Mute Your Friends Who Don’t Spark Joy.

Clear your feed, clear your mind.

There is such magnificent, pure, unadulterated satisfaction in unfollowing someone. Finally free from the invisible digital chains that linked you together, now poised to explore without their energy invading your precious screen time.

But it’s also seen as the internet’s highest punishment.

Realising someone has unfollowed you is digital abandonment. The act of unfollowing holds such weight, yet it seems ridiculous that we’re at a point in human history where it does hold this power. Since we attempt to craft the best version of ourselves online, an unfollow signifies almost subconsciously that even though you tried your best — it wasn’t good enough.

The bigger question is: why do we follow who we follow? We spend hours dedicated to our screen each day, and each day the content we consume shapes our attitude and mood. We have a choice to follow friends, family, influencers, celebrities, and brands across every industry. It’s easy to unfollow a stranger on the internet. But what if you just can’t be bothered with the life updates from your nearest and dearest?

When Instagram introduced the mute button it signalled they truly understand just how shitty human behaviour has become. The Washington Post pointed out that we ghost because rejection is scary. Unfollowing is not just taboo — its ‘aggressive’. Ghosting is so normalised that an adult conversation about why you’re not interested in someone is borderline offensive. Relationships are nuanced and complex. ‘Follow’ or ‘unfollow’ is black and white, it’s ‘love’ or ‘hate’, with no grey area. Ghosting is the dating world’s acceptable grey area. The mute button is social media’s perfect shade of grey.

Whether you use an Instagram browse as an escape or to stay informed, scrolling is relaying pixels of either joy or resentment, happiness or annoyance. Scrub your feed of all the negativity. If an influencer or celebrity is the source of your pain — simply tap unfollow. They will never know. You don’t know them personally, and you don’t owe them anything. Follow them again tomorrow if you want too. Otherwise dive into the grey area and mute all your friends, family, and acquaintances that aren’t bringing their A-game.

We find ourselves in a weird moral contract to follow those who we’ve once shared life experiences, even those who we know out of obligation — friend’s boyfriends, co-workers, even family members. Especially family members. Their posts may be neither inspiring nor interesting, or borderline annoying. Many times they’re politically charged, and not in the way we agree with. We’re only following them out of social obligation. So if unfollowing is a cardinal sin, then muting is the secret tunnel out.

Muting is the perfect compromise. Unfollowing a friend is awkward, if not completely taboo. There are apps that notify if someone has done the deed, and of course it’s easy enough to check followers with a simple search. Muting is an escape without the consequences.

Muting someone is an indulgence. It’s a private moment to yourself when you decide you’re sick of someone else’s life and content, and you’re going to erase them from your digital consumption.

Muting is recognising you may have to maintain a digital relationship with someone, but respect your energy enough to secretly cleanse yourself of it. For example, there is true joy in politely following a colleague, and then muting them immediately.

If anyone comments on your absent attention, raising their suspicion at a potential muting, just do what everyone else does — blame the algorithm.

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