn’t feel that bad anymore. Realizing that I missed a social outing a month ago matters less than it used to. And it doesn’t feel like people are bragging about their social lives anymore, even though I made the conscious decision to unfollow them, not them.
  • I read individual profiles more. Now my new time waster is bouncing around individual profiles. Cue the stalker factor.

I like social media like this- a way to look up profiles of people you’re thinking about, and a way to message them if needed, a reference book of sorts.

Can I undo my choice now? I don’t think Facebook allows you to follow massive amounts of people in the way I unfollowed people. So unless I manually go through all 500 friends I unfollowed, this change is for the most part permanent.

I don’t regret this decision, and with the influx of people I’ll meet in college, it might be for the best. I’d encourage you to try something similar. At the very least, try unfollowing half your friends. It’s easier than you’d imagine, and no one has to know.

Fight the FOMO

Fear of missing out or FOMO is a form of social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event”

-that free online encyclopedia called Wikipedia

Yes, I’m annoyed when my friends have inside jokes that I don’t get. Yes,  I hate people who rave on about fun experiences that I didn’t have. And yes, Facebook albums of peoples’ social lives make me wonder what I’m doing with my own.

On the other hand, I love having inside jokes with people. Sharing a inside moment with someone gives me a special connection with them, access to a certain aspect of their life that no one else knows. Especially with my fear of not knowing someone completely, it seems like being around someone else as much as possible is the best way to learn about them. It bothers me to look around at a room of people and realize that there’s a side of each person that I’ll never see.

As for raving about socializing, it’s a pretty jerkish thing to do, but it’s human nature to brag about ourselves sometimes, however subtle. (Right? Don’t make me be the only bad person here. )

And with Facebook albums…yeah that hasn’t happened to me yet. However, social media is the single biggest propagator of the FOMO, providing a permanent stream of peoples’ lives filled with perfect and smiling faces.

Most of my social interaction is because of the FOMO to some degree, and it’s a delicate rope to walk. What events will most likely produce the best stories to be repeated to others and which are just forced attempts at being social? Arguably, my lack of a social life doesn’t give me many choices, but sometimes I wonder what it’d be like with a packed schedule, constantly being around others and “making memories.” Do I really want that?

Answer: Probably not. As much as the FOMO bothers me, there’s a pleasure in not having to know about every little detail about everyone all the time. Ignorance is bliss. Besides, writing aloud to a internet is obviously  more interesting.

Argh, last week of NaBloPoMo, as well the week with two days of school instead of none, because HISD.