In Praise of Unfollowing, Defriending and Otherwise Uncluttering Your Digital Life

In our digital social lives we tend to make friends for life. Here's the case for weeding out all the unnecessary humans in your digital social circles.

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In our digital social lives we tend to make friends for life. That kid you met the first day of freshman year still shows up on your Facebook news feed years after never seeing him again. The "social media professional" you followed on Twitter in 2009 still clutters your stream with useless retweets. At one point all of our Internet connections made sense, now so many of them don't. Most of the times these non-friendship Friendships are so harmless the cost-benefit analysis of doing anything about them weighs heavily toward the do-nothing option. Why risk hurting someone's feelings or a potentially socially awkward moment just to unclutter some social media streams? The nice thing to do is to do nothing. Well, sometimes it's worth not being nice. Here's the case for weeding out all the unnecessary humans in your social media circles.

Stop Torturing Yourself with Exes. If seeing an ex-boyfriend pop up on Gchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter hurts your feelings, as it does for New York magazine's Maureen O'Connor, get rid of them. "They may be everywhere online, but seeing an ex pop up in a social-media feed can be as jarring as running into him on the street," she writes. But, unlike running into someone on the street, you have nearly complete control over who you interact with on social media. If you don't want to see what Ex Boyfriend's life without you looks like, you don't have to: Cut the digital cord. Yes, that means no more stalking. But that's just a mild form of self-harm anyway — a part of your larger problem.

Twitter Is What You Make It, So Make it Tolerable. Every time anyone complains about Twitter, the Twitterati make the very valid point that Twitter is what you make it. Just because you followed some important professional person and they followed you back, does not mean you have to tolerate their onslaught of tweets. In this scenario you risk a professional faux pas. But, not having to deal with Mister Overtweeter every single day will make the process worth it. Most likely, these people won't even notice an unfollow. And, worst case, if you have to refollow them, just blame this twitter bug that automatically unfollows people.

It's Okay to Unfollow Real Friends Who Are Bad at Instagram. The best of friends and blood relatives aren't necessarily gifted photographers. Those people who fill up your feed with selfies, a dozen photos from the same event, and blurry road trip photos need to go. If these people happen to be your close friends or relatives, that's okay. If your friends get offended by this, maybe you should reconsider these relationships.

Listen, all of this has the potential to lead to some awkward situations. But, the other option is forgoing all these platforms for the simple life. You have to think to yourself: Why are you using these technologies? If it's to people please, then by all means continue to torture yourself with harmful connections. If it's to enhance your life in some way, then cut the fat.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.