On Nov. 17, 2010, Jimmy Kimmel went on his nightly talk show to declare a new national day – National Unfriend Day. The comedian explained that since so many of us have a ridiculous amount of Facebook friends, we should take some time to unfriend the ones we’re not actually close with.
When Kimmel launched the initiative back in 2010, he said, “Let’s say, on Friday, post a status update that says, ‘I’m moving this weekend and I need help.’ The people that respond? Those are your friends. Everyone else isn’t.”
While today might prove an opportune time to streamline your feed and simplify your online connections by unfriending people, I would argue it’s a little trickier than Kimmel makes it appear. There are a few things to consider, and I’m going to break them down for you here.
You haven’t talked in over a year
When you first start taking inventory of your friend list it can be…overwhelming. When I first logged onto Facebook in middle school I remember sending and accepting friend requests to classmates of mine like they were dollar bills and I was Daddy Warbucks. An easy rule of thumb is to start from scratch by deleting anyone that you haven’t talked to in the last year. Sure, your lab partner in high school chemistry was super smart and the two of you shared some laughs but do you really need to keep in touch with them? Oftentimes it’s better to let past casual relationships stay in the past. Think quality over quantity here.
They’re more of a business connection
Now let’s say that lab partner graduated from high school, moved to Silicon Valley, and founded a Fortune 500 company. Not only would it be interesting to keep tabs on them, they may end up being a useful business connection. It can be easy to blur the line between personal and business connections but an easy solution is to simply move your connection over to a professional platform like LinkedIn.
They post ALL THE TIME
No, you should not feel obligated to read about your Aunt Susan’s every move – from what she ate for breakfast, to her trip to the hair salon, to the new baby-blue paint on her bedroom walls. That being said, if oversharing is the person’s only flaw (albeit an annoying one), you can simply “unfollow” instead of “unfriending.” When you do this, it will ensure the constant life updates won’t appear in your News Feed, but you’ll still remain friends. Aunt Susan still uses Facebook as she pleases and remains friends with her favorite niece/nephew; it’s a win-win.
They’re a real Negative Nancy
Sure, everyone has their off days and sometimes it feels good to decompress by sharing your woes on social media. But there’s a big difference between simply sharing and dwelling. Do you know someone who overshares personal issues constantly or airs their dirty laundry for all to see? Seeing as researchers have found that stress is a contagious emotion, the more negative energy you cut out of your life, the happier you’ll be. Life will hand you your own variety of problems so don’t let the problems of others consume you.
You can’t help but compare your life to theirs
Facebook can actually prompt depressive feelings because of social comparison. If you find yourself green with envy after seeing an elementary school classmate’s engagement photos taken in Bora Bora — and you’re not at all involved in her life — it might be time to hit “unfriend.” Know someone who “humblebrags” every time they burn 800 calories at the gym? A Harvard study found that you can’t really be humble when bragging and posting your every impressive move can really turn people away.
They have very different political views than you
Given we just wrapped up our 2020 presidential election, I think this one hits especially close to home. One month after the 2016 presidential election, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 13% of people reported unfriending, blocking, or no longer following someone because of political posts. I have a feeling that percentage has increased dramatically this year. Yes, it is okay to be friends with people who share differing opinions. However, if something you see on your news feed aggravates you to the point that you want to throw your phone across the room after first leaving a long and angry reply, you should probably just unfriend them. You know what does and doesn’t sit right with you, and given that your goal is to clean your social space of unwanted things, triggering political rants fall under this category.
Emails, texts, news alerts, and Facebook notifications tend to blow up your phone with a million little red numbers begging for your attention. But when it comes down to it, social media shouldn’t be a soul-sucking experience and it’s important you prioritize your mental health when engaging with others online. If you take nothing else away from this “holiday” remember this:
You have control over who and what you give your attention to.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at a previous one of mine: “Managing Your Mental Health While Working in Social Media.”
Author: Celeste Russell
Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, Celeste began working with NISM as a summer intern in 2019. Since then she has found a real home in the community, earned her SMS certification, and currently works as the Social Media Coordinator. Celeste graduated from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Acting & Communication for the Arts. Her passions have always included effective communication both on and off the stage and she is grateful that working with NISM allows her the opportunity to pursue her acting career simultaneously.
Feel free to connect with Celeste on LinkedIn.